UCFTI Expo Panel: VR Work Continues as AR Shows Potential

VR glasses - H Getty 2017
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Several panelists at the U.S. China Film & Television Industry Expo acknowledged that this current wave of virtual reality business isn’t taking off as fast as many stakeholders would hope, but asserted that it's progressing.

During the conference, which wrapped Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Concours Ventures managing director Greg Berkin acknowledged he’s heard the “VR is dead” talk, “but we are not seeing that.” He shared some stats that he’s collected about the still-young business, claiming that Samsung has already delivered 5 million mobile phone-based VR headsets, plus there's the release of additional systems such as Sony’s Playstation VR, which has said has reached roughly 750,000 shipped, and HTC Vive, which he said has reached roughly 250,000.

“But the biggest opportunity is augmented reality and mixed reality,” he argued, noting that his company is already leading the creation of an AR project that would allow viewers to see locations and learn about movies that were photographed in these places. It’s being developed as an app that he suggested was a sort of “IMDb meets Pokemon Go.”

Other speakers described public venues for VR viewing, such as VR cafes and venues such as the Imax VR Experience Centers, and they also discussed their latest VR projects.

Chuck Peil, co-founder and executive vp strategy and partnerships for Reel FX and its immersive entertainment arm Flight School, related that Flight School recently completed a VR project called Manifest 99, which contained no dialogue; as such this was something that easily could be distributed in international markets. “Too much dialog gets in the way of international audiences,” he said, “also, if it’s too complicated.”

Tim Dodd, senior vp, head of strategy and corporate development at Technicolor, noted that Hollywood studios want to monetize their IP through VR; Technicolor, for instance, recently created a VR experience based on Alien: Covenant. VR budgets, he acknowledged, are still largely coming from marketing departments or device tie-ins.

Summed up James Knight, virtual production director at tech developer AMD: “It’s not an industry yet, but it’s going to get there.”

The Hollywood Reporter was an event partner.

(Disclosure: THR's Carolyn Giardina moderated the discussion.)