Enterprises and content providers interested in the revolution driving augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) could learn a lot from Sarah Hill and her career progression.
Then a news anchor for NBC Mid-Missouri affiliate KOMU-TV, Hill went viral in 2011, shortly after Google+ debuted, for her innovative on-air and off-air journalistic use of Google+ Hangouts. Since then, as video content and delivery has progressed toward VR, so too has Hill; she is now CEO of VR content and platform company StoryUp.
This month, Telco Transformation sat down with Hill at Boston's Content Marketing Conference (CMC), where Hill delivered a keynote on immersive media, to get her insights on AR, VR and the equally important, hologram-based MR -- mixed reality. In Part 1 of this two-part Q&A (edited for clarity and length), Hill discusses the unification of these "big video" trends, the content and delivery demands driving AR/VR/MR adoption, and immersive media technology's impact in the healthcare sector. In Part 2, Hill discusses issues surrounding AR/VR/MR content optimization.
Telco Transformation: In your CMC keynote, you discussed mixed reality (MR). How is MR distinguished from AR and VR?
Sarah Hill: Augmented reality comprises notifications super-imposed over the real world, like what we saw with Google Glass.
Mixed reality is more about objects set inside the real world -- objects that you can interact with, 3D objects that you can walk around. That's what mixed reality is -- yet you see the real world. There are glasses like the Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap, and Meta Glasses; those are all mixed-reality devices where the real world is not closed off. You are putting a ballerina on your couch. It's a hologram. You see the ballerina. It's not real; it's a hologram. But you actually see your couch in your living room, so the real world comes through.
Virtual reality is a closed environment in a headset; everything around you is either video or computer-generated environments -- and you don't see any of the real world bleeding through.
TT: Why is the distinction important?
SH: I don't know that it's necessarily important, except maybe to us geeks -- but I think it is important in a consumer world for consumers to understand the different kinds of media that we're talking about. A still photo is very different from video -- and it's the same in VR.
Ultimately, who knows [what will happen] in several years? The line between virtual and augmented and mixed reality is already blurring right now. The Gear VR headset has the ability to toggle between seeing a transparent view and seeing a closed view, so ultimately those lines won't be drawn. But for creators, we need to make sure that we are creating content and have the ability to create content in all those different spaces -- AR, MR, VR -- because all of it is coming into one headset.
TT: Where are you seeing demand and trends for AR/VR/MR content? How do enterprises and advertisers want to leverage it?
SH: Where a lot of companies are making their bread and butter right now is in branded content. They're creating immersive films for charities, foundations and brands -- including us -- that allow people to step inside their stories -- and with an eye toward what their niche is going to be. Our niche is positive, emotional story because we think story is still king despite the tech. It's not just: "Here's an airplane. Here's what it's like to be on an airplane." Our story is: "Who is that person? And who owns that aircraft company? Where do you make the planes? What are they made up of? How long has this company been around?" We combine story [with] immersive media, and that's our expertise as storytellers.
We're using [VR] to output specific brainwave patterns. For instance, everyone has gamma activity. The gamma activity in your brain is the stress reaction in your brain, and using immersive media impacts that. There have been a lot of case studies that VR is just as effective as a dose of hydromorphone, which is a powerful pain killer. If we can put a media experience on someone's face when they're going through a blood draw, when they are going through chemotherapy, dialysis, or some kind of acute stress situation, and we can lower their gamma activity in the brain, that might really reduce reliance on medication -- that might be an alternative to medication -- to treat baseline symptoms of what people are going through with anxiety. So we at StoryUp aren't just creating positive, emotional, inspiring content because we like it -- although we do like it -- but we are creating it because we know that it affects brainwave patterns in a very specific way … We're a platform that has the ability to not only entertain the mind but do specific things to brainwave patterns.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation