How Long Before We Get Star Wars and Marvel VR Experiences?



Arthur Van Hoff is the (sorry to say, uncharismatic) CTO of Jaunt VR.

In the video above (recorded at the VRLA Spring Expo, where approximately 50 vendors gathered at the Los Angeles JW Marriott LA on March 22, 2015 to show off their soon-to-be-on-the-market VR wares) Mr. Van Hoff talked about Jaunt's progress toward enabling what they were calling "cinematic VR."

But his demos and personality don't convey why people should care.

What does "cinematic VR" mean anyway?

And why does it matter?

Without a proven market for the bulky wearable VR devices - why are people writing about it in 2015?

After all, Jaron Lanier's pioneering VR company went bankrupt back in 1990.

Who really thinks this year's VR hype will come to anything. Remember Google Glass?

Well... VR may land with a thud when Oculus finally ships to consumers (first quarter of 2016?). And the talk of "cinematic VR" may once again prove to be just talk.

We'll know soon enough...

But don't bet against VR just yet...

The last week has seen some quietly reported milestones that could expand into big news

For example?

When VR developers start attracting backing from one of China's biggest investors in Hollywood (i.e., China Media Capital - which has recently announced a major deal with Warner Brothers for Chinese language films) AND a legacy movie studio - one with the hottest motion picture franchises (i.e., Disney, with properties that could spin-off amazing VR experiences, like Star Wars and Marvel) BOTH signing on to work with a fledgling VR company - it may be time to pay attention.

And perhaps to get a bit excited about the cinematic possibilities.

And that's exactly what happened just this week, as the signs of something major happening in VR started to come together.

First there was the announcement on Sept. 16th, 2015 that Disney-owned ABC News would be offering a VR storytelling "experience," produced in conjunction with Jaunt, to take the viewer "Inside Syria to explore Damascus and see how archaeologists are racing against time to protect historical antiquities menaced by war."

Then just five days later Daniel Terdiman in Fast Company wrote (on Sept. 21st, 2015) that the "Walt Disney Company is among the lead investors in virtual-reality startup Jaunt VR’s $66 million Series C round of funding... and China Media Capital joined Disney as lead investors in the round, which brings Jaunt’s total funding to more than $100 million."

Think about it.

In one week, Disney made two bold moves - with Jaunt - into VR.

With Disney onboard, we are no longer simply talking about building a 360 degree camera and tools for editing and creating VR experiences.

The Story Studio announced earlier this year by Jaunt's competitor Facebook-owned Oculus was one thing. But Jaunt's new relationship with Disney (with money from China Media Capital) could be huge.

Yes. There's still a long way to go - but if the birth of a major new studio-of-the-future was to happen - wouldn't it look a lot like Jaunt and Disney teaming up?

Let's be clear. This is all very speculative. But the news that Disney and China Media Capital are building an experience production facility - with a sound stage and the kinds of tools that Hollywood motion picture storytellers might want to craft entertainment experiences for VR headsets - in Hollywood - should be very big news.

Yes. It's probably too early to announce a trend. But both Oculus and Jaunt seem to be expanding their vision from building a workable technology suitable for gaming into something much bigger. Their growing confidence in movie-like storytelling (for the home and a new kind of theater or theme-parks?) may simply be an effort by these early-stage businesses to cover all the possible bets - but this kind of move - toward a new paradigm for film storytelling with Disney and big Chinese money attached - seems noteworthy.

Let's see if the mainstream media picks up on the news that a stable of properties that include Star Wars and Marvel are now deeply embedded into a company that is promising "cinematic VR."



UPDATE: May 31, 2016 The indispensable Patrick Frater is reporting in Variety that Jaunt is establishing a joint venture - to be known as Jaunt China - with Chinese media titans Shanghai Media Group and Whaley (the technology arm of China Media Capital, a prior investor in Jaunt, see above) with the goal of bringing cinematic VR experiences to the China market. What Patrick Frater doesn't mention is that, at the same time in the US, Jaunt's CEO has "stepped down."

No comments:

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.