back to article Virtual reality audiences stare straight ahead 75% of the time

YouTube's revealed the secret to making an engaging virtual reality video: put the best parts right in front of the audience so they don't have to move their heads. Google's video vault offers that advice on the basis of heat maps it's created based on analysis of where VR viewers point their heads while wearing VR goggles. …

  1. as2003

    Why though?

    Why is it so important to encourage people to look around? If I'm sat on a sofa, the last thing I want to do is have to look at something directly behind me.

    You know what they want you to see back there? Justification for this latest boondoggle.

    1. Astara

      Re: Why though?

      If you are sitting on your bum, yeah, you don't need what is behind you...unless... you are playing the latest zombie slash'em game and you are a bit-part player about to have your final moment in the game (w/ 'N' other people who showed up to play the zombie version of "Who-dunit".

      Just the other day, I'm running around in a 3-D environment using a 2-D view that shows me a 30-60 degree FoV. As I wait for a target I am constantly spinning my look button to get a quick 360, though usually a side-to-side quick 180 and hope no one is behind me.

      What you are demonstrating is that the need for surround-view is totally dependent on the task at hand. So why are you watching a VR of you sitting on a couch anyway? Seems like that would get boring pretty quickly...

  2. AndyS

    The problem with 360 VR

    So... Let's say someone makes a film, but I can only watch 1/4 of the screen at any one time.

    Sounds a bit crap, no?

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: The problem with 360 VR

      Also remember that the resolution of the human eye, V1.0, is highest in the middle and decreases off to the sides.

      Plus there's this hole just below the center, from where the optic nerve runs, which some clever image processing algorithm compensates for.

      1. handleoclast

        Re: Clever image processing algorithm

        Other algorithms in use are:

        1) One to remove shadows cast by the veins in front of the retina. Under the right conditions you can observe these in your own eye, for a second or two until the filter algorithm kicks in.

        2) One to increase the effective resolution of the eye by using saccades (microscopic eye movements) and combininging successive images to interpolate data in the gaps present in a single image.

        3) One to filter out white blood cells in those pesky veins in front of the retina. Can sometimes be seen as white "floaters" when looking at a clear blue sky, which can defeat the filter.

        If you wish to believe in a deistic creator, then you have to accept that He came up with some damned clever image processing algorithms to compensate for the shitty design of the eye.

        Big hint for those who object to the preceding paragraph: the eye of the octopus is structurally almost identical to the vertebrate eye (we are vertebrates, as are all other mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish) except it isn't fucked up by being wired backwards (like ours is). According to the Babble, God created sea creatures before land creatures, so he had the octopus eye worked out before he created reptiles, birds and mammals but gave all of them the fucked-up design anyway.

        1. David Nash

          Re: Clever image processing algorithm

          Clever, maybe, but also don't forget that the blind spot is compensated for by the brain making stuff up. Also when the brain decides what it is you have seen, it reinforces that strongly even in the face of evidence to the contrary. See optical illusions, unreliability of eye-witnesses, etc.

        2. Christopher Reeve's Horse

          Re: Clever image processing algorithm

          Whilst many of us are probably fond of a bit of creationism bashing, there's a time and a place.

          And that time and place was AOL Instant Messenger, in 1998.

          1. handleoclast

            Re: there's a time and place

            @Christopher Reeve's Horse

            I'd have said the time the creationist viewpoint was trounced was 1859. Problem is, some people refuse to admit defeat. Twice a week in the small town where I live (and I suspect in most towns across the UK), Jehovah's Witnesses hand out their creationist screeds full of fallacious arguments. Therefore the argument continues and now is still the right time.

            Is this the place for such discussions? Since strong AI discussions are definitely on topic for El Reg, it's worth drawing attention to the fact that most creationists believe that our intellects are not an emergent property of brain but are due to some magic stuff implanted by a deity at conception. According to those creationists, strong AI is either an impossibility or will give rise to an intelligence that is inherently evil.

            I said "most creationists" because the aforementioned Jehovah's Witnesses believe we do not have souls. Yet they also believe we have an afterlife. They resolve this contradiction by stating that God restores us from backups (not their words, they say God remembers us in complete detail and can therefore recreate us, but that's restoring from backup).

