A GEARVR NEWS APP REVIEW
Window to the World is a new app for download in SideLoadVR by developer (and photographer) Aurel Manea. There are so many good apps on SideLoadVR, but I really think this one takes the cake. If you haven’t taken the time to get SideLoadVR working, this app might just be the one that will change your mind. Let me be clear: it’s worth any troubles required to procure it. These visuals are staggering! The photography is wondrous and as you move your head, your POV inside the photo appears to change, revealing what’s behind certain areas of the location previously not visible. The app cleverly tricks you into believing the scene before you is really there, like a huge portal through an open window ... just as its name suggests. I felt like I was seeing the future of VR, what it’ll one day become.
It really is like you’ve opened your entire wall and are gazing out of your house into another point across the globe. This is achieved by use of something called parallax, a feature the GearVR comes with. Parallax is one of the two really instrumental effects needed for good VR, the other being positional tracking (which GearVR does not come with yet. But will, eventually.) Parallax is the way that when your head turns right or left, it will tend to drift a small amount carrying your eyes to different potions in space. This causes things in the foreground to appear to move more, while distant objects remain in the exact same location, or move very little. The further out you look, the less parallax can impact the movement of things in the scene. But the closer things are, the more parallax can reveal information. (You can see an example below.)
(You can also see this video in full quality here: )
Parallax is one of the most important ways your brain works out depth information besides just having stereo visuals You can get parallax from only one eye by moving your head around a tiny bit when observing something. You’re … doing that right now, aren’t you? Haha, wink!
For another example, let’s say you’re in the GearVR “Goosebumps” and you’re hiding under the table in the kitchen on the 1st floor. You look out hoping to see the zombie you heard coming, but a table leg is in your way, blocking your view. But … if you turn your head to the left and right, the table leg will move a little as you do, opening up your view, letting you get a look at the zombie coming into the kitchen.
This example is the first time I really noticed parallax helping me out in GearVR, so that one stuck out clearly in my mind. Without parallax, when you turned your head, no new information could be gleaned, things in the foreground wouldn’t shift appropriately like they do when the head turns in real life. It would cause even more sickness than not having positional tracking already does. Thank goodness GearVR has parallax, or this app would not work. And that would be a real pity. Because it’s mind blowing.
This is one of those apps that will become my go-to demonstration app because of the clarity of the visuals and amazing photography. The only point of contention I have with this app is that it only comes with six locations, but if you visit his webpage here, you can see the many many more photos are available but haven’t been included in this demo. I would really like to see a whole lot more of these photos, but perhaps they are being saved for the final Oculus Home version, perhaps not for free? I can understand that, the author claims it took a lot of effort to learn java and to build this application, and I believe it. It works flawlessly, like something you’d expect a major studio to have produced with a team and a lot of money. I would gladly pay for access to a lot more of this kind of experience. This app is really is something to see!
The author describes this Window to the World in the following words:
“This is a photographic experiment. It represents what can be achieved using classical landscape photography and virtual reality as its means of expression.
“As a photographer and VR enthusiast I have always dreamed about a way of expressing photography as close as possible to the actual moment of capture, about the moment when reality and photography converge. The first trial was a couple of years ago when I took some photos and made a short film based on the famous parallax techniques but with a twist. The twist was that everything was now in actual 3d and not just 2D layers. The next step was giving the viewer a bit of input and so came to be the online WebGL version. The final step was full immersion, so VR was the natural progression. It was a long way from photography first, then to parallax video, then WebGL after that, and finally arriving at the end in VR.“
I was only in the app 10 minutes when I realized it was pretty cool to bend my knees while looking down to make it feel like I was getting closer to the ground. And then I could stand up on my toes while looking up slightly, making it feel like I’d just jumped 20 feet in the air. If I raised my arms, too, the effect was even greater. I felt almost exhilarated. Although I am not accustomed to much exercise, I was enjoying doing this. I realized I could provide a grand experience for little kids. I would teach them to look down while on the ground, but then I would pick them up and fling them skyward, and have them look up slightly. With the feeling of flight merged with the visuals, the way these kinds of photos make you appear to spring 20 feet high, they’d feel like they actually flew in the air! I’d be mapping real-world stimuli to the visuals they see like those new roller-coaster VR parks.
And then I saw that something like this would be a convincing way to get people to work out a little more each day, too! When I was doing my squats in this app, in order to feel like I was leaping, I didn’t even feel them. (I do now, though, argh, hahaha…) I saw then the potential for this kind of thing in the exercise market!
For that reason, my first suggestion is to change the interaction method down the road (when it’s available on GearVR) to a positionally-tracked style instead of parallax (or offer both). The reason is that then you could have some of these images be made just for the sensation of jumping. Like the ground could be a trampoline in the VR environment with the windows being more like 180 videos inside a frame, much closer to our eyes, filling our view more than the window inside this app.
We would get an even greater “jumping” sensation than we do now by bending down and leaping up. Or maybe we could use a real trampoline, one of those small round mini exercise ones, but in the app, the height is doubled or tripled over what we are doing ourselves on the actual trampoline.
What I am saying is that this idea would work well for an exercise program. If this particular application developer doesn’t want to go down this road, someone else who understands the comparison could take up the reigns and offer another version of this kind of app made especially for exercise.
With as many cool things happening in VR right now, it isn’t often something comes clear out of left field without any warning and surprises me on this scale. It’s precisely because of the many changes in the VR landscape that so many of us are watching it so closely that there isn’t much that can make us scratch our heads and leave us wondering how they did this.
I know this uses multiple layers and he’s hinted at some CGI and 3DS Max use, but it’s not clear what the process is that arrives at such phenomenal overlays that don’t seem to have any visible seams or artifacts around the edges like most layered clips objects.
I tried to do this same thing using a video editor and a dozen layers, all at different depths, and what I discovered was that it was very difficult to keep those layers from looking … exactly like layers.
What Aurel has done here is to create a remarkable illusion, with no visible tells, that truly tricks the mind, and delightfully so. This is the essence of what magic is. And that makes this a new kind of magic show, one only possible in VR. Now those of you who’ve tossed out your GearVR claiming it was crap, well, you’d best be eating crow right about now. You just missed out on an amazing experience right here … big time. The rest of you, go and get this one right away. Because while it truly is a Window to the World, it’s that and so much more. It’s also a window … to the future!
So to you hearty souls I say … welcome to it!
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