NAB 2017: Broadcasters Urged to Give VR a Whirl

Panelists say they should start to experiment with emerging platform
NAB VR panel.jpg

Las Vegas – Adoption of virtual reality and mixed reality platforms is at its nascent stages, but broadcasters should start to experiment and learn about those technologies now, execs in the sector said here Sunday during a panel dedicated to the topic.

Google, the company behind Cardboard and new mobile VR platforms such as Daydream, is encouraging a “sense of experimentation” by collaborating with newsrooms, Nicholas Whitaker, training and development manager at the Google News Lab said during a panel titled, The Outlook for 360 / VR / AR in Local Markets.

The message to them, he said, is “to start experimenting now” despite some of the questions that are swirling around emerging VR platforms, including the underlying business models.

But a key challenge is to ensure that VR content is made for the medium, and not merely something that has simply been optimized for the platform, noted Ryan Pulliam, chief marketing office and co-founder of Specular Theory, a company that works with partners to create multiple forms of VR content and experiences, including cinematic fare and games.

VR content, she said, “really needs to be its own story” and requires “a new type of creative,” but likewise stressed that it can also serve as an ancillary or companion piece to another piece of content.

Whitaker agreed that VR requires a different approach to storytelling, as it provides an immersive platform in which one must “put the viewer first.”

“This is really an evolution into experiences,” said Caitlin Burns, CEO of Caitlin Burns & Associates, a consultant for media customers that’s been focused on Web VR formats. “It’s a new challenge that brings people together from all different fields.”

Those who enter the VR fold today, Burns added later, will have an opportunity to be at the forefront, create the “foundation” for the medium, and obtain valuable data that can be applied as the sector grows and expands.

Amy Shafqat, neuroscientist at Experius VR, said it’s also important to decide on the kind of outcome broadcasters want to achieve for the group being targeted and to make a decision on how much “control” they are willing to give to the viewer.

A big question for anyone in the VR game is how to make money on that content. Those models are still percolating.

“We’re certainly setting ourselves up to monetize,” Pulliam said, noting that’s she’s bullish on the market, and that the current focus is on capturing the audience.