Scott Metzger and Philip Lunn are part of forward-thinking virtual reality software developer Nurulize (opens in new tab).
Currently the company is working on Nu Reality Desert Home, a handcrafted virtual space intended to redefine the way people work, play and connect with others, and Atom View, a new method of creating such spaces using point cloud data.
Here they discuss how virtual reality is going to change the way you live your life in the coming years…
01. We'll test-drive cars from the comfort of our own homes
If you want to try something before you buy, your only option today is to head to the store, or settle for a fancy bit of web browser code that might let you, say, spin a shoe 360 degrees. You don't get a feel for the real thing.
With VR, that will no longer be the case. "One big feature we can use virtual reality technology for is product visualisation," says Metzger.
"Say you want to check out a new product from a computer manufacturer, like a laptop. One thing you can't get from looking at a 2D image is proper depth, right? So that's one of the advantages of VR – it gives you that sense of depth."
From checking out new cars, to browsing furniture, to even exploring the size and shape of your house before it's even built, VR can give you a better sense of what it is you'll be buying.
"With VR it's this complete immersion," says Metzger. "The user gets to dictate what they see by controlling that environment, so showing commercial products inside VR just makes sense."
02. We'll read posts on an actual wall in a virtual Facebook
Facebook bought Oculus Rift (opens in new tab) for a cool $2 billion, so it's not a big stretch of the imagination to see the social media platform growing into an explorable digital space.
"Mark Zuckerberg is definitely in love with VR," says Metzger. "He sees the potential from a social side, and is betting on the fact that social VR will grab the imagination of everyone that isn't using it for games or movies."
Nurulize itself has already created a virtual environment known as the Nu Reality Desert Home. "It's ultimately a vacation home where you can go and hang out – a nice place to be in a virtual world where you can spend time socialising and playing!"
For Nurulize, the social interaction in such areas can engage on a much deeper level than the online media we know today. "If we're in VR, you're looking at me and I'm looking at you, and I can hear your voice, and it's distance-based it doesn't feel like you're just talking to a screen or a phone. You feel like you're actually talking to a person.
"That's such a big thing – to go online, talk, and mingle around. It's amazing to experience communication with someone across the world and have it feel like they're right next to you. The possibilities for virtual reality there are endless."
03. We'll de-stress from work in the blink of an eye
Fed up of looking at the white walls of your tiny, cramped cubicle? VR can be your escape. "One of the ways in which I think VR is going to change the world is that in the future people will simply work in virtual reality – you'll put on your headset and that will be your office for the day," says Lunn.
"You might be physically working in a white-walled cubicle, but in your virtual environment you're actually working in this really nice space that's pretty much whatever you can imagine it to be, with multiple monitors and interfaces."
New hardware will enable this virtual 8-hour day: "The new headset that's coming from Oculus is very lightweight and high resolution, and it feels very comfortable on your head – you could have it on there for quite a while," says Lunn.
"When you come out into the real world you may find that you actually liked it better in virtual reality and want to go back in."
Even just when working from home, Metzger sees a lot of potential in VR for unlocking our creative selves: "Creating music in my spare time is something I also love to do, and sometimes to do that you just need to get away from wherever you are," he says.
"If you're in a boring room or a cubicle, it's sometimes hard to feel inspired. The owner of the actual Nu Reality Desert House environment, for example, is actually a film producer who bought the house so he could write and work on movies away from the distraction of a busy city like Los Angeles.
"It's amazing what an environment can do to your mental state of being, and how creative you can be in a different location," he continues. "If you're in Seattle or some place where it's raining most of the time and you just want to look at a sunny sky, you can pop on your headset and be there in seconds. That's a very powerful thing."
04. We'll experience films in a whole new way
"I can't go to 3D movies any more and get excited," says Metzger, ruminating on the future of cinema. "3D movies versus VR is just laughable, considering the immersion aspect of VR." For Metzger, it's virtual reality that holds the key for truly advancing the art of film.
"Traditional movies on a 2D screen will still be a thing for classic storytelling, similar to how vinyl records are still purchased today," he says. "But if you want my ticket money, it won't come from watching 3D movies on a 3D screen in a theatre.
