Virtual reality plays with your head. Strap on a headset and shazaam! — the mind trip begins. You could swear you are moving in the world that now dupes your brain, hearing its sounds, seeing its sights and engaging its characters who come and go.
“We can teleport you anywhere you like and let you experience it like you are there,” Shahar Bin-Nun told a rapt audience at last month’s TED-style Beyond Conference presented by the Israeli Consulate in New York. Bin-Nun would know. As the CEO of HumanEyes Technologies, he has been noodling with 3D animated content since the “old startup” 's founding in 2000 and well before.
Conference-goers had a chance to see the technology for themselves. Watching a VR film of Jerusalem, they could trek around town without so much as moving an inch. Having given it a go, myself, I can say the trickery works. I felt bizarrely present in the moving scenes, traipsing around the stone façades of Jerusalem’s streets, no matter how much I knew I was in New York City.
Virtual tourism aside, Bin-Nun stressed the implications for media coverage of Israel. Immersive VR journalism has the potential to “change the rules for journalism,” he said, explaining that news consumers will now see the 360-degree story in its full context and not just the staged message a jaundiced journalist may want to present.
Bin-Nun also noted that audience attention increases 92 percent with this transporting technology. He urged the audience to imagine the emotional power of virtually exploring a Syrian refugee camp or being thrust in the middle of a bombing. According to Bin-Nun, the impact is far more visceral and profound than “when you hear on CNN that 3,000 died.”
Documenting the world in VR is about to become a lot more accessible for citizen journalists — and private shutterbugs. This October HumanEyes will roll out the first-ever 360-degree 3D, HD camera for consumers, the Vuze. Priced at just under $800, this point-and-shoot gizmo has eight HD cameras, two on each squarish side of its flying-saucer shape. Once the images are captured, users can transfer files, edit and share from every angle using simple postproduction and sharing tools. Vuze won the Last Gadget Standing award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The road to success, however, was strewn with failure. Bin-Nun spoke movingly about HumanEyes’ three botched attempts to produce what in the fourth try became the Vuze. Such challenges are not unique. “It’s the story of the startup nation,” where nine out of 10 companies log stumble before succeeding, he observed. The process is healthy providing you have a key ingredient: “the ability to learn from your mistakes.” Given that Israel’s high tech sector raised a hefty $4.4 billion in 2015, the “try, try again” ethos is clearly working.