Imagination in the Augmented-Reality Age

VR Northwest producer and director, Devon Lyon was interviewed by the Atlantic about the role of imaginative play in the future with Augmented Reality.

“Devon Lyon, a media producer based in Portland, Oregon, who has given talks about the relationship between AR and imagination, describes AR technology as the merging of video games and make-believe play.* Now 42 years old, Lyon describes his childhood in Salem, Oregon, in the 1980s as one full of bike-riding and imaginative play with friends. Imaginative play is a form of role-playing in which kids reinterpret real-life experiences and act out fantasies—the ground turns to lava, the treehouse becomes a castle tower, fairies and monsters live in the woods. Sometimes everything is invisible; sometimes toys are used as props—stuffed animals having a tea party, for example. This kind of play, it turns out, is an important building block in child development: Research shows that in creating the experience themselves, kids learn all sorts of skills that come in handy later in life, such as problem-solving and being inventive.

When he talks about how AR would have influenced his childhood had he been a kid today, Lyon’s speech speeds up with excitement. “If my friends and I were in the forest and we were having a sword fight with sticks, how cool would it be if we could actually have one of the Minotaurs [from] Dungeons and Dragons represented in front of us—but we’re still in the forest, and we still have sticks in our hands?” AR, according to Lyon, will make imaginative play—a childhood staple for older generations—mainstream again. As he noted in a 2014 TEDx event, traditional imaginative play is “critical”—“but I actually think it can be so much more.”

Read the full article here

3D Sound and Virtual Reality

3D Sound – or more accurately – “binaural” sound has been around since 1881. Since the 1950s the word has been often misused when referring to stereo fields. So, what is binaural sound?

Binaural recording is a method whereby two microphones (often with an omnidirectional pickup pattern) are placed roughly 7” apart to achieve a 360 degree sound field. To achieve the most accurate representation of 360 sound, it is best to imitate the listening environment. Thus, a dummy head is used. A dummy head is the shape, size and density of an average human head. Microphones are housed within the head so that the ears help direct the pickup pattern to be perceived as sound would be by a human.

Despite its simple setup and functionality, binaural recording requires headphones for the listener to fully appreciate the 360 degree sound experience.

With the rise in affordable, portable technology over the past 20 years, more people use headphones than ever. Will the availability of inexpensive, quality headphones give binaural sound a second life?

Although that is an open question, the rise in the popularity of Virtual Reality could help. VR requires the use of an optical head-mounted display. It is anticipated that the upcoming retail release or some, or all, of the VR headsets will include or support basic headphone integration.

Sound is a powerful sensory experience, just as important – and sometimes more so – than vision. Immersing yourself in a VR experience without sound is fun, but with sound – binaural sound – it is much more powerful and immersive. What better way to enhance the experience than to pair 360 visuals with 360 degree sound?

So much more is possible now than in the early 1900s, but there are still have a few hurdles for developers to overcome – namely – making sound tracking sync with the immersive visual experience. This is where we are now, and we VR developers are on the cusp of not only breathing new life to an old recording method – we are integrating it into a new technology that those who first experimented with binaural sound could not have imagined.

TEDx Devon Lyon – The Future of Storytelling

In the Fall of 2014, our very own Devon Lyon was invited to deliver a TedX speech on the topic of the future of storytelling. As a working film and commercial director ( Devon was exploring virtual reality and 360 degree video experiences. Devon believes we are at a convergence of existing technologies – virtual reality, video games and augmented reality – that will take storytelling and the consumption of stories into an entirely new experience. This TedTalk is designed to be eye-opening and aspirational. It is amazing how much has already changed and advanced in the year since this Talk was first given.