"The experience of VR is all around you, so imagine a volumetric capture of the performance of actors, and you could either follow a directed point of view, where you're being positioned and directed on what area to look at through actions in the scene, but also be able to lean your head forward, pull it back, look under the table and things like that. We're not quite there yet, but I definitely think it's in the cards. The technology will get better – a lot better, and quickly."
Conventional cinemas won't be up to the task of showing such movies, given the huge amounts of data that need to be streamed for such an experience to work. but Metzger envisions a new kind of cinema.
"I think that theatres will start to appear that have these huge servers to stream the data," he says. "You'll bring your headset and plug it in and have all that massive data streamed locally – you'd get an experience you couldn't get on your own. That would be pretty phenomenal."
05. We'll explore ancient buildings long after they've crumbled
Thanks to the tech behind Atom View, Nurulize can scan entire environments and then recreate them in detail for virtual exploration. That could mean anything from baseball stadiums to otherwise unreachable landmarks – imagine exploring the peak of Mount Everest, for example, or the hidden depths of Cambodian caves.
"VR allows you to be engulfed in other environments completely," says Metzger. "So say there's some beautiful, historic spot on Earth that was created thousands of years ago, was captured, and then was destroyed by some natural disaster – you would be able to go back and visit that space.
"You could even capture your childhood home so that you can go back in time thirty years later. How crazy would that be? It's more than just a photograph – you can be in it. That's a priceless experience."
To further enable this, Lunn sees depth cameras "coming out in waves soon. Every camera will have depth to it so you will be able to take a portion of your image and view it in VR. Your phone might even have depth sensors for instant images in VR for every photograph. That's going to be the norm in the coming years."
06. We'll play entirely new types of video game
There's one unfortunate fact about virtual reality that's keeping it from being the go-to way to experience interactive entertainment: "If you go around running in an FPS, you get sick!" exclaims Lunn. Sometimes old ways of control just doesn't work the same in VR – you get motion sickness."
So what's the solution? Thinking outside the box. "VR is a new way to experience things, so they have to be redesigned with VR in mind, and the only way to do this is to experiment," says Lunn.
"Oculus has recognised this, and they're building experiences from the ground up, looking at VR as a new platform, as an entirely new way of telling stories and representing computer generated imagery."
"VR really demands that ground-up approach to thinking," continues Metzger. "When you ask about the future of VR, and what applications are going to work and which aren't, well – it's still completely open.
"VR is the Wild West of computer graphics all over again. It's almost like having the first graphics card or something, but instead of seeing a whole bunch of extra visual fidelity on screen, we have a whole 360-degree space to work with.
"What does that mean? What type of gaming experience will work in that, and which will not? It's impossible to say – only the months and years ahead will reveal the innovation that's to come."
07. We'll explore worlds as real as this one
Thanks to the technology being developed at Nurulize known as Atom View, virtual reality environments can now be captured with a higher level of visual fidelity than ever before.
"Phil and I decided that the best way to do quick environment capture is to throw out the time consuming parts of the process," explains Metzger. "We take all of the LIDAR scan data and deal with it directly as points. There's so much beauty to a raw point cloud scan that actually gets lost when converting to polygons.
"Small details are destroyed with polygons. So Atom View is the birth of this idea. It's software designed ground up for virtual reality that can handle point data efficiently for VR.
"The trick – and what makes this so different from any other point cloud software – is that it's going to look really, really good."
For Metzger, the technical details may sound impressive, but they don't come anywhere near conveying the first-hand experience. "I think when people try Nu Reality they'll be floored," he says. "You can describe your experience of VR, but until you actually experience it yourself...it's impossible to communicate that to anyone.
"Once people try it, they will understand. VR is here to stay and it will be awesome. It will inspire and grow and transcend everyone on the planet to a new era of entertainment, communication and education."
Words: Scott Metzger and Philip Lunn
VFX veterans Philip Lunn and Scott Metzger are the founders of Nurulize (opens in new tab), a virtual reality software developer whose mission is to create disruptive applications for the emerging VR revolution.
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