In a Q&A interview with Digital Signage Today, Jeffrey Travis, founder of Positron, shared his thoughts on the future of VR and storytelling, how interactive entertainment will create opportunities in the metaverse, and why he thinks multi-sensory platforms could shape social interactions.
Jeffrey Travis had devoted more than a decade of his life in combining two of his passions — storytelling and technology.
By 2014, however, Travis was ready to take visual storytelling to a new level.
The longtime filmmaker founded Positron, a cinematic virtual reality technology and media company based in Glendale, California, not far from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. When he started Positron, Travis’ goal was to build an immersive tech company that would help shape art, storytelling and business for years to come.
In 2017, Positron introduced Voyager, a VR chair that takes users on immersive, multi-sensory experiences. Since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Voyager has been used by Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Disney, Oculus and Intel. The demand for extended reality and VR technology continues to grow, turning into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Whether through art, live concerts, sporting events and gaming, there’s room to explore and grow in immersive experiences.
In a Q&A interview with Digital Signage Today, Travis shared his thoughts on the future of VR and storytelling, how interactive entertainment will create opportunities in the metaverse, and why he thinks multi-sensory platforms could shape social interactions.
Q: What is your background in VR?
A: I started working with VR in early 2014 out of an interest in storytelling and new medium. My background is as a filmmaker, writer and director. I’ve spent about 12 years making independent films and I have a technology background as an engineer.
Around 2014, the Oculus company, before they were obtained by Facebook, developed the prototype for a VR headset. They actually came to our company with one of the game developers to ask to create some demo content for this Oculus VR headset. They took the demo to investors and the rest is history.
Shortly after that, I was directing a VR film that was made for Tesla and it had a tie in to the “Back to the Future” 30-year anniversary in 2015. We put you inside the DeLorean for the movie. You had the experience of being Marty McFly and traveling from 1985 to 2015. That VR experience gave me the idea for the Voyager chair, just noticing what was needed to make that more complete.
Q: The VR market is expected to keep growing. Why do you think that is?
A:There’s definitely an acceleration of these technologies that are providing more immersive content. We’ve consumed media for the last 100-plus years on the silver screen at the local theater or on your i-Phone or at home. But VR allows people to experience environments and storytelling in spatial, 3D space, which is more of what we see in the real world.
In past years, I would say the technology was still a little early, but now that we’re starting to cross the thresholds in terms of the quality of these experiences, it’s kind of like walking into a dream. I think there’s a desire and human need to travel to these types of places that you may not be able to go in real life, whether it’s the top of Mount Everest or the surface of Mars. These technologies can make you feel like you’re really there beyond watching a film about it.
|Positron’s Voyager VR Theater debuted in 2017 at the Sundance Film Festival.Provided|
Q: Out of all the industries from entertainment, retail, sports gaming — which is really embracing VR and why do you thing it is?
A: Two industries that are embracing VR very quickly are corporate training and military. I think because it allows, from a training perspective, experiences that are very costly or dangerous to do. This could be anything from learning to operate heavy machinery equipment to running through a process or learning how to use certain military weapons or operations. The value of being able to create all of that in a software environment and then simulate it fairly realistically for people is one of the reasons it’s being adopted so quickly, it comes down to the effectiveness and cost savings.
And, not far behind, is the entertainment industry. There’s increasing adoption for immersive entertainment and VR is part of that. You may have heard of the Van Gogh immersive exhibit that’s been shown in cities around the world. It grossed like $250 million in revenue after opening and is one example of the kind of experiences people are seeking today. It’s more novel and different. I’m excited because I expect to see more of those immersive experiences and immersive media continue to take over retail spaces and offer people something different they may have never done before.
Q:What makes the Voyager VR chair unique?
A:The Voyager chair is the core component of our product which is an emotion chair designed for premium VR experiences. It has full 360 (degree) motion and a scent dispenser for smells. We’ve installed groups of these chairs in locations like museums, movie theaters, retail spaces and tourist destinations.
As a group, these Voyagers are called XR cinemas and the idea is that people can come in, sit down all together and do something that’s kind of a combination of a Disney-type ride and being immersed in an I-Max quality film that takes you to the top of Machu Picchu or outer space or swimming with sharks.
We’ve had the chair on the market for almost five years. The first two or three years we were doing more prototyping, testing it at events, pop-ups and film festivals. Universal Studios, Disney and Warner Bros. all bought or leased chairs from us to test out content for feature films. We have 12 locations that are open to the public and have these Voyager chairs showing content and people can buy tickets. We anticipate, over the next five years, there will be thousands of these chairs in locations around the world.
Q: Looking into the future of VR storytelling, how does it relate to the metaverse? How do you see all of that flowing together?
A: These stories are going to be connected to the metaverse and live there. If you think about it, we have physical locations today. You can go to the Houston Museum of Natural Science or the Melbourne Skydeck in Australia. That’s where you’ll find our VR theaters. But as the metaverse evolves, that’s where you’ll step into the metaverse as avatars and go to these virtual VR theaters that are going to have some of this content.
The analogy would be the way film went from not only being shown in traditional movie theaters, but streaming through your home internet. The same content will apply here where this VR storytelling will be streamed inside the metaverse and will be available to interact with as a communal experience in real time. I’m really excited about seeing that coming. It’s probably still two or three years away, but certainly the foundation is being laid for it now.
Hopefully we’ll be more about the storytelling and the content rather than the technology. Part of what I look forward to and hope for is working with creators that are telling visionary stories and bringing them to audiences they are.