On Jan 29, 2011, at 3:41 AM, Paul Fretheim wrote:
> Anyway, your comments concerned me when I read them and I hope you will
> expand and clarify and tell us more about where you see VR going and
> perhaps write a bit more about why you think "VR is a marginal media type."
Okay, philosophy first, my advice at the end.
How many times have you spun a fullscreen VR for somebody and had them react with amazement and delight and say they had never seen anything like it before? Then maybe they think for a minute and say they have seen it on real estate or hotel websites, or ask if it is the same as Google Streetview.
This has been happening to me for 15 years and I am getting real tired of it!
It is why I am on the IVRPA (and previously IQTVRA) board, founded the WWP, put on the Berkeley and Tucson conferences, etc. I want people to see our panos!
We still have a huge public visibility problem. When we force people to pay attention, they love our work. But they are not seeking it out. Why?
#1 We do not have a good standard name for it.
How do people describe your work to others? - they usually need a full sentence accompanied by gestures. How do you describe it yourself? Can you do it over the phone or with your hands in your pockets?
There are too many terms and phrases in use. I have been pushing "VR panoramas" for years, originally because that is what Hans used on his site panoramas.dk, the leading showcase. It doesn't matter if people know what VR stands for, as long as they connect that phrase "VR panoramas" with "that thing that we do".
We should deprecate the term "virtual tour", it is too commonly used for non-VR type presentations. And despite various advantages claimed by the dozens of other terms in use, none has significant mind share. We need to work with what we have.
A good generic term, consistently used, is important for two reasons.
One is simply so people recognize that the unique technology/media type exists and can talk about it. You can't get much of a buzz going when everyone is struggling for words.
Secondly, we need to work better with search engines. Ask Google for a place name, even a rare one, and you get lots of links, but not many panos. But if we settle on a term and we all use it, maybe we can train people to add it to the place name or other subject when they search.
For example, Google "Salmon Glacier" and you get a page of mostly relevant hits, with my VR panos on the second page. Google "Salmon Glacier VR" or "Salmon Glacier VR panoramas" and you get all my stuff - on my own site, my blog, and the WWP. (I use this as an example because I seem to be the only one with panos of the Salmon Glacier).
#2 There is no 600 pound gorilla in the VR panorama arena. Except Google, marginally.
In the early days it was Snow White and the seven hundred dwarfs, with Apple playing Ms. White. They made the authoring and playback software, promoted it and supported it, we provided the content. Alas, no more. Microsoft never had an equivalent technology (and did their best to kill QT). Ipix was a scam and an embarrassment. Macromedia/Adobe never noticed. So now it is just us dwarfs.
Other than QTVR all the playback technologies are generic and we have cleverly adapted them to our needs. No big company has a stake in VR, at least not the sort we do (as opposed to Streetview).
Flash serves our needs now, but Adobe isn't likely to promote VR or adapt their products to our needs. It may do for a while to come, but who knows? I am concerned that Adobe's game plan for mobile devices (if there is one) is so flawed.
Java had enormous promise, but Microsoft fatally compromised it, then it languished, and now Oracle owns it. Not much hope there.
Personally, I don't expect any big company to discover VR and provide a universal and lasting presentation solution, let alone promote the medium and partner with content producers. No 600-pound gorillas available.
My hope is that VR can be supported through standards-compliant browsers and open source (or freely licensed) software. The WC3 seems to have come back to life and html 5 is supported in Apple and Google browsers. Microsoft's ability to play havoc with standards is not what it used to be (though Google and Apple can also play that game).
If we are lucky there may at least be a level playing field in the future. But we are going to have to get out there and prove ourselves.
Okay, Paul, here is my advice.
- Stay flexible and pay attention to how the technology is evolving and where the eyeballs are pointing. Be ready to explore new platforms and marketing possibilities.
- QTVR is legacy, Flash is current but its future is out of our hands, html 5 and its related technologies are coming right up. The action is on mobile devices (as apps), and the web (adapted to all devices). Data now lives in the cloud, CD's and DVD's are dead, shrink-wrapped software is dead. Kiosks with VR content are cool, but a niche within a niche.
- Your full-size equirectangular images are your real assets, archive them, document them, and guard them. They can be resized, sharpened, reprojected, cubed, sliced and diced to serve future needs. Your QTVR's, Flash movies, even resized cubefaces, are just generations, I guarantee you will need to replace them eventually.
- Keep your supporting graphics (such as maps) in editable (vector when appropriate) formats, so you can repurpose them. Maintain your text content and metadata (date, place, lat/long, rights/credits) in a database. Watch for violations of your copyrights and moral rights, theft of intellectual property is rampant.
Hope this helps,