Lucid VR has a $400 consumer 180-degree 4K camera launching this December, but the company is already working with brands such as Sephora and schools like UC Berkeley through its new Lucid Studios. The new commercial virtual reality production service arm of Lucid VR was announced today at Computex in Taipei. The studio is filming 180-degree and 360-degree video content with the pocket-sized LucidCam, which made its debut recently at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) trade show in Las Vegas.
Lucid VR recently raised $2.1 million to ramp up its manufacturing and shipment operations, advance its computer vision technology, and build distribution partnerships. The company also signed a partnership agreement with Wistron Corporation, a top five global ODM (original design manufacturer) based in Taiwan.
Han Jin, CEO of Lucid VR, explains how his new company is helping brands navigate the new virtual reality marketplace in this exclusive interview.
How does this camera differ from the wave of affordably priced 360-degree cameras we’ve seen announced since CES this year (once you add the two cameras together for 360)?
All the 360-degree pocket-sized VR cameras are all 2D and 30 frames per second, which means in VR you will be looking only at a flat screen. Also 30 frames per second sets you far from what your mobile phone runs (60 frames per second) with Google Cardboard and VR headsets run (up to 120 frames per second). The frame difference can cause delays in frame updates on the screen and make videos look choppy.
The main challenge for anyone shooting in 360-degrees today is post-production editing and stitching. What’s that process like for this camera?
360 3D’s challenge is post production, whereas LucidCam processes in real-time. No post, but instantly capture, process and view.
Why did you choose to focus on 180-degrees as a base instead of 360-degrees?
Stereoscopic 3D has the best depth in 180-degrees because lenses are perfectly aligned like the human eyes. And due to not having stitching seams, the viewing experience is smoother.
Why did you decide to launch Lucid Studios?
Lucid Studios gives us a great way to work with partners and beta testers early on, since hardware takes lots of time to manufacture. By staying continuously engaged with the content creation side, we can identify challenges early, improve our technology faster, and educate the market for LucidCam.
What does this company open up for brands interested in virtual reality?
Lucid Studios opens up opportunities for partners and brands to experiment fast in VR content creation. Easy content creation and faster turnaround times lead to more content, more iterations, more learning, and ultimately allows them to identify what resonates with their audience and generate more value for them.
How are you working with Sephora and other brands through Lucid Studios?
Some of this work is confidential so we can’t go into details about all of our clients, but we worked with Sephora for their store launch in San Franciso and we’re working with other retailers on product placements, store outlays, and training scenarios.
Since some of these VR projects are directed for internal and some for external audiences, we provide the experiences either through our app—but locked from public view—or through the brands’ websites, or on YouTube with our web plug-in.
We even brainstormed about use cases for users to capture their room and place IKEA furniture into it to see the fit and size before going to buy the actual furniture.
How do you see things evolving in this space?
We’ve thought about game development applications. Instead of developing a 3D environment using code, you could capture real 3D environment and use it for rapid game development within minutes.
There are way more opportunities and valuable applications than what we can imagine, but the depth and peripheral spatial caption does not only provide distances, object sizes, and position, but also a representation of how we humans see the world—moving away from the flat images and videos of the past.
How big a focus will retailers and brands be for Lucid Studios?
Brands and retailers occupy a higher percentage of our focus as of now, but we also work with universities, individual producers, and many other content creators. As long as we are aligned and create real tangible value together through VR, we are open to working together.
How big a market do you see VR becoming for brands?
Right now brands have been one of the early adopters of VR for marketing and promotional content. However, there is so much more value to capture through VR content. If content production takes so much time and resources, then it will take forever until the market becomes big. With Lucid Studios, we believe in accelerating that learning and taking the market to the next level.
How are you working with UC Berkeley?
The UC Berkeley Department of Recreational Sports is using Lucid Studios to create five or six sports team videos using the VR from a first-person perspective. Lucid Studios is also creating a UC Berkeley campus tour in immersive VR for the department. These videos will all be introduced at Caltopia event at Cal in August.
What impact do you see LucidCam having on the Hollywood and television industries?
It can become a low-end disruption for expensive Hollywood productions, making it way more agile to film and produce content for VR. Last year, we won the Lumiere’s Award from the Advanced Imaging Society at Paramount Studios for new technologies to disrupt the entertainment industry. We were right next to Nokia and JauntVR.
We’ve seen Hollywood studios work with Nokia Ozo and now IMAX in the VR space early on. What opportunities does Lucid open up for filmmakers?
“Found footage” is a great way for filmmakers to tell a story from a first-person perspective and build up tension in a movie, since they can frame and keep things out of the viewers eyesight.
With 180-degree 3D, you can enable a totally different way of VR content storytelling, similar to what previous filmmakers have done in movies such as Hardcore Henry and Project Almanac.
Hollywood has stuck with short format content to date. What length of content is Lucid Studios aiming for and is there feature-length storytelling on the docket?
Lucid Studios supports any length of content, but as we help the industry experiment and create previews, a large amount of our content is short form.