Yes I know you’re bored of hearing this already, but VR is just around the corner. I don’t know how quickly it’s going to take to catch on, and I don’t know how long it will last, but it’s going to effect us all in a big way.
A pop-up Virtual Reality boutique appeared in Copenhagen’s Meat Packing District back in February so I went to take a look. I had no idea what to expect, but I was imagining this cool, funky space full of tech kids and gadgets galore. Instead what I found was a bunch of school kids spinning around in chairs and nodding their heads in all different directions, in a room that still resembled a butcher’s workspace.
But don’t be fooled in to thinking I’m taking the piss out of anyone or anything, here. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because when I strapped on the Oculus Rift Gear VR headset and took it for a spin I was literally taken out of this world. Well, I say literally, but obviously I wasn’t. But mentally I was gone.
The first time I ever tried VR was at the English theme park Alton Towers, when the craze first appeared. It must have been the early 90s, and I remember stepping on to a kind of podium with barriers to stop you from falling out. Then I went for a little walk around this boring world with my right hand stretched out in front of me. It was shite.
But now if you asked any of these kids in the room what you could use VR for they’d be able to teach you a thing or two, because the possibilities might be endless. The teenagers I spoke to had all sorts of wild ideas for Virtual Reality, including medical research, training of architects, and pretty much anything to do with entertainment. They imagined their future lives as sitting down with their families, each member wearing a different headset and doing different things: homework, reading, watching Netflix, etc. If you think about it, we already do that now, but with our Smart Phones and Tablets instead.
So how is this affecting photographers right now? Well, as we keep getting told, content is king. Our images are already being used to promote products, themes and ideas all around the world, and now it seems that VR has given us yet another reason to adapt our business model.
A young photographer from London who I work with here in Copenhagen is employed full-time by an Estate Agent. It’s his job to go from home to home taking 360 degrees images of the rooms so they can be viewed online by potential buyers. You know the ones, right. Well those images are now being used in Virtual Reality apps, too. So clients feel like they’re actually stepping in to the home to view it, from the comfort of their own homes. But imagine if the Estate Agent had the VR equipment themselves to offer the clients. Then imagine they start brewing some particularly strong coffee in their little kitchenette area, and suddenly the client gets a whiff of one of the best known smells that attract home buyers to make a purchase. Scary shit!
The guys over at Photoshelter who run my website have also jumped on board. When you add one of my images to the Shopping Cart you can now select ‘Virtual Reality’ as the reason for buying / licensing the image. And if you download the Google Cardboard Camera app you can create your very own Virtual Reality experience with a series of photographs that you view on your phone via the Google Cardboard VR device. It’s all absolutely insane.
My point here is very clear: jump on the bandwagon, quick sharp. If you have the time, go out and start taking unique and interesting photos of the world around you and get uploading these images to Social Media to share with as many people as possible. At the very least it might go viral and earn you some much valued attention. Or you might just get nothing out of it, other than an exciting new experience with some new technology that is about to sweep the globe.