Earlier this week, Sony Interactive Entertainment America launched a virtual reality (VR) music video for the PlayStation VR, starring American violinist and conductor, Joshua David Bell. While the music video in question might seem like a regular 360-degree video, this is actually a very different experience as it doesn’t restrict the user to a fixed location in the VR environment.
Although 360-degree music videos for VR already exist, generally speaking, all 360-degree content shares a common issue in that users are limited to a fixed location from where they can observe their surroundings in a 360-degree sphere. However, what Sony calls the 'Joshua Bell VR Experience' is something quite different from regular 360-degree VR content, in that it allows Sony PlayStation VR users to move about in the environment freely, without being restricted to a single point in space. Technical Director of Immersive Tech Group, Ian Bickerstaff, calls this “enhanced 360-degree video with positional tracking”, and apparently the developers had to work really hard to make this all happen in a way that’s “never really been done before” without having to rely on cumbersome camera equipment. The developers had to create 360-degree recordings of the surrounding environment, take each piece of footage, deconstruct, and then reconstruct it using computer graphics. According to Ian Bickerstaff, as long as the method is applied properly, users won’t be able to tell “any of the complexity going on underneath”. Instead, they will be fully immersed in a “faithfully rendered” virtual reality alternative of Air Studio’s Lyndhurst Hall, where violinist Joshua Bell and classical pianist Sam Haywood will perform Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.1.
The Joshua Bell VR Experience comes in the form of a VR app weighing 832 MB and is currently available to download for free via the PlayStation Store (source link). It should also be noted that the app requires both the PlayStation VR and the PlayStation Camera. You can check out the official “Making Of” video below for a sneak preview of what you can expect from the application, as well as for a closer look at the methods used for developing this unique 360-degree positional tracking VR experience.