Virtual reality has been talked about for decades and the technology has always seemed to be a sci-fi “thing of the future.”
But Facebook’s 2014 purchase of Oculus for $2 billion sent a strong signal that the technology of the future was imminent, and since then it has been a VR arms race between many of the biggest tech companies in the market. Facebook, Google, Sony, HTC, and Samsung have all jumped into the VR device game (aka Head-mounted displays or HMD) and now Apple looks to be joining in, too. In 2015 Samsung Gear VR came out; Oculus Rift and HTC Vive consumer editions were shipped in the past few months. Virtual reality has officially arrived.
Emma Mankey Hidem first learned to shoot 360° Video (the term used for VR style video capture before the term VR became widely used) back in 2013 while working for a company that produces media for museums. The College Football Hall of Fame was looking for an interesting way to give fans a unique, on-field perspective of their teams so she captured 360° videos during 13 college football games. Being in the center of a stadium amongst 80,000 screaming fans as their team took the field was not an experience Emma ever thought she would have, but she immediately recognized that she had a knack for the kind of shooting that would make the 360° video experience the best it could be. The considerable amount of time spent with the medium while working on this project had Emma thinking about the prospect of starting a company of her own that specializes in 360° Video, but it was finally seeing viewers reaction to her footage once it was installed in the museum that sold Emma on the impact of VR (this was in pre-headset days so the footage was just playing on an iPad but people still freaked out over being able to look around within a video).
Emma launched her company, SunnysideVR, in 2015, feeling that the technology had come far enough to make it a viable, sustainable niche from a business perspective. SunnysideVR focuses on video-based VR storytelling with marketing being the primary source of business for Emma so far, as forward thinking companies start to see the value of this new medium. Right now most companies are primarily putting the experiences on Facebook and YouTube since that’s the easiest ways to reach the largest audience, with Emma working on 360° Videos for companies such as Mercedes and Estee Lauder.
As more people purchase headsets, Emma hopes to make more complex VR experiences with more interactivity, and with a background in documentary, she is very interested in the immersive storytelling possibilities of VR. Emma is particularly excited by the interactive capabilities of VR – of letting the viewer have some control over the story, whether that be fiction or non-fiction, and her main focus for her personal projects right now is experimenting with these possibilities.