VR Wild and Scenic Film Festival

Virtual reality, 360 video opportunities surround business, education



Sarah Muskin of South Lake Tahoe takes part in the Connected Communities Academy’s Virtual Reality Lounge on Saturday at KVMR in Nevada City.


Imagine walking into your new home, climbing the stairs and taking inventory of your spacious walk-in closets.

Don’t like the paint? Wallpaper? Carpets?

No problem.

In an instant, you can swipe through various alternatives until you find the amenities you prefer. You can walk through the yard and customize the landscaping, all with the wave of a hand.

Now imagine doing this long before construction begins.

That’s the world 360-degree video and virtual reality is exposing.

While two-dimensional digital videos were once considered a significant leap forward for business and education, new technology is taking it to another level.

The 360 technology is generally filmed footage that surrounds the user. Virtual reality is usually digitally created and allows the user to function within the environment. Both are most often used with a smartphone and a pair of virtual reality goggles that can range in price from $20 for Google Cardboard to thousands for the most state-of-the-art equipment.

“If you film the house with a 360 camera, you can literally have the person in your (real estate) office visit the house,” said Shavati Karki-Pearl, who heads up Connected Communities Academy in Nevada City. “The garden, the bedroom, the bathroom, literally everything. You can show them as if they were there.”


John Munro, a freelance filmmaker who heads up Nevada County Productions and works with the local Greenscreen Institute and Economic Resource Council, is pushing the benefits of the technology and the effects it can have on both business and education.

“At the VR Expo in San Francisco last month I learned how to take apart a Tesla chassis and brake system with the goggles on,” Munro said. “And Tesla offers these digital diagrams on their website.

“You can download the Tesla chassis. You put on the goggles. You move it around. You can look at it from all directions. You can go in, you can back out. It’s just amazing. You have two controllers. One’s a wrench and one’s a socket. And you’re working on the car.”

The technology is not new, but widespread access to the technology is.


Munro started with 360 video about five years ago. But the need for a dedicated player made the process cumbersome and impossible for many people to view.

“It looked great, but it was a lot of work and not everybody could see it.”

YouTube has changed that with its virtual reality codecs, which opened the popular website to 360 video fewer than two years ago.

“That’s what started everything,” Munro said. “Now everybody can watch for free.”


The uses are virtually limitless.

According to the Virtual Reality Society, this expanding technology can be used for, among other things, virtual tours of a business environment, training of new employees, providing customers a 360-degree view of their product, and providing virtual worlds for businesses to hold meetings with employees based in various locations.

Munro also talked about the educational benefits of virtual reality, particularly in the medical field, where a student could witness surgery up close through augmented reality, a combination of 360 video and virtual reality.

“You could certainly learn how to do it,” he said. “You could watch other surgeons do it.”

It doesn’t end with medicine.

“Developmentally challenged kids, those who are autistic … are playing with goggles,” Munro said.


Munro said it’s clear the technology is being embraced. “One way you can track it is by goggle sales from the manufacturers,” he said.

In August, 2016, CCS Insight – a company that provides market information analysis and intelligence for companies focusing on the mobile and wireless sector – projected sales of smartphone virtual reality headsets to grow five-fold by 2020 to 72 million units. Sales of dedicated virtual reality headsets will grow to 21 million units, 10 times what they sold last year, by 2020, and the combined virtual and augmented reality devices will be a $15 billion, 100 million-unit business.


The key, Munro said, is the filmmaking. If that’s done well, the technology can transport the user.

“They can be in Rhode Island, or hearing a speech in parliament,” he said. “You can be in the senate, as if you’re there. That’s part of the filmmaking aspect of where to place the camera.

“I’ve learned you just treat it like a person. If you treat it as if it’s part of the wall, it’s OK, but the interaction is really important. I’ll use drapes, fake pictures, dummies — so when you look down you see jeans and feet. That way it looks real.”


The next step is putting the technology to work, and it’s quite a leap. First, more businesses have to embrace virtual reality and 360 video.

“The people who create the technology can give you some ideas of what it can do, but businesses have to think creatively as to how they can use this,” Karki-Pearl said.

Second, more people have to learn how to use it.

That’s where Connected Communities Academy comes in. The learning center offers classes on video production for virtual reality, computer generated content development and website-based virtual reality.

“There are ways that people who don’t have much content development experience can teach themselves,” Karki-Pearl said. “It’s hard right now if you want to go learn it somewhere because there aren’t a lot of classes or training available. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make classes available for content developers.”

Munro, who’s taught “Introduction to 360 Filmmaking” for the academy, spent last weekend helping Karki-Pearl with a Virtual Reality Lounge at KVMR in Nevada City in conjunction with the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Booths were set up at no charge for people to experience virtual reality, in many cases for the first time.

“It was cool,” South Lake Tahoe’s Sarah Muskin said. “I’d never done it before. I wasn’t completely (immersed). I never felt like I was there. I mean, I could look down and see my feet. But it is pretty amazing.”

To contact reporter Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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