Virtual Reality: Beauty Truly Is in the Eye of the Beholder
Right? Well — maybe. It depends.
Intouch Solutions recently collaborated with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to create In My Eyes, a VR/AR app that lets users experience what it may be like to have a retinal disease. It was designed to raise awareness and empathy for healthcare providers, caregivers, and patients as well as to facilitate better conversations about retinal diseases.
But this doesn't mean it was easy, or that VR is always the right answer. Creating a VR app is in many ways similar to a traditional broadcast spot: You write a script, cast talent, secure locations, and film with cameras and a crew. But that's where the similarities end — and knowing what to expect can help you avoid costly mistakes. Here, we share what made our project successful.
About the App
In My Eyes features a VR “Story Mode” with three videos that re-enact everyday situations. They give the user a 360-degree first-person perspective so the users feel as though they are truly experiencing each situation. Graphics, text, and visual effects occasionally appear to help the user better understand retinal diseases.
The app also has an AR “Live Mode” that uses the phone's camera so users can experience their own environment, filtered to simulate the symptoms of retinal disease.
In My Eyes is available in the App Store and Google Play. It's been showcased at several ophthalmology medical conferences to great acclaim. And Regeneron's sales force is reporting positive responses from the field.
Here are a few vital lessons that made this VR project successful:
You build the camera, you don't buy it. In traditional film and video, equipment is usually standard. For this VR production, our partner had to literally build the camera rig — using four cameras — from scratch.
It's easier to script action around the camera rather than have the camera move. When it came time to develop the plot, it was vital that each scenario center on a stationary user, while the action took place around him or her. Not only did this make the complex four-camera editing process vastly simpler than it otherwise would have been, but it also helped avoid motion sickness, which can bedevil VR users overly exposed to motion.
Casting and location scouting is critical. Most acting requires that talent deliver dialogue to one another. But in VR, actors must often act convincingly against an unresponsive camera rig. It's a difficult but critical ability to find in your talent. Additionally, because the rig captures everything in the 360-degree environment, there's no “offstage” — the location must make it possible to hide equipment, cords, lighting, crew, monitors, etc.
Have an idea that needs technology, not the other way around.
While listed last, this is the most important point — and should be considered first for VR, and for every project. You must have a unique and compelling story to tell, and then leverage the right technology to make it amazing.
A common mistake is to focus on a method of telling a story rather than on an important idea that needs to be conveyed. VR can be a powerful tool, and if your goals match its capabilities, it can be hugely successful — as it proved to be for Regeneron.
For any disease state, and any communication goal, the best work comes to fruition when the story, not the technology, comes first.