Facebook and Sony are betting that games will be the first wave of virtual reality content, but that the uses for the technology will eventually broaden. Even before the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus has had a chance with consumers, though, techies are eager to start that broadening process now.
Jaunt, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup, raised $6.8 million to figure out how to produce movies that will work in virtual reality as well as games. The company, which launches out of stealth today, makes the algorithms necessary to stitch together recorded video and audio to give viewers a stronger sense of “being there.”
Right now, though, what “there” will be is still TBD. In an interview with Re/code, Jaunt execs said the company needs to build partnerships to get content that will take advantage of its technology.
“We have to invent a whole new language of storytelling for this medium,” CTO Arthur van Hoff said. “That’s actually one of the more interesting parts of this project, the technology to drive this. But the content part is something that we need to invent as well.”
As with another startup doing VR movies, Condition One, there are a lot of open questions about what will and won’t make viewers uncomfortable or even nauseated when they watch VR movies. A demo of some Jaunt-produced test video, running through an Oculus Rift headset, kept the camera completely steady while inviting the viewer to look around freely at subjects like a rapidly moving skateboarder, a school-age chorus standing in a circle and a group of practicing martial artists.
Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen said the company expects that shorter but “much more intense” experiences will work best in VR. And because it’s impossible to see everything in one go, van Hoff added that there needs to be some replay value.
“We feel that there’s an opportunity to watch the content multiple times,” van Hoff said. “That’s interesting for a lot of content creators — they want you to go and re-experience it, maybe have a slightly different or better experience the next time around. In the real world, if you’re in the middle of a play or something, [you can't do that].”
Jaunt has only worked with the Oculus Rift to date — starting with a developer kit bought secondhand through Craigslist last May — but the company expressed interest in also working with Sony’s recently announced Project Morpheus.