Chances are, if you’ve been on social media, watched the news or been anywhere near a videogamer in the last year, you’ve heard about virtual reality. But what is it?
In simplest terms, it’s a video — only instead of the camera recording that which is in its field of view (i.e. what the camera is pointed at), virtual reality cameras record in all directions simultaneously. The result is a 360-degree immersive experience that allows viewers to see everything around them, as if they were right there themselves.
While everyone from business and media to educators and tech leaders are calling virtual reality a game changer, two industries in particular have been driving its development: videogames and pornography.
But the applications of virtual reality extend far beyond entertainment. In 2014, Volvo® used virtual reality to let users “test drive” one of its new car models. In February 2015, Merrell® took users on a dangerous mountain hike to support the launch of a new boot.
Last November, The New York Times invited its subscribers to experience “The Displaced,” an 11-minute VR video from the perspectives of four children in war-torn countries. That same month, YouTube® announced that it would start supporting virtual reality on its platform. And earlier this year, Excedrin® launched a VR migraine simulator to help medical and caregiver communities understand the experience of migraine sufferers.
We here at Food & Nutrition think the applications for the dietetics community are endless: from global education and training simulations to culinary demos and virtual reality tours of farms and food processors. There are several ways to view virtual reality videos: on a desktop, on certain mobile devices or through VR viewers, which can range from a $600 gaming headset to a $25 cardboard viewer, each offering slightly different features and experiences.
Last fall, California-based VR technology company Oculus®, in collaboration with Samsung®, released the Gear VR. This high-end headset at a consumer-friendly price point (or in some cases, completely free with the purchase of a Samsung smartphone) is helping to usher VR to mainstream audiences.
For organizations interested in producing virtual reality experiences, the expense associated with creating content has been prohibitive for smaller budgets. After all, the highest-end cameras cost about $60,000, the postproduction requires hundreds of hours of stitching multi-angle footage, and the delivery to viewers often requires specialty apps.
But newer technology (driven by amateur video enthusiasts as well as communities in the adventure sports and media industries) is focused on bringing VR cameras and editing software to businesses and consumers alike. The technology behind virtual reality is unfolding — and we want our readers at the forefront! We’ll be at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ with headsets and videos for attendees to try, including featured videos from the Almond Board of California®. We also supplied two Stone Soup bloggers with VR cameras so they could film their own adventures — and share their tips with attendees interested in creating virtual reality content.
Visit us at the Food & Nutrition VR Video Booth on the Expo Floor (Booth #2565, right next to the Culinary Demo Theater) for your own mind-blowing VR experience!
Fritz Lenneman is the managing editor of FoodandNutrition.org and oversees the magazine’s Stone Soup guest blog. Meet him at the VR booth!