YouVisit Studios Senior Director PJ Morreale recounts his trip to Vienna to attend IVRPA, where he spoke on a panel titled ‘Follow the Money: Monetizing Virtual Reality Today and in the Future.’
“WE ARE VR” is the proud mantra shared amongst the members of the IVRPA, otherwise known as the International VR Photography Association. Respected worldwide as a global association of professionals who produce 360-degree interactive, immersive images, it’s one of the oldest organizations of its kind. It was established in the late ’90s as a response to the growing interest in this new and exciting medium. Since then the organization has adapted to address the newest trends in technology and production through workshops, discussion boards and a yearly traveling conference, remaining true to the mission of supporting and promoting the success of professional VR photographers and videographers around the world … because after all, WE ARE VR!
I am an active IVRPA member. I’ve been shooting panoramic images for the better part of the last 12 years. I was invited by the Italian imaging company Manfrotto to attend the 2017 conference as a panelist in a session they were sponsoring to discuss successful ways of monetizing VR.
I’ve never attended this event before, so I was quite excited about the opportunity to join the innovators and trailblazers of the industry that I had spent so much time immersing myself in over the past decade. In addition to the networking and knowledge sharing opportunities I was looking forward to, as a photographer I was also quite excited to explore and capture some of the classic and iconic architecture of the city of Vienna. So off to Austria we go ….
When I arrived in Vienna and headed to the conference, the first thing I wanted to do was grab my camera and start snapping photos. There was interesting architecture everywhere, and that was particularly true for this year’s host location, the gorgeous MuTh Theater connected to the city Augarten (a baroque-inspired garden). Once inside, I jumped right into the first session, which was all about a software suite now owned by GoPro called Kolor, which we use every day at YouVisit. We learned about new features, new concepts for the future and even some buzz about the new GoPro 360 camera the Fusion. I now had no doubts that this would be a productive few days.
Once I had scrawled a few pages of notes from the other sessions throughout the day, which included how to shoot long exposure 360s, volumetric and photogrammetry techniques, software releases, hardware dissection and more, it was about time for our panel to finish off day one.
We kicked things off with introductions from our moderator Adam Mirabella, Manfrotto’s Executive Vice President Manfrotto and Vitec Group PLC. Then my co-panelists, IVRPA board member and international VR filmmaker Michael Kolchesky, Blend Media co-founder Chris Helm and I gave insight on the key challenges, or “friction points” as Chris calls them, of creating scalable and sustainable VR products.
We gave projections for the future. We all agree: it’s moving so fast it’s hard to predict, but augmented and mixed reality are incredibly promising in their real-world applications.
The session called “Follow the Money: Monetizing Virtual Reality Today and in the Future – Vienna 2017” was one of the few that focused more on the business and monetization side of the VR industry. It was particularly relevant this year, as commercially viable VR projects have seen a massive uptick with continued growth.
Not surprisingly, we all felt the biggest challenges we face still root back to educating agencies, brands, artists, etc. of the core benefits of the medium. There’s just not enough awareness out there. Furthermore, there is a lingering knowledge gap with respect to the actual effectiveness and post-experience impact these immersive projects are having on their intended audiences. Not many companies besides YouVisit and a few others are really pushing the boundaries on understanding just how impactful VR is and why. By expanding into deep analytics studies and behavior tracking, we will continue to unlock crucial metrics that will establish the true value of VR.
Our conversation shifted, and we gave projections for the future. We all agree: it’s moving so fast it’s hard to predict, but augmented and mixed reality are incredibly promising in their real-world applications. We have a wildly exciting future ahead of us!
We exhausted our prepared topics and took a few questions from the audience. After hearing many questions from attendees throughout the day, one thing is abundantly clear: these folks are deeply passionate in this space. They believe in it, and have put so much of themselves into making the industry move in the right direction over the years. It was an honor and pleasure to have spent the weekend learning from and sharing with some of the brightest and best-known engineers and creatives in the VR space. I look forward to maintaining those relationships and keeping YouVisit at the forefront of immersive technologies.
During the rest of my time in Vienna, I attended 8 or 9 more sessions and squeezed in a little time for photo exploration and contemplation on the inspiring trip. I’ve compiled a small album of what I captured during a five-mile “run-and-gun” photo session through the Leopoldstadt district between IVRPA talks on Sunday afternoon. And while I didn’t get the best weather, I sure did get some moody skies.
PJ Morreale is senior director at YouVisit Studios.
images by PJ Morreale