Neville Spiteri is the founder and CEO of WEVR (formerly Wemo Labs). It was originally started to create immersive experiences before the Oculus Rift Kickstarter. They had created an immersive underwater experience called The Blue, and then they ported it to virtual reality in 2013. They also started developing a mobile version in 2014 after getting a sneak peak of a Gear VR prototype. On March 1st, they rebranded to WEVR to show the world that they’re now 100% focused on virtual reality, and they announced their partnership with Valve in creating the TheBluVR: Encounter VR experience For the HTC Vive.
Neville says that experiencing The Room Demo in 2014 was one of the most profound experiences of his life, and that it was really moving to experience the sense of true presence in VR for the first time. After meeting with Valve to experience the Vive for the first time, they then spent six weeks building “ThebluVR: Encounter,” which is a room-scale VR experience that was shown as a part of Valve’s GDC demo reel. They wanted to create an introductory experience for room-scale VR where you could have a soft-landing and not be bothered by figuring out the controllers, but rather focus on exploring a space by moving around.
There’s a quantum leap from mobile rotational systems to desktop positional systems, and then another quantum leap to design a VR experience for room-scale. He says that it engages more of your physicality, which allows more part of your body that can react to the VR environment. They also learned that if there’s a large object coming towards a visitor and they are having a sense of presence, then they’ll move out of the way as if it were real. They also included various interactive elements including having school of fish react and being able to create currents by your hand movements to help increase the sense of presence. He also talks about the importance of establishing the sense of place, and giving you a sense of human-scale reference to give you an idea for how big of a space that you’re in when creating a room-scale VR experience.
WEVR has been creating experiences for the three tiers of mobile, desktop and room-scale VR in order to discover the strengths and constraints for each tier. They suggest starting with the audience that you’re trying to reach first with your VR experience, and then which VR platform is going to best express and reach that audience.
They created The Blue experience for all three VR platform tiers, and Neville says that a lot of the assets and interactions need to be specifically designed for each platform.
WEVR has also been exploring the medium of cinematic & 360-degree VR experiences. Overall, they’re focusing on non-game, storytelling creative experiences.
They also creating a VR Playback system, which is currently in private beta in order to help experiences play on all of the VR platforms. They’re hoping that it’ll help solve the problem of distributing your VR experience as well as to help build an audience for your work.
WEVR is more of a studio/publisher rather than a work-for-hire development shop, and they’re focusing on the underlying distribution platform. But since it’s still early days in the VR world, they’re also investing a lot in creating different VR experiences in order to better understand all of the different facets of this new medium. He also alluded to the fact that they’re working on a number of different launch titles for the Vive and and Oculus Rift desktop & Gear VR.
WEVR has also been doing some experiments in interactive storytelling and cinematic VR. They’ve been collaborating with different filmmakers including Roger Avary, who is an Academy Award winner who co-wrote Pulp Fiction. They’ve also been spending just as much time with game designers in order to get their insights into storytelling in an open world. WEVR also announced at SXSW that they’ve created a million dollar Virtual Reality grant program for immersive storytellers.
Finally, he talks about some of WEVR’s other VR experiences including the Space Shuttle Endeavour and Above & Beyond At Madison Square Garden. He sees that we’re moving beyond being able to share moments to being able to share full experiences with each other. Neville sees that VR has the potential to be more efficient in communicating and learning, and more entertained, and he’s excited to be a being a part of the mainstream resurgence of virtual reality.
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