360 “Surround” video

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      Can money be made?

      The French have a saying for it: “plus ça change plus c’est la même chose” — the more things change the more things stay the same.

      Here we are, confronted with “360” video, so-called Virtual Reality/Surround/360 degree video, the innovation de jour, hot on the heels of 4K and 8K. But not so “de jour” really.

      In the late 1980s in the University of Washington Human Interface Technology (H.I.T.) Lab I found myself in a 30 foot deep Virtual Reality shark tank, staving off attacks with a VR stun gun. And afterwards, treated to a Mars “landing” in a NASA funded VR Mars lander.

      For several years an on-line interactive video site was maintained by a British group called Theatron, a site which implemented “tours” of historical theatres. This project was terminated owing to lack of funding. Similarly the World Heritage Organization supported 360 degree interactive video tours of sites throughout the world. Several similar uses of VR were attempted. So far as I’ve been able to determine, this project also has ended.

      At an IBM conference in 1991 I saw a demonstration of VR being used to design and market kitchen cabinets and counters, and toilet fixtures in Japan. Great idea, very little continuing interest.

      Perhaps the most useful application has been made by Google Maps.

      My point is that VR and video in VR – 360 surround – has been around for a very long time, in a variety of applications, all of which, perhaps with the exception of Google Maps, can be thought of as experimental and coming to no useful commercially viable end. At the moment I can’t see any likelihood of 360 video becoming much more than a passing fad. Hopefully time will prove me wrong.

      Is anyone making money with it yet?

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