Interview: Giznode
Posted 10th of February, 2017

Virtual Reality is rapidly growing and marketers are realising its potential power. We spoke to Bristol-based VR innovation studio Giznode to find out more.

Giznode_01

From re-approaching how we understand big data to developing immersive gaming and video experiences, Giznode work across a spectrum of industries to create cutting-edge VR content. And like any new industry, it's forever changing and rapidly growing. 

We caught Tim Edwards (Producer and Innovation Director at Giznode) to find out how we can utilise this exciting new technology.


Website: giznode.co.uk

Twitter: @Giznode_UK

Facebook: /giznodeuk

Could you quickly introduce what Giznode is all about?

We set up Giznode about five months ago. I used to work for a larger VR studio and after being there for about 2 years, we wanted to break off and do our own thing.

If you don't mind us prying, what sort of projects are you working on at the minute?

So at the moment we're working on a few different things. The main project is with astronomer Mark Thompson which will come out later this year. This is an experience with the Google Daydream headset that allows you to star-gaze and take a tour of the universe. We're also making a tutorial and demo game for the guys at VRGO who are developing a new type of controller right here in Bristol.

VR has been getting a lot of attention over the last few years. Have you seen the industry change in anyway and do you think it will continue to go from strength to strength?

At the moment, VR isn’t where we want it to be and it’s by no means in it’s final form. You can’t wear a headset for more than an hour, for example, before your vision starts to play up and you feel dizzy. So there’s still lots of little problems. But the tech is growing so quick! The next thing to come out is eye-tracking which means the display will naturally render depending on what you’re looking at, which should enable people to wear the headset for longer. Even the game design now is constantly evolving which has been the biggest challenge, such as getting people to move around environments. Where it will be in three to four year, I couldn’t even say!

Do you think there’s any advancements that might be taking it too far?

Too far is an interesting question. A lot of fears revolving around VR as an addiction and whether people will just sit there all day. My response to that is you know, that’s the sort of thing people say about TV. Is it more real? Yeah, for now it is. But when cinema first came out, there’s the shot of the train speeding towards the audience and everyone jumps out the way thinking it’s going to hit them. And that’s the reaction you get with VR; even after three plus years I get that reaction to some things.

There’s a lot of discussion about VR compliance laws, like how you should rate a game and whether it should be a higher age on VR. When Resident Evil came out they set it at a higher age on VR because things are more intense and feel more real. As a developer, however, there are things we take into account to ensure the player’s wellbeing is assured. You want true immersion and for people to forget where they are, not to psych themselves up and tell themselves that it’s just VR. Whether or not full immersion is too far I don’t know - we’ll have to see what happens when we get there.

As you pointed out earlier with Data Visualisation, VR isn't just about entertainment and can be used educationally. Do you think VR is powerful enough to change the way we learn and understand the world around us?

Definitely. When you’re reading off a screen, you're taking in less than when you're actually experiencing something. So if you’re playing something like football, your brain is taking in a lot more information: distance, speed, etc, without you being aware of it. When we talk about data visualisation in VR, we’re trying to tap into that as we know our brains have adapted to learn in 3D environments.

We’re playing more with perception and trying to present data in a more natural way.

Do you think everyone's reaction to VR has been promising and is there anything that's holding it back?

In the UK, there's still an incredible number of people who haven't tried VR yet. One of the things we’ve found great is incorporating VR into conferences so if you’re doing a roadshow VR it is great because it grabs people's attention - since it's still a new and exciting experience, people want to give it a go. However you've got to really think about the content you're displaying. We learnt quite quickly that, although we were making some really cool content for conferences, no one was taking any of the information in as they were too distracted by everything that was going on. People took of the headset feeling pretty buzzed and enjoyed the experience but they didn’t understand anything we tried to show them. You need to get the formula just right to ensure you're actually getting a message across.

Google Cardboard seems to be a great way to bring a simple and affordable side of VR into everyone’s homes and this seems to be opening up plenty of opportunity for marketers to seek for VR content such as 360 videos. How easy is it to make one of these videos?

Creating 360 videos can be a straight forward process. If you’re filming them from one position and just have people walking around, that’s fairly easy. I was working on a project for Mercedes-Benz a few years ago and we were trying to get the perspective of a driver and if you think, when you’re filming in 360, this is quite difficult. We weren’t sure whether we should remote steer the car or have someone behind the camera driving and edit them out in post. They’re the more complex shoots.

Are 360 videos on Facebook getting more attention than the normal video format?

Well my feed is full up of 360 videos but that’s because I’m part of quite a few 360 groups! Nicola Mendelsohn who’s the VP of Facebook Europe was asked whether she could predict where Facebook would be in 5 years and she essentially said that Facebook would be pretty much all video. With the likes of Facebook live, you can definitely see that videos are going up whilst text posts are decreasing. And of course, Facebook bought Occulus so they're clearly have a keen interest in VR.

For me, Facebook is essentially in the memory business so where they are now is all about preserving history, and that’s the opportunity VR leaves us at now. We’re constantly updating the way we preserve memories, from photos to VCR videos and now VR experiences. What better way to remember that time you went to a beach than putting on a headset and re-experiencing it!

Any big plans for Giznode in the future? (any projects or partnerships you’re excited about? VRGO says you were doing some stuff with them but didn’t know whether this could be leaked!)

There’s a big social MMO project that we’re working on but we can’t really say much about it at the minute. All we can say is watch this space!

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