NBA court-side via Rift

Information Age explores a talk by Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, about making the NBA experience available via virtual reality.

‘It’s truly immersive and it’s truly 360 to the point where the players are running right at you and jumping over you. Those are some of the ways we’re using technology.’

However, the NBA isn’t just experimenting with innovation that improves the experience for existing fans, but also considering technologies that will attract new fans.

To do that, the league needs to create new engagement and ways to help people better understand the sport, according to Silver.

One thing I didn’t see is a description of how this would be distributed.  VR broadcast?  Downloads?  Viewing parlors?  They describe a need and a technology but not a product (yet).

Gear VR as in-flight entertainment

This was pretty much the same reaction I got from a Managing Director I demoed the Rift to.  He’s on planes a lot, and was enthusiastic about the idea of the Rift putting him back in front of his large-screen television while in flight…

Think about it. Not only are airplanes and airports terrible places filled with strangers that you will feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever in shutting out of your life for all eternity, they’re also maybe the only public location where it’s socially acceptable to strap an opaque black mask to your eyes and zone out for several hours.

Oculus making movies

Apparently Oculus VR is now making movies, and I’m sure it’s not lost on some of them that Pixar started out as a rendering technology company that created fun shorts to show off their technology.  It sounds like they’re putting a lot of thought into these…

“Initially we thought we needed to figure out how film language works in VR,” explains Unseld, but trying to reproduce the conventions of movies was missing the point entirely. “Cinema is a sequential medium,” he says. “It’s like a dictatorship of the director. Look at this, look at this face, look at this detail.” VR, on the other hand, puts control back in the hands of the viewer, fundamentally changing the concept of storytelling itself.

Assertiveness training in a virtual environment

This study, referenced from Reddit, explored how the use of VR in assertiveness training had a better outcome when avoiding sexual victimization.  This is the sort of thing that, while it’s not going to drive millions of headset sales, might actually make a big difference in some people’s lives.  In five years I wonder if any University will be able to afford not to have a VR lab…

“One advantage the virtual simulations offer is the ability to actually observe whether, and how, the girls are using the skills in coercive situations that feel very real,” McDonald said. “This provides girls with opportunities for immediate feedback and accelerated learning, and for facilitators to easily spot areas in need of further strengthening. The value of this advantage can’t be overstated.”

Empathy through illusion

Popular Science has a fascinating look about how certain optical illusions, when applied in the right context, can affect one’s implicit racial biases, increasing empathy and changing biases.

With a consumer Oculus Rift on its way, immersive virtual reality isn’t too far from the living room. “Seeing the world from the point of view of another person, literally having their body, may change empathy regarding certain kinds of people. So I think it could be something that’s for good in the world,” Slater says.

The article also cautions that not all virtual gender or racial swapping leads to positive outcomes, so understanding these effects are important for designers of virtual experiences.

“As more and more of us use and interact via avatars, whether in online games or VR environments, it becomes more important that we understand the different ways in which avatars change us,” says Yee.

It’s worth a read.