VR Interview Amandine Flachs
VR Interview Amandine Flachs
VR Interview Amandine Flachs
D: Would you please state your name and your position?
A: Amandine Flachs - Founding member, events and communication manager at the Realities Centre; co-founder of Unfold UK
D: Now, let's start easy. Could you tell me a little bit about your background in VR and what brought you to this area in the first place?
A: I started working in VR almost 4 years ago. Back then there was no modern headset (pre-oculus area) and the ecosystem was completely different. I had some experiences working with Tech startups in France and in the US, helping tech entrepreneurs with their business and marketing. I was back in Paris and looking for the next project when I got an interview with a visualization software company. As soon as I understood the business applications of VR and many possibilities, I saw a real potential and decided to go for the job. Then, when I realized the evolution of the industry and the first modern headsets coming, I took my chance and moved to London to not just observe this ecosystem being built but really be part of it.
D: I think the major challenge for every VR-application, which wants to tell a story, is using this new found 3-dimensional space in a way that was simply not possible on a 2D screen. Do you think that at this point in time, it is enough to simply put a person into this environment and have the story happen around him to create a satisfying experience? Or how important is it to have a person interact with this world?
A: I think you are touching some important point here but it is a bit more complex. As you mention you have now more dimensions to create and immerse your audience. However, to do a satisfying experience you need to take in consideration more criteria than just interactions vs. no interactions. The key to a satisfying experience depends first on what you want to express and to share with your audience. An experience can be moving and fabulous with no interactions but a fantastic art direction, story, sound... There is no “one” solution that fits everyone nor fits every kind of experiences.
D: Let's talk about immersion. Two things I read over and over again while preparing for this interview was a) the aspect of telling a story in a traditional retrospective way and b) the fact that a viewer or reader of "old" media is always bound to tracks during an experience. Both these points are no longer a set component of VR-experiences and I think these are the main reason (aside from graphics and a next level AI of course) why VR could create an unbelievable sense of immersion. Which brings up the question: is that good? Do you think we should actually make these worlds less lifelike, so people don't get lost in them, wanting to spend all their lives in a virtual world?
A: In these questions, we are in my opinion talking about 2 different topics.
First storytelling. Using VR to tell a story is using a new medium to say something. The immersion can help create a stronger relationship with the audience and create empathy. On the other hand, it forces creators to rethink everything they thought they knew and experiment with the new dimensions. This deep sense of immersion is key to many applications and experiences and can help many people. We see more and more VR for good or medical applications for example that rely on this complete immersion to do the trick.
The second question is completely different and addresses the question of the future of all technologies. It is really hard to answer if there is a risk for people to want to stay in VR forever especially as this is something impossible today with the actual technology. We all need to be moderate in all we do. There is no point in staying all your life on your phone or on your TV exclusively, I think it is the same for VR. VR add another tool you can use to help your life, get entertained and work but it won't replace the real life.
D: Next up: Empathy. Storytelling has always been able to do something with people: to teach them, to put them in the shoes of someone else or to really touch them on a deep emotional level. Do you think VR is our most powerful tool yet to do that and will it maybe change society in ways we haven't seen before? In good or bad ways, like depicting important news or influencing political opinions.
A: As I mentioned before, VR storytelling add another dimension and level up its empathy power. What people do with the content is their responsibility and it is the same questions as for any medium. For now, the community is tight and strong so we still promote and all try to spread the right practices. However, we can't control what everyone is doing and for sure some people may try to influence their audience. This is why education is a must. And this is true for all technologies. We have been taught not to believe everything we see on TV or all we read online. It is the same for VR, we need to educate people and use VR to make the audience think about a topic and what they experience.
D: Lastly, marketing: Already in 2015, 75% of Forbes most valuable brands had developed some kind of VR-experience. How do you see the connection between companies and VR in the future? Will we all be sitting in our virtual, Facebook living rooms surrounded by product placements that we don't actively notice because everything seems so real anyway? Or will companies actually use VR in a whole new way in order to connect their brand with customers, like creating interactive experiences?
A: This is jumping a bit quickly into conclusions and future.
First, some brands did interesting VR experiences with different purposes in mind. Some experiences are to get the audience closer to the brand, telling its story for example. Other experiences are more about trying a product and can help make a decision in the buying process. We see more and more companies using VR to communicate with their audience, bring them to their stores... And I hope to see more tech used by those companies in the coming years.
The product placement opportunities are another matter. VR is evolving and product placement could be one of the best ways to generate revenue for a certain type of experiences and to remunerate developers and people involved in the creation process. Again, this isn't bad if it is controlled and done with moderation and for the right reasons.
A: I think it is important for you to consider that VR is evolving and no one can really predict what VR will become in 30 years. The mass adoption or lack of mass adoption will also play a big role in shaping the future of the content and industry. For sure VR is a powerful tool but people and companies are the ones making the decision and are responsible for their choices. Yes, it is important to keep an eye on any human abuse but it shouldn't prevent the industry to evolve and the fantastic projects to be highlighted because they deserve it and could soon change the life of many people.
By Dario Lang @ • BA IMM 2015
Interview for Cross Media Production Prof. Michael Schwertel
Media Professor @CBSinfo in Germany, Media Producer, Filmmaker, Designer working with #DigitalMarketing, #Animation, #Transmedia, #VirtualReality and #AugmentedReality.