Combat the blues with DEEP underwater VR experience
VR Film Pro speaks to Owen Harris, developer of VR experience Deep, which uses breathing to control the action, discusses how virtual reality can help combat anxiety and depression.
VR Film Pro: How did Deep come about? Where did the initial idea spring from?
Harris: I have always had anxiety and suffer bouts of depression from time to time. For the last 15 years I have used meditation, yoga and breathing exercises to help navigate this situation. When the Oculus finally arrived I built meditation spaces to escape into at the end of the day some of which were underwater.
I became intrigued by the idea of incorporating breathing into the project and was reminded of my experiences scuba diving.
With that all the pieces were in place for the first prototype
VR Film Pro: When did initial work start on the project?
Harris: 2013, as soon as the Oculus DK1 arrived.
VR Film Pro: What technology and software did you use to produce the animation?
Harris: We use the Unity game engine and my good friend Dr. Bryan Duggan does all of the animation with maths. The current version runs on the HTC Vive VR headset and we use the custom DEEP controller to track the players breathing.
VR Film Pro: What were the main challenges you faced making the experience? How did you overcome them?
Harris: Oh wow. There were so many. The game has always been built on cutting edge tech, which always has teething problems. More interestingly, we have to find a way to gently encourage the player to slow down their breathing without using language.
VR Film Pro: How many people worked on the project and how long did it take?
Harris: The core team is myself and Niki Smit of Monobanda Play. Bryan Duggan contributes AI and Paradoxical recordings handle the sound and music.
VR Film Pro: How do you feel about the future of VR for film and broadcast? How big will it grow?
Harris: I am very very excited about the future of VR entertainment. I feel this will be a whole new tier of education, storytelling and art.
VR Film Pro: What do you see as the main obstacles facing the development of the VR film industry?
Harris: Everything is new and nobody knows how to do it right. there is no correct way or guidelines on how to do anything. It is also the best thing about working in VR.
VR Film Pro: What plans does DEEP have for the rest of the year? Are there more film concepts in the works?
Harris: We plan on improving on the current version of the game for the coming year. It will be going into therapy centres later this year to help people with anxiety, anger and depression. From there we will try and figure out how to do a home version.