Google Exec Demos Next Gen VR (Or Did He?)

CANNES, FRANCE -- Delegates attending Clay Bavor’s presentation here this morning thought they were experiencing him live, on a well-lighted stage in the Palais. In reality, he was merely an “electrochemical rendition in a dark theater.” At least that’s how the Google VR chief explained the way people experience anything -- real or virtual -- leaving me wondering whether Bavor was actually physically present at today’s session of the Festival of Creativity, or whether he was just demonstrating one of Google’s next-generation VR technologies.

It’s all the same thing to our brains, he said -- pointing to his, just a bunch of photons bouncing off our retinas, or audio waves of energy vibrating on our eardrums. But when they come together in the kind of immersive way that technology is beginning to enable, our brains simply cannot distinguish.

Bavor kicked things off with a simple demonstration of relatively old VR technology showing what happens when you transport people to a high-diving board 50 meters over a swimming pool. “They reach for a railing that is not there,” he said. And most won’t do what Google asks them to do while testing users in their VR lab.

“We ask you to walk to the end and step off. And most people can’t do it,” Bavor -- or a fabulous rendition of him -- told the audience, which may or may not have also been there.

Bavor then demonstrated Google’s most current VR technology, called “Jump,” as well as one called “Daydream” that is just being released.

Both enable users to create high-quality mobile VR experiences -- and the latter, Bavor said, would do it “at scale.”

Google has already begun to deploy the technology with some of the greatest and most imaginative storytellers in the world to create content that will transform the way people experience the world.

Jump has already taken more than a million school students on virtual field trips around the world, and even to Mars. Daydream executions, presumably, will take us to places we so far can only dream of.

As good as these new technologies are, Bavor predicted that within 10 years, VR gear will become so perfected that simply wearing something that looks like a “pair of large sunglasses” will render experiences “as vivid and real as reality” in our brains.

“You will be able to have experiences that are so convincing that at times you won’t be able to tell whether you are in virtual reality or real reality,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Bavor told the auditorium full of industry creative and media executives that the implications would have a big impact on the way they create brand experiences for consumers, including three big shifts affecting “story, art and memory.”

The difference between those experiences and the ones people have had using other storytelling media for thousands of years, he said, is “you don’t read or see or watch” it.

“If a story is unfolding in VR, you are in that story,” he said, concluding: “You’re part of it, because you are there.”

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