The EMEA director of Matterport, an immersive media company specialising in 3D and VR technology, questions whether it’s time to embrace navigable 3D and VR imaging technology
media news agency publishes an in-depth report in the aftermath of a terrorist explosion at a Baghdad shopping mall. The piece is richly illustrated with interior photography of the scene: a vast hole, blasted in the floor space, creates an onerous dark chasm, while a mourner has carefully placed a copy of the Qur’an against a wall lined with lit candles in memory of the victims. While the scene is an evident essay topic for a photojournalist, the images published on AP allow the viewer to navigate the scene at will, examining details and artefacts. Technology now enables you to create a photograph that you can explore on a screen or via a VR headset. This provides a unique new way of capturing an image and telling a story. It has potential for immersive and detailed news reporting.
the glossy stills images intended for brochures and displays. The technology is frequently used to market properties by residential and commercial real estate agencies, apartment and vacation rentals, architecture, engineering, hotels, event spaces and construction.
As the technology develops, we’re also seeing new and varied uses for 3D and VR tours. The photojournalism mentioned earlier is an example. Interactive and immersive technology is enabling new ways of storytelling. In fact, the added ‘narration’ is a USP, allowing the viewer to engage with imagery in an unprecedented way.
We’re seeing video, music/audio and conventional photography now embedded into Matterport 3D tour technology. These can be activated at specific points – a video activated to play when users click on a wallmounted screen, a high resolution still from the picture on the wall, and so on. The ability to deliver premium quality 3D tours and virtual reality technology is enabling many professional photographers to differentiate themselves from the competition, add to their portfolio of photographic services and generate additional revenues.
Let’s be clear. Conventional stills photography isn’t going away any time soon. But technological advances have packed our mobiles with sophisticated, convenient cameras. And while the dawn of the selfie may not equate to fine art, picture taking has become ubiquitous. Moreover, for the serious photographer we know that the development of the camera has historically proven a revolutionary addition to artistic expression.
The visual language and sheer aesthetic thrill of the best photography has secured its legacy.
Working in the tech sector, I’m aware that innovators are often labelled ‘disruptors’. However, hi-res VR and 3D tour technology isn’t going to replace conventional photography. While Kodak film may disagree, advances in technology shouldn’t be seen as disruptive for those who make a living from taking pictures.
But why should professional photographers consider this new form of image capture? Cinema, originally an expensive end-of-pier novelty, has endured alongside the goggle-box in the lounge, and the theatre. This shows us that new tech needn’t replace their inspiration.
While not a moving image per say, I think that 3D and VR tour photography exists somewhere at the intersection between cinema and stills pictures. It’s novel, but it’s not a novelty, and the technology is finding all kinds of applications. Property, interior design and architecture photographers are among the early adopters, offering high quality navigable 3D / VR tours of buildings to their clients alongside
I think one hurdle that professional photographers may need to overcome is the fact that it’s the viewer who frames the shot with 3D/ VR tours, exploring and navigating the environment from any perspective point they choose. However, as the technology isn’t intended to replace traditional photography, why can’t both approaches be used in tandem, allowing for a carefully framed and timed shot to coexist along with a virtual, navigable rendition of the same environment?
It isn’t going to replace conventional photography
Another barrier may be perceptions of image quality and resolution. While hardly pocket-sized, this kind of image capture technology is often state-of-the-art, incorporating 2K resolution capture that also renders near-SLR-quality images for creating print or digital stills, and retaining highly detailed resolution on screen.
The use of 3D and VR tours opens up an interesting change in the dynamic, one that lends itself to new kinds of exploration and artistic challenges. It creates a scenario in which a photographer will have to surrender some control over how their images are consumed, handing it over the viewer, allowing them to step into the driving seat. This, however, opens up the artistry to objective truth, and a different kind of art. Is there not some beauty in that? The transparency of VR and virtual tours show a space as it is, with its blemishes, leaving it open to exploration in its raw form, as it was photographed.