360-degree video: how has it been used?

Allthough 360-degree video is relatively new, it has shown it’s potential quite a lot. It has been used in entertainment, journalism, the medical field and more. It is a portal to another place, you can put on a VR headset, play the video and feel like you are somewhere else. So how has this medium been used so far?

Locations

One of the main ways 360-degree videos have been used is to place someone in a location that they haven’t been to or can’t go to. To show them how it would look like if they would actually be there. Cities, landscapes, football stadiums and even space are examples of these locations. The camera is placed in the location, sometimes on different places or on moving objects, and the viewer can look around. The idea behind this is quite simple, yet effective.

“Brands and entertainment properties should be focused on experiences where a user would want to know what it’s like to be in a unique situation or location,” – Jason Stein, CEO of Laundry Service, a social media agency. They also produced a 360-degree video where the viewer is placed in Manhattan, New York City during Christmas, on the famous Rockefeller Center skating rink to be exact. A pretty tame video compared to others, but a good example nonetheless.

Below some examples can be viewed. (to look around drag with your mouse on the video while it is playing)

Entertainment

The entertainment industry is huge. Music, film, games and everything else are made for the people to be entertained, escape reality for a while and have a good time. VR and 360-degree video is another medium that expands the possibilities of how we get entertained.

Film

One way on how it is used in entertainment, is as a promotion for a film for example. For the film The Walk (2015) they build an VR experience. The film is based on a true story of Philippe Petit who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. For the VR experience based on this movie they let you experience how it would be to walk on wire that high. When you put the headset on you are on top of one of the towers and are able to walk a bit on the wire. They did this for the Playstation VR, one of several VR platforms.

Another film example is for 2016’s Jungle Book live action film adaption they made two 360-degree videos. In those videos you are placed in a part of the film, looking through, the main character, Mowgli’s eyes.

Gaming

The gaming industry is also working a lot with VR. Apart from all the heavy computer and console games that are out there, mobile gaming in 360 degree is also becoming more present. Since this research is focussed on 360-degree video, the heavy VR gaming examples will be left out. The difference between VR and 360-degree videos can be found here.

Mobile VR gaming is quite similar to 360-degree video. The biggest difference is that instead of it being filmed with a camera, it is designed and created digitally. One of the first examples that gained popularity when 360-degree videos became accessible, was a rollercoaster ride. Quite a simple concept, yet very fun.

However, that was more the first stage. It lacks story. An example what has more story to it would be Chair In A Room (one of my favorite). It is a horror story set in, you guessed it, a room on a chair. The first demo that you are able to play is in a small room, the lights go out. You are sitting in the middle of the room, on a chair. You have nothing but a flashlight to use. However the battery quickly drains, but luckily recharges. Everytime you turn the flashlight back on, another clue of the story appears in the room. The story gets darker and darker. This is a great way to approach the limitations of the medium. Since in 360 degree videos you cannot move around like you can in VR gaming, the devolopers of Chair In A Room decided to bound you to the chair in the room. This motivates why you are not able to walk around. Different from videos, these games do not have a timeline. You can take as long as you would like to look around.

Of course there are more games available and there are appearing more 360-degree/VR apps and games on the mobile marketplace with the week.

Music

Another way how the medium is used in entertainment is with music performances. Since the cameras are accessable to artists around the world, it is no surprise that music artists are picking this up as well. One of the first who used 360-degree video for a concert was the english rockband MUSE for their Wembley Stadium 2010 performance. Multiple 360-degree camera rigs were placed on the stage, on a website you were able to watch part of the performance and look around from different positions. The band did another 360-degree video for on of their songs from latest album, Drones (2015).

Another great example of a music video with a story is One Republic with their song Kids. Filmed in a single take with a choreography of over a 100 people, you can decide where to look and discover the story yourself. Watching it twice might result in paying attention to something else.

The medical field

Not only is 360-degree video a great way to entertain people, it has also moving towards the medical field. An example to start with are phobias. Perhaps you are afraid of spiders, maybe heights? With the help of VR and 360-degree video you can now confront those fears and hopefully overcome them.

“Facing your fears may be the best way to extinguish a phobia – but it’s easier said than done. Some psychiatrists even claim that exposure therapy, which encourages a person to experience a steadily more frightening scenario, is unethical, given the stress and anxiety it produces. It can also be highly impractical – a person with a fear of flying can’t be expected to buy a plane ticket on a weekly basis.

To overcome these issues, psychologists and therapists are starting to turn to virtual reality exposure therapy. Instead of boarding a real plane, a person can simply put on a headset and a pair of headphones that, together, simulate the experience.” – Jessica Hamzelou, from New Scientist, 12 March 2014

Similiar to previous examples mentioned in this post, during such a VR experience you are placed in a location. Only this time based on your fear. A room full of spiders for example, you look around and see nothing but spiders. Only these spiders cannot hurt you. Perhaps you have social anxiety, in VR you can be placed in a room full of people who all look at you and give you various reactions. Or you are afraid of heights, so in VR you are placed on top of a large building and after a while you fall down. Cristian Sirbu at the University of West Virginia in Charleston, is working on these programs. In an unpublished study, Sirbu’s team have found that exposure to a virtual reality environment does help subjects to overcome their fears. (New Scientist, 2014)

360-degree video is also used to teach and train doctors. Medical Realities is a group who is developing medical training products with the use of VR (among other techniques). The idea behind this is to reduce the cost of training and create a safe learning enviornment for medical students. A product that they are working on is called The Virtual Surgeon, which lets you oversee an operation through the eyes of a consultant surgeon.

Journalism

Journalism covers a lot of stories everyday. From politcal debates, economics to human right problems. Some of the journalism stories are positve and fun to read, others not so much. Most of those stories we read in newspapers or nowadays mostly online, others watch the news. But since a couple of years, those stories are being told in 360-degree videos. It puts the viewer inside those stories, you are there.

A war zone is never a place you want to be in. We hear and read the stories of the ongoing wars in Syria for example, terrible news. We cannot imagine what these people go through. But with 360-degree video you can. You can look around and see how those people live. This video below shows the situation in Aleppo, the first ever war zone captured in 360-degrees.

Another great example, which I mentioned earlier in my blog, is Clouds Over Sidra. Where a 12-year old girl tells about her life in a refugee camp. The video is co-created by Chris Milk, who I talked about before, and in colaboration with the United Nations.

There are many more examples of how it is used in journalism, but they key here is that instead of seeing these stories on tv or reading about them online, you can be there. Writing and describing how life is in a refugee camp and getting the reader to understand what it is like, is almost impossible. But showing them, putting them in there, having a refugee tell the story, you almost cannot get any closer than that.

Conclusion

As you can see, a lot has already been done. These examples above are just a few of many. The exploration on how to use this medium and in what way we can tell stories with it continues. The content that is being created grows rapidly, escpecially in the entertainment. More and more artists are experimenting with this medium and share their stories with the world. The next step is to see how the “regular consumer” will receive this medium.