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Welcome to RenderThat’s weekly roundup of the tech stories you need to know.  This week, news spread that virtual reality is continuing to branch farther outside of the gaming world with companies creating VR experiences in the arts, entertainment, and journalism. A CNET writer explored how far VR has come since 1993, and another explained how new visual technologies benefited the film “The Martian.” Want to know more about what happened in this week’s tech news? Read on to find out.  

1993 to 2016: VR THEN VERSUS VR NOW

Writer Scott Stein at CNET compared a 1993 story on VR to upcoming virtual reality hardware and software releases in 2016 to highlight how far virtual reality has come over the last 23 years. According to Stein, a lot has changed, and a lot has not.  Even though headsets are poised to enter the consumer market, most people still have to wait their turn to try out virtual reality tech, and only a handful of the general public has already done so. Like virtual reality hardware in 1993, VR headsets are still expensive and VR hardware is still sold as headgear rather than a full bodysuit. Back then, there were high expectations for VR and those expectations are still present today. However, there’s a general acceptance that VR tech is still growing and is still in a young phase despite being 23 years along.

“We’re far, far further along than we were back then, but the horizon still stretches out. Sometimes, no matter how far you’ve come, there’s always a brighter future ahead.”

SAMSUNG PUSHING VR INTO THE REAL WORLD

If gaming with a VR headset isn’t enough for you, Samsung is making sure VR penetrates everyday life as well. The theme park, Six Flags, has teamed up with Samsung to make rollercoaster-loving thrill-seekers dreams come true by developing VR-based coasters centered around Superman storylines. Jumping over to the music world, Samsung teamed up with British electronic act Years & Years to present their fans with the first-ever VR concert. And this is the only beginning of using VR to connect the average person to sports and entertainment events, and even travel.

“Immersive VR gaming may be what latches early adopters onto virtual reality, but it’s the kind of stuff Samsung and others are already doing that will popularize VR.”

VR JOURNALISM IS COMING

If the live streams and interactive slideshows that sometimes accompany news stories aren’t enough for you, virtual reality is set to change how we experience the news. AP is developing a new virtual reality channel in conjunction with Advanced Micro Devices. VR offers a way to bring the news to life for viewers. Like social media, VR will still be a medium where citizen journalists armed with the right equipment and software tools such as GoPro cameras and 360 mounts can create VR news content that contributes to journalistic storytelling.

“Our reporters go to places where few venture or get inside,” Raney Aronson-Rath, deputy executive producer at Frontline told the Columbia Journalism Review. “I’ve long held a curiosity about how we might take our viewers with us in a more visceral way, so that they can feel what it’s like to actually be there.”

MAKING ART IN VR

It might be time for artists to pack up their oil paints and canvases, if painting tools like HTC Vive’s Tilt Brush and VR art programs take off in the art world. VR is presenting a new way of creating visual art that takes hand-drawn illustrations and paintings to a point where they become 3D painted sculptures. With the Tilt Brush, you can use various materials for creating your artwork such as paint, duct tape, or pencil, just as you can in the real world.  And many of Tilt Brush’s features include animation, such as stars that sparkle.

“The limits of treating Tilt Brush as a 3D modeling system is that most of your audience will currently see the results in two dimensions. […] This is still the way I’m most interested in seeing people use VR art programs: as a canvas to draw intricate little environments that people could actually walk through and explore like the panels of a graphic novel.”

BUILDING “THE MARTIAN” WORLD WITH VFX, CG, AND GO PROS

Depicting outer space, in general, and the planet Mars, in particular, is something that’s been done by many films including “Prometheus” and “Gravity.” But the people behind 2015’s Oscar-nominated film, “The Martian,” used an innovative mixture of techniques during both on-set filming and in post-production to deliver a realistic Mars-like environment. These methods included shooting in front of greenscreens, using CG and over a dozen GoPro cameras to film close-in action, and digitally replacing Matt Damon’s character’s visor with VFX to avoid unwanted to reflections of the crew.

“[Other techniques] included relying on tablet AR tools and techvis and simulcam solutions for virtual production during the shoot, an approach [director Ridley] Scott had not utilized before.”