Emergence of a new potential
called VR (Virtual Reality)
The art of storytelling has always endeavored to engage audience. Technology has been enriching the process from time to time. And now, we are at the brink of a new form—Virtual Reality (VR).
Santhosh George Jacob, head content, Manorama Online, narrates how the concept of VR has leapt from the pages of science fiction novels into the hands of news readers these days.
The concept of Virtual Reality (VR) had been around for decades, but the technology has just penetrated into a consumer-friendly manner in the news media world. As the technology inches into mainstream, brands are latching on its potential to delve deeper into the consumer’s thought process, much more than ever before. And Manorama Online is in sync with this learning curve. Aiming to strengthen the leading news media group’s bond with their readers, Manorama Online started VR tours based on tourism, news and automobiles.
The first immersive video came to the Malayalam media space on January 02, 2016 when Manorama 360—the first 360 portal in Malayalam—presented the culmination of the New Year celebrations in Fort Kochi, Kerala. Manorama 360 aimed at offering the best of immersive videos with a special focus on Kerala and its tourism potential.
Kerala’s verdant greenery, ancient legacy and its relics, cuisine, culture and frames of everyday village life—Manorama 360’s videos were all about experiencing the state in all its glory. Special attention was always given to the subject that dealt with: for example, the video named Ente Kottayam (My Kottayam) showcased the tradition, culture, food and lifestyle of central Kerala districts in a very unique manner. The video was set against the backdrop of Kumarakom, one of the finest tourist attractions in the state, and the story was told in the form of Kadhaprasangam, a traditional Malayalam storytelling performance.
Visual in the video showed an NRI girl, who is holidaying at her ancestral house, experiencing the village life as she tours the place with her uncle. Actor Anu Emmanuel appeared as the NRI girl.
Manorama Online continued its VR experiments with several other subjects, including folklore, martial art, sports and music. Yet another video in the series was shot aboard about a snake boat during a practice section of oarsmen. The Vanchipaattu (boatmen song) was recorded in real time, giving the viewers a chance to be a part of the ride.
After Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus, an American tech major that specialises in VR products, more and more companies are investing in the VR space. Google Cardboard, which was first launched in 2014, was a breakaway success as it allowed people to sample VR content without shelling out much money.
Another breakthrough was the introduction of Live 360 video. Facebook introduced its own Live 360 feature in December 2016 while YouTube added support for 360-degree live videos in April, 2016. Subsequently, in the years to come, 360 video has fewer challenges because it hands control over the perspective to the viewer, but it isn’t truly interactive.
Gaming and interactive
The VR content will continue to focus on gaming and other interactive apps as it is the most logical choice and video will most likely take a back seat as it is not easy to create content for this medium.
Lack of quality content is another factor that could push it back. Awkward head gears are another issue.
That said the potential in VR space is immeasurable now. For the same reason, it has attracted a lot of enthusiastic attention from venture capitalists, tech giants, and startups, suggesting it might catch up – and quickly too.
Let’s just wait and see how this technology evolves – for better or worse.