Virtual Reality (VR) and 360-degree video are reshaping the media landscape, creating a fertile business environment.
In 2016 many new 360-degree cameras and VR headsets entered the consumer market. Distribution platforms are being established and new production studios are emerging. VR is a hot topic in research and industry, and many new and exciting interactive VR content and experiences are emerging.
The biggest gap we see in these experiences is the lack of social and shared aspects of VR usage, as today’s VR applications tend to be an isolated endeavour. In this paper, we present TogetherVR, a web-based framework for the creation and evaluation of social and shared VR experiences in which users can communicate with a high degree of presence and in photo-realistic video quality.
We further elaborate on three multi-user VR cases: watching TV together in VR, social collaboration in VR, and social VR conferencing in a mixed reality setting.
The last few years have seen a major uptake of virtual reality technology, enabling the creation of immersive videogames and training applications, but also paving the way for new forms of video entertainment.
Major sports events are being broadcast in 360-degree video, offering consumers new levels of immersion and to experience an event like never before. Also, Hollywood is experimenting with VR as a promotional tool with recent releases of VR movie tie-ins such as Ghost in the Shell VR2. Unfortunately, many VR experiences are still an isolated experience.
People wearing VR Head Mounted Displays (HMD) can sometimes feel like being in a different place and do not see or hear their physical surroundings. However, isolation is not a necessary consequence of new media formats: people can and do feel like being in another place with others ‘Slater et al.’. Multi-user VR experiences do exist, but these tend to focus on creating artificial experiences, in which users meet in a rendered VR environment, and the users are portrayed by avatars ‘Thomas et al.’.
Avatar-based approaches however may be too restrictive for interactions in many use cases where non-verbal communication is important, such as video conferencing, presentations, watching 360-degree videos together, and many more. In this paper, we present our ongoing efforts towards the creation of social and shared VR experiences in which users can communicate with a high degree of presence and in photo-realistic video quality.
For this purpose, we leverage the web browser as a VRenabled application platform by utilising emerging web technologies for audio-visual communications and currently available off-the-shelf hardware. The goal is an easy deployment as well as easy access in the home for interactive shared VR applications.