There's a difference between seeing something and experiencing something, says Dave Pritchard, co-founder of VR company SilVR Thread. This is one of the core philosophies behind the year-and-a-half-old company that specializes in first person, point of view virtual reality experiences for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR.
The ability to put a person in the shoes of another has been one of the heralded features of VR—some even call virtual reality the empathy machine.
SilVR Thread wants to bring first person POV experiences to marketing, training, and other circumstances involving situational awareness.
"Our model is creating an end-to-end solution for first person point of view, capturing the world as humans see it and being able to replay those experiences," Pritchard said.
The crux of SilVR Thread is its camera rig, which Pritchard said they keep squirreled away. They went through about 11 prototypes of the camera before settling on something that worked. All the video is live action, true stereo 3D. They're working on a new camera that will shorten the time required in post to put the video together.
In building the camera, they made the decision to show the viewer a body should he or she chose to look down.
"If you look down and see a tripod, you start losing opportunities for true immersion," Pritchard said.
So, for example, when demoing an EMS training experience, the viewer can watch gloved hands work to clear the airway of a medical dummy. And further, Pritchard talked about the difference POV VR could make in training folks like emergency responders not just in classrooms, but in high stress situations.
Co-founder and CEO Tai Crosby referenced police officer training. It can take years to build up the wisdom to navigate dangerous situations, but in the meantime, a rookie cadet has to stay alive. They hope something like a first person POV VR experience could help that experience base. And they can track where the trainee was looking in order for trainers to advise.
Crosby also said VR could be used to keep skills fresh. For example, an airline like American Airlines will fly staff out to a facility once a year for an intensive two-week course—they do role playing, they have reading materials, but when it's over, that spike in knowledge flattens somewhat. Going through VR training beforehand could make the actual simulations more effective, and perhaps they could review situations in VR at various points in the year.
Beyond targeting marketing and training, SilVR recently worked on an anti-bullying piece aimed at middle schoolers. The experience places the viewer as a bystander to build awareness.
SilVR Thread is currently self-funded and gearing up for a Series A round of financing.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.