VR developer focused on creating immersive storytelling experiences.
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November 1st, 2023
“Imagine being inside Jurassic Park. Or attending a live concert of The Beatles. Or going on a tour to see the Eiffel Tower.
This is just scratching the surface of what’s possible. There is no doubt that VR is the future of entertainment.”
What is VR Entertainment?
VR (Virtual Reality) entertainment refers to the use of virtual reality devices to provide users with immersive entertainment experiences that transport them from being a passive watcher in the real world into an active participant in the virtual world. VR is gaining mainstream popularity, and is being used in many forms of entertainment including music, film, arts, and gaming.
The Impact of VR on Entertainment
According to Grandview Research, the global virtual reality (VR) market size was estimated at USD 59.96 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.5% from 2023 to 2030.
As VR is continuing to grow at an exponential rate, household names are beginning to implement them into their entertainment campaigns.
Here are some examples of VR how VR is changing the entertainment industry:
Sports: ONE and UFC has partnered with Meta to bring the sport of MMA (mixed martial arts) into the VR world, allowing fans to watch in person, with a front row seat.
Film and Media: The New York Times’ VR app, “NYT VR,” was downloaded over 1 million times by 2017, showing an increasing appetite for VR media content.
Music and Concerts:AmazeVR has raised a total of $30.8 million as of 2022 to scale their VR concert platform, featuring famous artists such as Zara Larrson, Megan Thee Stallion, and UPSAHL. They plan to bring K-Pop artists like aespa into the mix.
Gaming: Microsoft has partnered with Meta to bring Xbox Game Pass to Meta Quest devices in December 2023, making a huge leap forward for VR gaming entertainment.
How VR is Being Used in Entertainment
When you put on a VR headset, you are essentially stepping into another world. Even though logic may tell you it’s not real, your brain can’t decipher the difference and fully believes it’s real. This immersion is why VR is so great for the entertainment industry – imagine being inside Jurassic Park. Or attending a live concert of The Beatles. Or going on a tour to see the Eiffel Tower.
This is just scratching the surface of VR entertainment.
1. VR Movies and 360° Videos
Virtual Reality has been weaving its way into movies, film and cinema. An interesting application of VR in the movie industry is the creation of 360-degree films. These films surround the viewer with the cinematic world, allowing for a more immersive experience as they can look in any direction.
Film festivals around the world, including the Venice Film Festival, have recognized the potential of VR movies. Many have added VR sections or categories, showcasing the latest advancements and applications in the domain. Some festivals have even transitioned to virtual formats, offering the entirety of their content to remote attendees via VR, broadening accessibility.
VR Animations: 3D animations have lots of untapped potential, with short animated movies like “INVASION” getting millions of views.
Promotion of mainstream films has also seen the integration of VR. Studios often release VR experiences tied to upcoming films, giving viewers a chance to step into the world of the movie before its official release. These promotional pieces might offer a short narrative or simply an exploratory environment related to the film. A great example is Belko VR, which puts users into a short life or death VR experience to promote their upcoming film. The game received excellent reception, even better than the movie itself.
Unlike traditional movies where the audience passively observes a fixed frame, VR places viewers directly inside the narrative, allowing for a 360-degree panoramic view of the story’s environment. This immersive nature of VR creates a heightened sense of presence, making the viewer feel as though they’re a part of the movie rather than just an observer.
2. VR Concerts and Music Videos
Virtual Reality (VR) revolutionizes the music and concert experience by providing unparalleled immersion and accessibility. Through VR, fans can enjoy front-row views or stand on stage alongside their favorite artists, regardless of geographical constraints, making concerts globally accessible. As a result, VR offers new avenues for artists to connect with their fans, and for fans to experience music in novel ways.
One of the most immediate applications of VR in music is the creation of virtual concerts. Artists and bands are now hosting live performances in virtual spaces, allowing fans from around the world to “attend” these concerts. Within these virtual environments, fans can often choose their vantage point, whether it’s front-row, backstage, or even on-stage, creating a personalized concert experience.
Alongside live performances, VR music videos are emerging. Unlike traditional music videos that have a fixed viewpoint, VR music videos offer a 360-degree experience, immersing viewers in a visual representation of a song. These videos can be both passive, where the viewer simply observes, or interactive, allowing the viewer to engage with elements of the video.
The music industry is also exploring virtual reality music production and mixing tools. Musicians and producers can use VR to create and modify music in a 3D space, manipulating sound in a more intuitive and spatial manner than with traditional software.
Moreover, VR is enabling music education in new dimensions. For instance, virtual music lessons or tutorials can place the learner in an immersive environment where they can interact with instruments, see detailed demonstrations, or even engage in simulated live performances.