            Enough IT for you?

          2. Rattus Rattus

            Re: there's a time and place

            Tch, there's ALWAYS a time for creationism-bashing. Just like there is for any other wilful refusal to accept evidence, such as the failures of neoliberalism.

          3. Tikimon

            Re: Clever image processing algorithm

            That time and place is NOW. The Creationist camp is actively and energetically doing everything it can think of to destroy Science. They want our schools and students to reject hundreds of years of human learning in favor of 2000-year old myths. And so on.

            So if the Creationists are bashing away as hard as they can, is it not a wee bit logical to fight back?

            1. AndyS

              Re: Clever image processing algorithm

              > So if the Creationists are bashing away as hard as they can...

              Sorry, who in this thread brought up any of that anti-science nonsense? Oh, that's right, nobody. Instead we have yet another boring, off topic series of rants about something that nobody said, that does not relate to the topic, and that nobody here has disagreed with.

              As the other man said, time and place. This is neither. Give it a break.

    2. DropBear

      Re: The problem with 360 VR

      It seems like eg. an on-foot chase scene would be exceedingly tiresome to watch - having to keep glancing back to see where the chaser is, instead of having the camera keep doing that cut automatically for you as they do now...

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: The problem with 360 VR

        > It seems like eg. an on-foot chase scene would be exceedingly tiresome to watch - having to keep glancing back to see where the chaser is, instead of having the camera keep doing that cut automatically for you as they do now...

        Don't forget that the foot chase as featured in most 70's detective stories inevitably features a lithe, 19yo perp, more than able to give Usain Bolt a run for his money, versus a lardy detective - typically Frank Cannon[1]. Invariably the perp would set off at an enormous speed, build a huge lead, only to mysteriously lose it all simply by turning into a side alley[2] as the next edit would show the detective having nearly caught up.

        [1] Cannon regularly did this. But even Ironside had one episode where he gave chase in his wheelchair.

        [2] Said side-alley is also required to contain a pile of empty cardboard boxes to crash into and trash cans to pull over in front of the pursuers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Chase scenes

          You see the same thing with car cases, where explicably a police/FBI SUV keeps up with a Porsche in city streets swerving through traffic.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Just checked...

    Eyes still on front of head, looking forwards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just checked...

      Eyes still on front of head, looking forwards.

      Which reminds me, when are Apple and Android going to build-in that features that gives a huge electric shock to anyone trying to shoot video in portrait orientation?

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    VR is not R

    It seems you're expected to spin your head round like the girl in the Exorcist to be able to catch every detail. This is not how people in the real world act... people look ahead, especially in a video where you can't affect events.

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Why don'y VR film makers put on the 'front' view a message saying look behind to get a code for a free Starbucks/pizza/etc? That'd encourage couch potatoes to move, even if it's just their head !!

    1. DropBear

      I predict that if virtual rubbernecking does ever actually become a thing, we'll be using... an analog stick or similar device to direct the view, to avoid exactly that head movement - and no I'm not joking...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why don'y VR film makers put on the 'front' view a message saying look behind to get a code for a free Starbucks/pizza/etc? That'd encourage couch potatoes to move, even if it's just their head !!

      And get sued for a painful neck? Not going to happen..

  6. four tuna

    I'm not sure I see the point of VR. Isn't it the Directors job to make the film and show you the things that are relevant to the narrative. VR is just a good way of making sure you miss stuff because you are looking the wrong way.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But what if the narrative was about divergent perspectives? Then the director will WANT people to look in DIFFERENT directions (say two things happen in the same scene yet it's set up so you can only see ONE of them). That way, not everyone sees the same thing, creating debate later.

      1. AndyS

        > ...not everyone sees the same thing, creating debate later...

        That sounds like an interesting art project, but an awful way to tell a story.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Guess you've never read "The Lady or The Tiger" or other open-ended stories.

      2. four tuna

        Debate like, "Did you see the bit where the.....?". "No".

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          How about, "I saw and heard the guy on the left shoot first" and "I saw and heard the woman on the right shoot first" when in fact BOTH shot at the same time (one resounding boom that has no direction) and it's all a trick of the director to get you thinking in different but say WRONG directions (when say the kill shot(s) came from elsewhere).

