Shauna Heller worked as a developer relations specialist focusing on non-gaming and non-entertainment experiences at Oculus for a year and a half before leaving to start her consultancy Clay Park VR. She’s had a lot of exposure to the leading non-gaming VR experiences and understands what the how the full landscape of VR is shaping up and what the early adopters of VR are doing. I had a chance to catch up with Shauna at the VRX conference to get more insights for how VR is going to go beyond this initial push of gaming and entertainment.
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Spending a year and a half at Oculus in developer relations has given Shauna Heller some unique insights into how the rest of the world is thinking about VR. She has seen a lot of interest in VR across arts and culture, aerospace, architecture, automotive, education, enterprise, medical, music, publishing, retail, sports, themed entertainment, and movie visual effects. Those are just the early movers in the VR space, and she says that this is really just the tip of the iceberg since she’s hearing about a new application of VR every day.
She left Oculus and started Clay Park VR in order to help advise and educate clients about the broader issues around VR who are not sure what to do with VR and how to engage with this new medium. She also is able to provide some unique feedback on what’s been happening within the broader market across all of the different industry verticals.
In terms of her personal interest in VR, she’s a huge proponent of educational VR experiences and sees it as one of the most important potentials of VR. Not everyone is a book learner, and she sees that VR could help us unlock the full potential of our learning capabilities and knowledge in a way that could profoundly change humanity.
Some of her favorite VR experiences include Apollo 11 VR experience as well as First Flight, which is about this history of the Wright Brother’s airplane that was commissioned by the Smithsonian. She wants to see more educational experiences like these that are able to educate without over-indulging, overstimulating or overreaching.
One of the things that I’ve noticed in educational VR experiences is that they tend to rely heavily on narration or infographic text popping up. The thing that I wonder is how VR can go beyond what a film can do, and what the best use of the virtual reality medium will be to provide an embodied educational experience that goes beyond what instructional videos can do. Shauna agrees that this is a tricky balance as to how to balance the environmental visual information, any audio narration, and then any additional text or information provided on the screen. There’s not a set formula for that perfect balance, and so it’s a process of experimentation and knowing a good balance when you see it. It’s an ideal that even her most favorite experiences have yet to fully reach.
One of the biggest mistakes that Shauna has seen in experiences is when developers try to use all 360 degrees to no effect. Requiring viewers to quickly look all around them even if it’s not really compelling to do so can annoy or strain the viewer. The stronger developers have been finding ways to best use this new immersive medium with meaningful applications. She also recommends spending more time on implementing a spatialized audio design since it’s crucial for taking a VR experience to the next level.
Finally, Shauna says that now is the time to get into VR development. It’s still so early in the development of VR that we’re still in the process of unlocking new pathways of discovery with the medium. Ultimately, she sees that VR is going to enable us to engage, enlighten, educate and explore. There’s going to be applications of VR in nearly every aspect of our society, and she’s looking forward to helping guide companies along the way with her work at Clay Park VR.
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