Examples of VR in the music industry:
Foo Fighters teamed up with Meta to perform in Horizon Worlds
Billie Eilish, the pop sensation, teamed up with Oculus to present “Where Do We Go? The Livestream”, a VR concert experience.
Lindsey Sterling, the violinist, gave a live virtual reality concert, allowing fans to experience her performance in 360-degree video.
Björk has been a pioneer in using VR for music. Her “Stonemilker” song was one of the first to get a 360-degree VR music video.
Pianovision is teaches users how to play piano in virtual reality via mixed reality and hand tracking.
3. Virtual Reality Theatre & Performing Arts
Virtual Reality provides a groundbreaking medium for theatre and performing arts by transporting audiences directly onto the stage or amidst the actor. VR bypasses physical venue limitations and breaks the traditional “fourth wall,” allowing for a more intimate and immersive engagement with the performance. This facilitates not just enhanced viewing experiences, but also innovative storytelling techniques, where space, perspective, and proximity can be fluidly manipulated.
There are a few major companies revolutionizing VR in theatre and performing arts:
The Under Presents is a VR experience developed by Tender Claws and available on the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift platforms. Blending live theatre, immersive storytelling, and virtual reality, the game offers an experience that is distinctly different from most VR titles.
At specific times, real-life actors join the game in VR, performing roles and interacting directly with players, often involving the players in the show. In this game, only the actors can talk, whilst the players can communicate through body language and gestures.
Ferryman Collective are a studio delivering immersive theatre experiences through VRChat, where you can purchase tickets to become an actor in a play/story. Their stories, such as, The Severance Theory: Welcome to Respite is a noteworthy immersive theatre experience that delves into the realm of dissociative identity disorder (DID). Participants enter the mind of a young man named Asher, navigating and interacting with his various personalities.
While many VR experiences are primarily visual and auditory, “The Severance Theory” is designed as a participatory performance. Participants aren’t merely observers; they are actively involved in the unfolding narrative.
Real-life actors drive the experience, adapting and responding to the participant’s actions and choices. This makes each run-through unique based on the individual participant’s interactions.
By placing participants directly into the mind of someone with DID, the experience fosters empathy and understanding. It’s an intimate exploration of identity, trauma, and mental health.
4. VR Theme Parks and Rides
Some traditional roller coasters have incorporated VR headsets to match the physical sensations of the ride with immersive visuals. Riders might find themselves flying through space, battling dragons, or diving underwater, all synchronized with the twists, turns, and drops of the coaster.
Virtual Theme Parks: Entire virtual theme parks are being developed where users can explore and enjoy rides in a completely digital space. These parks can be accessed from home using VR headsets, opening up the theme park experience to those who can’t visit physical locations.
Mixed Reality Experiences: Some attractions use a combination of VR, augmented reality (AR), and physical environments to create mixed reality experiences. These might involve physical sets augmented with VR or AR visuals, blending the tangible and the digital to produce a more layered experience.
5. VR in Sports Entertainment
For fans who can’t be present at a stadium or arena, VR offers the next best thing. With a VR headset, fans can experience a game or match from the perspective of being in the best seat in the house, complete with a 360-degree view. It makes spectating more immersive and engaging.
With a UFC Fight Pass membership, users can watch non-PPV UFC events on Meta Quest devices in 3D VR, as if they were an observer in the front seats. The experience is online, so users can also watch and socialize with other people.
For major events like the FIFA World Cup, FOX Sports has provided VR streams where users can watch matches in a virtual stadium setting.
VR platforms can also allow fans to virtually meet and interact with their favorite athletes. Such interactions, which might involve virtual autograph sessions, Q&A events, or even casual chats, bring fans closer to the athletes they admire.
6. VR Museums and Art Galleries
VR is being used in education for excursions to museums, art galleries and historical sites.
VR can turn traditional exhibits into interactive experiences. Visitors can “step into” historical events, famous paintings, or ancient civilizations, experiencing them in a vivid, immersive manner that traditional displays can’t replicate.
Art galleries can use VR to animate art pieces, providing viewers with a dynamic interpretation of static artworks. Imagine witnessing the events of a historical painting in motion or exploring the intricate details of a sculpture in a three-dimensional virtual space.
Museums and galleries around the world are offering virtual tours, enabling people to explore exhibits and artifacts from their homes. This has become especially valuable in times when physical visits might be restricted, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, combining Augmented Reality (AR) with VR, XR allows visitors to use devices that overlay digital information, videos, or animations onto real-world objects to enrich their understanding of the exhibit. This makes XR the perfect tool for educational purposes.