          1. JLV

            >the guy on the left shoot first

            Nah, Han shot first

          2. Alister

            (when say the kill shot(s) came from elsewhere)

            My money's on the grassy knoll...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Isn't it the Directors job to make the film and show you the things that are relevant to the narrative."

      Spot on! VR might be good for travelogues or training videos, but not for narrative based video.

      1. Francis Boyle

        Do you really want that sewerage treatment plant in your travelogue?

  7. spiny norman

    It's behind you ...

    At least it would be good for panto.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: It's behind you ...

      Oh no it wouldn't...

  8. James 51

    I have a gear vr and I've tried to watch some 360 videos on it. The first problem is realisticly you need to be standing up in order to be able to turn around and view what is happening so you have to have the ablity and the room to stand. Given that VR is profoundly anti social you can't do it when other people or there. Motion sickness is another problem. I know if I try to play minecraft full screen after five minutes I have to stop. Another problem is that you're always going to be missing something. Your field of vision is only so wide so you can't see it all all the time unless it is straight in front of you. Plus people are still new at the 360 thing, it's going to take a while for people to learn what works and what doesn't.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Plus people are still new at the 360 thing, it's going to take a while for people to learn that it's crap and should join domestic 3D in the back of the virtual kitchen cupboard.


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    could it be

    That a lot of viewers are viewing 360 and 180 videos in a web browser with no goggles? It is possible to view 3D video without goggles on youtube...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Viewing 360 videos on a PC - it is not obvious to everyone that they can pan round the picture. Usually the initial position is the obvious forward view of the main subject.

  11. Baldrickk

    The right content will do it.

    I have only used my Cardboard viewer seriously twice - it gives me a headache and is hard to focus because the lenses are too close together, and I haven't yet bothered to build myself a new one.

    Anyhow, experience #1: 360 video from a speedboat in a canyon. You are on a boat, in a canyon. you are typically looking at where you are going, with some peeking over your shoulder.

    Experience #2: Little horror 'game' really, a short video, with scenes triggered by you looking in the right direction. You sit on a sofa in the middle of an old sitting room, with a storm outside and a flickering bulb overhead. A flash of lightning shows that the two dolls sitting on the mantlepiece in front of you are no longer there...

    Looking around drives the experience, and you get the feeling that something could happen, anywhere.

    Lots of looking in all directions from this one.

  12. quattroprorocked

    It's called story telling

    I am shooting VR, and have shot community video for years.

    Rule one - treat it as real life. People face front UNLESS they know they need to look elsewhere.

    If you want someone to turn round just in time to see the axe swinging down on their head, give them a hint, e.g. have the killer (who is behind them) let out a yell as he lifts the axe. So the viewer spins round just in time to see it come down on them....

    But in general, yes, put the action in front of people most of the time.

    And, FWIW, we're still a few years away from "proper" and widespread VR. But if you are interested in making it, now is the time to learn.

  13. TheProf Silver badge

    15 minutes an hour

    " people spent 75% of their time within the front 90 degrees of a video"

    15 minutes an hour are spent looking off-centre. The image in the article seems to have the heat spot on the activity of the people i.e. operating the vehicle.

    Of course we, not having seen the videos, don't know what's going on. I could imagine video of a roller coaster ride would be mostly front and a trip through a cave system or a forest walk would involve a lot more head turning.

    When I go somewhere new to me, a city say, I know I spend a lot of time looking about me.

  14. cirby

    Sound Design

    While there are some well-shot 360 videos out there, there are almost no 360 sound designs in those videos.

    One of the biggest cues we have for "look behind you!" is sound. Until more producers start using the available 360 sound tools, people aren't going to look around too much - they'll look where the plain old stereo effect tells them to. Two people having a conversation in a car? The viewer will look straight at them, instead of gawking at the landscape outside the window (unless they're really boring, which is another issue).

    Of course, sound is one of the biggest issues in general in live-capture VR. You can't have a nice expensive boom mike on each person in the shot if you can see in all directions at once. Directionality means that the camera is going to have to do the audio capture, as well as the video capture - or every bit of dialogue will have to be redubbed in post production.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sound Design

      Solid 3D mics exist and have done for some time like the 3Dio. They are fiendishly expensive though.

