A YouTube for Virtual Reality Offers Stuff to Watch on Your Google Cardboard

Sports, entertainment and music are the low-hanging fruit for this entirely new medium

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 28:  An attendee inspects Google Cardboard during the 2015 Google I/O conference on May 28, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The annual Google I/O conference runs through May 29.
There will be more virtual reality stuff to see on WeShareVR, a new site from Amsterdam. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The YouTube for virtual reality launched this weekend.

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WeShareVR is a new site from Amsterdam-based We Make VR, a place to share and sell Virtual Reality content. To generate a consumer base and interest from normal people in this entirely new medium, great content  that people are hungry to experience needs to get made, according to Benjamin de Wit, one of the partners.

Mr. de Wit said in a recent interview, alongside his partner Avinash Changa, that he recently did a demo with a woman who at first had that “wow” moment that most people have when they first put on a virtual reality helmet, but she quickly relaxed, sat back and become immersed in what she was seeing.

“Then comes the real consuming of the content,” Mr. de Wit said.

Mr. Changa and Mr. de Wit are in New York City this week seeking content partners and investors. WeShareVR experiences require an Oculus Rift or a Google Cardboard equivalent, played via the company’s software (app available on Android and iOS). To grow, the platform needs people to create experiences which drive demand for the hardware and, thus, broader adoption. By giving people a way to make money on their work, Mr. Changa argues, creators are incentivized to start thinking about making something in virtual reality.

Two potential partners for We Make VR are The New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall, which the team will sit down with this week. “We are becoming pretty much the authority on VR in classical music,” Mr. Changa said. The company has recorded a variety of concerts using their stereoscopic cameras (two cameras in each direction, one for each eye) and they will release these experiences over time through WeShareVR. Live performances are a good place to start getting content makers thinking about virtual reality, the team argues, because their creative directors already think in 3D.

We Make VR would like to experiment with recording a concert with an orchestra in a circle and the virtual reality camera in the center, so that users could experience it as if they were standing in the middle of all the musicians.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HP8xP9stU7g]

Film directors tend to resist the new conventions of virtual reality, Mr. Changa said, because they like being able to control what viewers see, using the frame. They could be won over as they see that using virtual reality technology enables interesting new sorts of interactive film experiences. For example, the company worked with the University of Amsterdam and Vondel CS on a film called The Perfect Party; if the viewer doesn’t look in the right places at the right time, the party won’t be perfect. It won’t end with a friend proposing to his future bride, as it’s meant to. (The film is not up on WeShareVR yet).

Theater directors, who are also accustomed to 3D and know they can’t fully control their viewers’ eyes, might adopt virtual reality more readily than filmmakers, according to Mr. Changa.

All the focus on virtual reality is in sports, music and entertainment, Mr. Changa said. For example, according to Re/Code the Dallas Cowboys and Stanford University football are using technology from Strivr to record practices and permit players to watch them from inside the play, over and over, to see every aspect.

“That’s the low hanging fruit,” Mr. Changa said, of those sectors. The company anticipates entirely new applications that will bring people closer together by more fully recording experiences. For example, the company recorded Rafael Rozendaal’s Times Square installation, A Midnight Moment: Much Better Than This. Once released, people will be able to experience it forever, as if they were standing there. It could be a way for immobile people to see other parts of the world, interactively, for medical schools to record surgeries and potentially find ways to create new sorts of treatment, particularly for psychological distress.

Another facet of his company’s business is licensing its designs for virtual reality cameras to manufacturers. Cameras designed by We Make VR capture video stereoscopically. Most other companies shoot in mono, Mr. Changa said. Cameras based on the company’s designs are not yet available for sale.

Other companies, he said, are quietly working on more advanced ways to simulate hearing in 3D, though right now, Mr. Changa says, there are ways you can approach the effect with traditional headphones. He wants to avoid putting any more obstacles in front of viewers than he has to.

We Make VR started in March 2013 as a spinoff venture from Mr. Changa’s first company, a creative agency called Disrupt.

YouTube recently launched YouTube #360Video, a panoramic offering with its own videos ready for users of Cardboard.

A YouTube for Virtual Reality Offers Stuff to Watch on Your Google Cardboard