#PCWM8 Notes: VR Goggles.

Often at conferences, or even unconferences like Podcamp Western Mass, some of the best discussions take place away from the sessions, and this year at Podcamp Western Mass 8 was no exception.

For me, it was talking with Maria from Hypergride Business who brought her Virtual Reality viewers with her. They ranged from cardboard headsets which you can find on Amazon for six bucks up through many different sets in the twenty to thirty dollar range.

There were three different features that seemed important to me. One was sturdiness and how well the phone fits. Sets made out of actually cardboard just don’t seem all that sturdy. Perhaps some of that is based on my own experience of making sets out of cardboard when they first came out.

A second feature that was really important to me was how well the control works for them. With Google Cardboard, a magnet near the phone signals the apps. With the sets I’ve made and even with off the shelf cardboard viewers, I’ve never had a lot of luck with this. Some viewers require a separate Bluetooth controller. There are a lot of neat things you could probably do with a Bluetooth controller for gaming, but for most apps simple signaling is probably all you need.

The device that I found my Samsung Galaxy 4 worked very nice in was the Viewmaster VR. It was also nice to have a similar user experience as the Viewmasters from my childhood. One thing that was missing was straps. To really get into virtual reality viewers, the ability to strap the viewer on your head and have your hands free is probably really helpful.

Maria particularly recommended the FIIT VR headset, which has straps but requires a Bluetooth controller. I might get something like this at some later time, especially if someone gaming moves forward with a nice VR glove.

Yet what I was more interested in was talking with Maria about producing VR media. There is the game development side of things which still seems a bit cumbersome. I would like to simply build something in OpenSim which you could easily experience with VR goggles. Even OpenSim would be cool. These seem to be coming, but aren’t really there yet.

For making VR pictures or movies, you can take pictures which get stitched together fairly easily with a cellphone. Or at least I managed to do so with my Samsung Galaxy 4 back when Google Cardboard first came out. Stereoscopic movies seem a bit more difficult. I have friends who have made them and I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing something similar. To see some stereoscopic movies you can view with Google Cardboard style headsets, go to Youtube and search on “yt3d sbs”.

Another VR format is 360 video. These are videos that you can change your perspective. As you turn with your phone, or click on buttons on a computer, you see a different view. A nice example of this is MythBusters: Shark Shipwreck (360 Video).

You need to either use some software to stitch together the different perspectives, or use a camera that does this for you. There aren’t a lot of cameras out there that do this yet, and most of them that do are in the thousands of dollars range. However, Maria mentioned the 360 Fly. It is a relatively inexpensive and easy to use camera for getting started in 360 video. Of course, this is for monoscopic 360 video. Stereoscopic 360 video is a whole different issue, and I haven’t found a good option for that.

I also haven’t been able to find out if it is possible to connect a 360 Fly to a computer to use it as a webcam, or if it is possible, how to do it. I would love to see this done as an interesting way of doing a video conference of a panel. Could you feed a 360 video into a system like Zoom? Could you stitch together different videos from a system like zoom into a simulated room as if all the presenters were seated around a table and you look at different presenters

It looks like 360 cameras are coming into their own and it is probably about time to get one and start testing them.

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