Today, ProQuest became the first academic platform to offer videos with virtual reality (VR) capability. Using cutting-edge technology from multimedia companies like Within, VR is available for select videos on the ProQuest platform, as well as in ProQuest One Academic and on the newly redesigned Alexander Street video interface.
We spoke with Daniel Coplon, Director of Business Development at Within, about VR video and how it’s changing the way people learn.
PQ: How does VR video benefit academic research?
Daniel Coplon: VR gives people the ability to live stories as opposed to being told stories. VR’s first-person nature strikes a deep chord with those who experience it – and when used in an educational setting, we believe VR has the potential to help students learn and create long-lasting connections to their course material.
PQ: How are the films created?
DC: VR videos are shot with omnidirectional cameras and directional microphones. VR creators stitch many cameras’ worth of footage together and make it look seamless in post-production. This enhances the impressiveness of it.
PQ: What’s the best way to watch them?
DC: While you can watch the videos on your computer, you’ll get the most out of the experience using a VR headset, such as an Oculus or Google Cardboard, and headphones. By using a VR headset and headphones, you will increase your sense of “presence,” or immersion within the scene.
PQ: Tell us about Within’s VR content that’s now available through ProQuest.
DC: I’ll highlight two of our series from award-winning directors:
First, The Possible was directed by David Gelb, who you may know as the creator of the Netflix series Chef’s Table and the award-winning documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The Possible brings you up-close-and-personal with some of the world’s most cutting-edge, breakthrough inventions, and introduces you to the people who have made them happen. In one episode, we bring you inside Boston Dynamics’ top-secret robotics lab, while another takes you to the LIGO observatory where scientists were able to measure, for the first time ever, ripples in space-time. Because this is VR, not only can we bring you to the laboratory, but we can also recreate these incredible astronomical events using computer graphics, and then literally place you in the middle of it. And that’s exactly what we did in The Possible.
Second, Look but with Love was directed by two-time Oscar winning documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. This series tells five largely untold stories about Obaid-Chinoy’s home country of Pakistan. Each episode covers a different topic, ranging from one about an all-female SWAT team on the front lines fighting terrorism, to another about a doctor treating critically ill children in an emergency ward.
VR gives students the added benefit of experiencing these events first-hand as opposed to watching them on a flat screen or reading about them in a textbook. There’s a meaningful difference between watching a scientist talk about their invention on a TV screen, versus sitting next to that same scientist as they speak directly to you. And that’s the effect we seek to create in our VR documentaries.
PQ: What other types of content does Within produce?
DC: Within produces and distributes a highly curated library of cinematic VR experiences, including journalism, music videos, animation, horror, and more. We search the world for the best cinematic VR and distribute our catalog via the Within app, which is available on iPhone, Android, and all major VR headsets.