Leaping into a Virtual Future

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Leaping in to a Virtual Future – Lance McDaniel

Digital technology has taken over entertainment. Digital downloads and streaming services make up a larger segment of the film and music business than all physical manifestations combined, including albums, DVDs, and even trips to the movie theater. Movie cameras capture footage to digital cards that are downloaded to a computer, erased, and put back in the camera to record some more. Film is rarely if ever part of the equation. The digital revolution that started at the dawn of the new millennium is now the biggest driver of how stories are being recorded and communicated to the world. So, what’s next?

For the past several years, Virtual Reality has been positioned as the next big thing. Virtual Realty allows designers and engineers to create fully immersive worlds that users can interact with and explore. For a consumer to experience Virtual Reality, they put on a headset that covers their eyes and ears and are then transported to a virtual world that has been created by the designers and programmers. The most obvious manifestation has been in the video game industry. But, more recently, Virtual Reality has seeped into the film industry and businesses across every sector.

As many of you know, I am Executive Director of the deadCenter Film Festival. We are an eighteen-year-old festival that shows 100 independent films from around the world to 30,000 people in downtown Oklahoma City each June. Last year, we decided to add Virtual Reality films to our festival. We partnered with Oklahoma native Kim Voynar, who runs a VR consulting company in Seattle called WonderTek Labs. Voynar selected 8 VR films and flew in four of the filmmakers to explain how VR films are created. 800 people showed up to check it out.

This year, we are expanding our VR program into a larger initiative called techCenter. techCenter will be a three-day conference focused on Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. The plan is to look at the technologies changing film and entertainment and then demonstrate how those same technologies are being used for business.

Fortunately, there are several Oklahoma companies developing outstanding Virtual Reality work for clients across all business sectors. Trifecta Communications, Clevyr, and Overworld are all Oklahoma City based companies creating VR and AR solutions for clients around the country. One of those clients, the Oklahoma City Thunder, will have Virtual Reality experience to demonstrate at techCenter. And, their small business incubator, Thunder LaunchPad, will be represented by two new startups: Veribus, which provides remote treatment for cerebral palsy patients, and edTech, which provides virtual job shadowing for military training. If there is a use for Virtual Reality in your business, deadCenter hopes to connect you with the companies that can make that a reality.

While Virtual Reality has enjoyed most of the hype, Augmented Reality appears to be more easily adaptable to the business environment because it does not require a headset for consumers to enjoy it. Consumers can simply download an application on their phone or tablet. As the name suggests, Augmented Reality is a technology that allows companies to add information or content to anything that has a digital trigger.

One example is a treasure hunt that was created by Trifecta Communications for Canadian County. People could visit different locations in Canadian County, put their phone up to the designated object, and get information about the location and a list of clues that would help them solve the puzzle and win prizes. Augmented Reality can also be used on a business card so when the person scans your card, your profile, company info, and even a video can appear on their phone.

The techCenter conference will take place at 21C Museum Hotel, June 8-10, 10:00am – 6:00pm, with TED style talks and industry panels on Friday afternoon, June 8, and demonstrations throughout the weekend.

We are already working with great partners like Cox Business, Freestyle Creative, and StarSpace46 to develop this new program. If you want to be involved in helping us launch techCenter, just drop me an email at lance@deadcenterfilm.org.

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