      The problem arises when people turn their heads though aa the audio doesnt "turn" with them sonthe audio doesnt fit with the video.

      1. cirby

        Re: Sound Design

        That's why the next generation of VR "movies" won't be like linear films - they'll be a file format that keeps track of where sounds should be. More of a program than a movie. Basically, they encode object location (in 3D) in the soundtrack.

        That way, when you turn your head to look at something that made a sound, the sound keep coming from the correct direction.

  15. RedCardinal

    >>Virtual reality audiences

    That'll be all 5 of them then...:P

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    stories that are more like life

    I think the problem with VR is that often there is stuff happening all around you and you have to watch everything several times even to see the obvious things, it would be far more interesting if you are prompted to turn your head/view (as you would be in real life) by, for example, a light turning on behind you etc. There can also be small details that add to the story on the periphery, but they should not be critical to the story.

  17. Alumoi Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I don't know about you

    but when I watch VR I don't want to see the cameras, the fluffer and all the rest. All I want to see is the action which is always in front of me.

    Paris FTW!

  18. JLV

    >getting people interested in movies can best be accomplished by making good movies.

    Oh, I dunno. Bearing in mind the endless recycling of sequels, lame SF and ever more numerous superhero movies, I think that's a message that would still be worth repeating.

    Mine's the coat with Road Warrior, Serenity, Superbad and Silence of the Lambs in the pocket.

  19. J1vvy

    VR video are 360° for immersion

    There are two main genre of 360° film.

    - Narrative where the action is happening mostly in front.

    - Exploratory where there is no single line of action and the viewer is intended to look around.

    With narrative the side and back are there to ensure immersion is not lost by seeing a black border when you turn your head. So you can glance around and take in the entire environment that your in, but never loose sight of the action that is happening in front of you. Much like sitting down at a table with a few friends. You can turn to watch and listen to each conversation. But you are not going to ignore them and turn around to look at the wall behind you. Unless there is some some or action that triggers that.

    With exploratory you are put into exotic locations and you are meant to look around and explore every detail of the place. Figure out if this is a place you want to visit or not. Or maybe you are just happy to view the video of being underwater with sharks swimming around you.

    I am in the category where I forget when watching letterbox videos that I can not pan around. I keep trying to scroll the view around and get disappointed that I am not able to see what I want to look at.

  20. rdhood

    If you want to turn heads, move the action around the visual field.

    People can only accurately see a very small area in the center of their vision. everything else is fuzz. So people tend to focus their attention and best eyesite on the action If they aren't moving their heads, its because the action is staying at the center of their vision and there is no reason to move. And, as everyone else has noted, you don't necessarily want to be looking all around in order to be able to experience a movie. If this becomes something that lasts, I can see movies would have VR interactive ratings indicating the range of motion of the movie.

  21. Herby

    Operative word in title...

    Is stare. Most people when doing these things are mindlessly looking straight ahead (as mentioned), but lack the ability to look elsewhere. Yes, you have good stuff in your main field of view, but the most sensitive parts of your eye for motion and light are at the edges. We evolved that way, as the things at the edges were out to get us, and having sensitive eyes there helped us get away.

    Of course, what most of us are doing now is (wait for it) staring at the screen in front of us.

  22. emullinsabq

    VR audiences...

    I never thought of VR as 360 degree video, I guess it has changed? Whatever.

    The hint is in the title. We achieved an optimal interface for movies a long time ago. AUDIENCES don't want to engage with the media in order to grasp the story.

    There is an ongoing attempt to add tech to what is already optimal. Good luck with that, as everything has bombed for good reason. It's the same with GUI on desktops-- we hit optimum a long time ago, and users are realizing that new change is mostly gimmicky, and actually interferes with their efficiency.

    If you want to make a MOVIE, quit resorting to tech where some classical know-how will serve you much better. "But, but... This is COOL." Yeah, for 5 minutes until people realize it's a crappy way to see a movie.

    1. LaeMing

      Re: VR audiences...

      Yes, I don't consider this sort of thing 'Virtual Reality' at all, but 'Immersive Video' which is a potentially fine thing in itself but definitely not 'VR', which - to me at least - implies a good deal more interactivity than sitting on a moving track and turning one's head about.

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