Alan Yates, who somewhat euphemistically identifies himself as “Chief Pharologist” at Valve Corporation, is one of the minds behind Valve’s laser based motion tracking technology, Lighthouse, used in SteamVR’s flagship HTC Vive VR headset and controllers. It seems the hardware engineer has no love for the wealth of 360 videos and photos flooding into the VR space right now, and he wasn’t afraid to share his honest opinion on the subject.
There’s no doubt that 360 degree photography and video can be somewhat of a divisive subject amongst VR enthusiasts. Leaving aside the fact that referring to 360 Video or Photos without further qualification can mean very little right now. As the methods of capture and post processing for immersive photography and film vary so wildly in their techniques and resulting quality, one company’s ‘incredible experience’ is another’s ‘uncomfortable mess’.
It seems Valve’s Chief Pharologist (Lighthouse – geddit?) at Valve Corporation has some strong opinions on the formats, as he took to twitter recently exclaiming:
Spherical photos and video are not VR! They are one form of content you can experience in a HMD, but they basically suck.
— Alan Yates (@vk2zay) September 15, 2015
Which ignited quite the debate both within that particular Twitter thread and elsewhere in the community as to precisely what constituted a VR experience and the worth of the varying forms of 360 photography and film making.
Yates later clarified that more advanced evolutions of the medium do interest him and may well be compelling. Light-field based systems for example, which grant the viewer some degree of parallax (the ability to move within a scene, glimpsing behind foreground objects and characters) are up and coming with numerous startups claiming success with the technology, but right now statically captured 360 content is relatively easy to create and distribute, especially in non stereoscopic form.
Arguably, it’s Gear VR limited processing power and portability which has in some way lead to the massive growth is the popularity of the form. With some excellent examples of the format issuing forth from companies like Vrse.works and IM360.
We’re not going to engage in either side of the debate for now, but Yates has prompted an important discussion with proponents of static 360 claiming it’s an accessible first step into virtual reality and opponents claiming it creates uncomfortable experiences that don’t come close to demonstrating VR’s potential.
What side of the argument do you support? Let us know in the comments below.