By: Dr. Craig Musburger, co-founder of OcuSphere
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Is it your first business?
My name is Dr. Craig Musburger, and I am co-founder of OcuSphere – a Virtual Reality production company with offices in Honolulu, Chicago, and Los Angeles. As a marine biologist with a PhD from the University of Hawaii, my focus has long been on the underwater world. For 15 years, I have worked as an underwater cinematographer garnering five Emmy Award nominations and one Emmy win for Outstanding Camerawork. My production work has grown to extend beyond underwater filming, although exploring and filming the oceans remain a core focus of our business – both in VR and in traditional video/film. The move into the realm of VR production was a natural fit, as we’ve always strived to bring viewers into the heart of an experience, and VR allows this in a much deeper manner than has ever been possible.
Write 2-3 sentences about your business. What problem is your business trying to solve?
OcuSphere focuses on transporting viewers into worlds they otherwise could not experience. Whether we lack the money, physical ability, access or even just the guts, many of life’s most exciting exploits are often unfeasible – or at least impractical – for so many of us. VR video is the most immersive technology we have ever seen, and it opens new possibilities in the realm of deeply experiential personal voyages of discovery. OcuSphere can take viewers on a virtual scuba diving adventure or an action sports journey happening halfway around the world. For the first time, anyone who wants to can go inside these experiences in a way that truly must be seen to be believed.
What are your business growth plans?
Ever since we designed and built our first VR camera rig out of Legos, superglue, and rubber bands, we have continuously been amazed by the new VR possibilities we have uncovered. The growth of this industry has been astronomical, and OcuSphere has positioned itself as a leader in VR production for travel, adventure, and action sports. Many of our clients come to us asking what VR can do for their brand. The industry is still in many senses the “Wild West”, and the most effective uses of VR are still being explored and experimented with. A major emphasis of our company’s approach is to help brands develop compelling and effective uses of this technology. As more and more people see the wow factor of this tech, many questions still remain around how to use it most effectively. A significant area of growth we see in our business is consulting on these kinds of issues with clients who know they would like to do something in the VR world but haven’t yet figured out exactly what that should be.
. What excites you the most about the possibilities of VR? In terms of transformative technologies where do you see VR on the spectrum? Fire, the wheel, the automobile, phones, airplanes etc.
The most exciting aspect of VR to us is its unmatched ability to take a viewer along on a journey. This transformative experience can literally put viewers in the middle of a coral reef or take them parasailing hundreds of feet above the earth. By isolating the viewer inside the virtual world we create, we can bring an entirely new level of depth to a video experience, one with the ability to elicit an emotional, and often even physical, reaction. It is almost humorous to watch someone reach out and try to touch things they are seeing inside their goggles when they watch one of our videos. This technology plays tricks on brain function in a very real way, and we thrive on the emotional effect VR has on viewers. This is easily the most exciting video production innovation we have seen in our lifetime.
What industry do you think will be most impacted by VR? Education, HealthCare?
For OcuSphere, we’ve focused on action sports and travel, primarily because we see the transporting effect of the VR experience as a perfect fit for these kinds of experiences. One recent production we completed was filming the Amgen Tour of California cycling race in VR. This was an exceptionally challenging VR project as the motion, high speeds, and the proximity of the action to the cameras tested the limits of the technology, but our results were phenomenal. We can take viewers inside the organized chaos of the peloton allowing them to feel as though they are cycling with the greatest bike riders in the world – careening through turns, climbing outrageously steep mountain peaks, and sprinting at maximum speed to the finish line.
Will VR unite or divide the world?
This is a really interesting question. A VR experience can bring viewers somewhere they have never been. Now, no matter where you live, you can “virtually” go scuba diving on a Hawaiian shipwreck. This could be seen as uniting the world as it allows everyone to experience similar things, and it increases the volume of our shared experiences. Yet, the personal – and potentially isolating – ritual of stepping into a virtual world might be seen as a divisive type of technology. Right now, many of the virtual experiences we deliver are viewed by one person, in isolation. Perhaps as the technology evolves, we will be able to incorporate shared experiences into this type of environment and allow multiple viewers to interact together within a single virtual world. This kind of thing is happening in the gaming realm, and we are experimenting with ways to implement this kind of interaction into our VR video experiences as well.
What will your children be able to experience with VR that is currently not possible?
For us, our focus on travel makes us hope that VR is simply a jumping off point for getting people excited about real world experiences. Yes, the virtual experience can make it feel as though you are actually in the environment you are exploring, but our goal is to make these experiences so exciting and enjoyable that people want to actually go out and do these things themselves. Want to explore a sunken shipwreck while sitting in your living room? Great! Put on VR goggles. Go for this dive. But then, we hope it was so thrilling that you now want to go book the next flight to a tropical island, with your diving mask in hand. So for our children, we hope they can test drive all sorts of experiences allowing them to make more informed decisions about what types of real world experiences they set sail on.