7. Virtual Tourism and Travel
Virtual Reality (VR) is having a profound impact on the tourism industry in various ways, reshaping how travelers explore destinations, plan trips, and even experience places without ever setting foot there.
By putting on a VR headset, one can virtually walk through streets, explore attractions, or even participate in local events. This immersive “try before you fly” experience can be a significant factor in choosing one destination over another.
Tourism agencies like Thomas Cook are using VR to showcase accommodations, transport options, and local attractions, providing a more vivid understanding of what travelers can expect. Their “try before you fly” in-store VR experience resulted in a 190% uplift in New York excursions bookings after people tried the 5 minute experience.
For consumers looking to get into VR travel, one of the best apps to experience virtual tourism is called Alcove VR – an app that allows families to get together and go on virtual tours around the world. You can explore the depths of the ocean by flying together on a hot air balloon, or you can take a road trip across the country. There’s many ways to experience travel.
8. Virtual Fashion Shows
Virtual fashion shows have emerged as an innovative solution, particularly during times when traditional, in-person events have become challenging to organize.
In 2020, when many global events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shanghai Fashion Week went fully digital, partnering with Alibaba’s Tmall to stream collections. This allowed for both viewing the new collections and immediate online purchasing.
In December 2020, the luxury fashion brand Balenciaga released a video game, “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow,” to showcase its Fall 2021 collection. This was a unique take on the virtual fashion show concept, blending the worlds of gaming and fashion.
Virtual Reality (VR) gaming represents a significant leap forward in the world of interactive entertainment. By immersing players directly into the gaming environment, VR offers an experience that is both visceral and profoundly different from traditional gaming.
Games like Beat Saber have demonstrated the potential of VR gaming, selling over 4 million copies by 2020. Meanwhile, the PCVR game, Half-Life: Alyx, sold over 2 million copies shortly after its release.
There are several reasons why users are so drawn to VR gaming:
Enhanced Immersion: The most immediate impact of VR on gaming is the heightened level of immersion. Players are not just observing the game world from a distance; they are ‘inside’ it.
New Gameplay Mechanics: VR introduces new ways to interact with game environments and characters. Hand-tracking, for instance, allows players to manipulate objects, cast spells, or even engage in hand-to-hand combat in a more intuitive manner.
Physical Engagement: Many VR games require players to move around, duck, dodge, and physically engage with the game environment, blending the lines between traditional gaming and physical activity.
Social VR: Multiplayer VR games offer a unique social experience. Players can interact with others in a more lifelike manner, using body language, hand gestures, and spatial audio to communicate.
Expansion of Game Genres: VR has breathed new life into certain game genres. Horror games, for instance, become exponentially more terrifying when experienced in VR. Similarly, simulation games, like flying or driving sims, benefit greatly from the added immersion of VR.
However, there is one major downside to VR in entertainment: Designing for VR presents unique challenges. Developers have to consider issues like motion sickness and ensure that gameplay mechanics feel natural and intuitive in a 3D space.
VR offers a promising frontier for storytelling, allowing users to transport themselves to any environement they want. Be it a relaxing park with cherry blossom trees, the empty void of space, or whatever is suitable for the manga/comic they’re reading.
For example, if the comic is set in a dangerous volcano, the environment and music can reflect that to heighten the senses.
Multiplayer or Social Reading: Readers could explore stories with friends in real-time, discussing plot points, sharing reactions, or even interacting with the narrative together, transforming a typically solitary activity into a social one.
Whilst VR manga and comics hold significant potential, there are challenges such as headset discomfort and text blurriness on some headsets. Although, the new Meta Quest 3 headset has fixed most of the bluriness issues with their new pancake lenses, it’s still a heavy, uncomfortable headset that requires comfort mods.
The Future of VR in Entertainment
There has been various talks about using VR in other fields such as medicine, education and business, but there’s no doubt that entertainment is the most promising. As VR hardware becomes more affordable and user-friendly, and as content becomes more varied and rich, VR will likely become a mainstream staple of many households, like televisions or gaming consoles.
Predictions for the future:
2024 onwards will see a huge focus on mixed reality entertainment apps, such as mixed reality movie scenes and storytelling
A rise in the popularity of VR concerts with AmazeVR leading the charge
A blend of home theatre entertainment and mixed reality – imagine dragons flying around your room during a fantasy movie or detectives searching for clues in your living room during a mystery film.
Many sports organizations will partner with Meta to bring sporting events into VR
The most successful virtual tourism, museums and excursions are those that’ll focus on social interaction