You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

African Content Creators Look for Ways to Bring Region Into Global VR Conversation

With the first wave of virtual-reality headsets hitting the consumer market, and the upcoming MipTV market programming several panels and showcases around VR, content creators are still grappling with what the new technology will mean for the future of storytelling.

In South Africa, a group of techies, sci-fi writers, gamers, hackers, artists and Afro-futurists from throughout the continent recently gathered in search of a way to insert Africa into the global VR conversation.

Their first meeting, which took place in Johannesburg in late October, was the launch pad for what organizers say will be an ambitious pan-African initiative to develop regional stories for virtual reality.

South African film producer Steven Markovitz, who selected participants from five countries to help determine the way forward, notes that with VR still “in its infancy … there’s this opportunity to get involved at an early phase and build real production capacity across the continent.”

It is an attempt, he says, to “challenge that dominant narrative” that largely portrays Africa in a negative light.

The project is a partnership among Markovitz’s Big World Cinema, the Goethe Institute, Toronto-based Blue Ice Docs and pioneering VR tech firm SDK, a company founded in South Africa in 2012.

Africa presents a range of logistical challenges for the new platform. While American consumers might look forward to the release of the Oculus Rift and other high-end VR headsets, the African market will be more suited in the short term to devices like Google Cardboard, which can function with only a smartphone and a mobile network.

“Oculus will never be big in Africa,” says Shaun Wilson, founder of SDK. “If you want your application to be used in Africa, it has to be mobile.”

Despite the growing penetration of mobile networks across the continent, data is still prohibitively expensive in many countries. Sluggish speeds will make it difficult for consumers to download large files.

Ghanaian sci-fi writer Jonathan Dotse and his business partner Kabiru Seidu, who co-founded the Accra-based NubianVR and created their first VR short film, “Pandora,” earlier this year, argue that African entrepreneurs can find innovative ways around those logistical challenges.

For instance, Dotse has built a crude VR headset from scratch. He attached a USB cable to allow users to charge their mobile phones while in use and stream data — an important hack in Africa, where streaming is much faster than downloading data over wireless networks.

Dotse is now exploring whether 3D printers can be utilized to build cheap headsets.

More Digital

  • Jill Goldfarb - Jukin Media

    Jukin Hires TV Veteran Jill Goldfarb as VP of Linear Programming

    Jukin Media, which specializes in licensing user-generated viral videos, hired Jill Goldfarb as VP of linear programming. Goldfarb’s former tours of duty include serving as Discovery Channel’s VP of programming and as VP of program planning and scheduling at ABC Family/Fox Family Channel. Most recently, for the past five years she worked as an independent [...]

  • Imax Is Exiting the VR Space,

    Imax Is Shutting Down Its VR Business, Closing Remaining 3 VR Centers in Q1

    Imax is making its exit from virtual reality (VR) official: The company notified shareholders with a SEC filing Thursday that it will close down its remaining 3 VR centers, and write off “certain VR content investments.” A company spokesperson confirmed the planned closures and shared the following statement with Variety: “With the launch of the [...]

  • Apple Music Connect Is Being Discontinued

    Apple Music Phases Out Connect Social Feed

    Apple Music has notified artists that it will be phasing out its Connect social feed. Artists won’t be able to post to Connect anymore effective immediately, and their existing posts will be removed by next May, according to an email sent to artists that was first published by 9to5Mac Thursday. “Today we’re streamlining music discovery [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Warns Creators They May See Subscriber Count Drops Amid Spam-Account Purge

    YouTube is enacting a broad purge of spam accounts over the next two days, and it’s warning creators they could see a big drop in subscribers as a result. According to YouTube, on Dec. 13-14, creators “may see a noticeable decrease” in subscriber counts. The Google-owned video service regularly works to verify the legitimacy of [...]

  • Ninja to Call 'Thursday Night Football'

    Ninja to Call NFL 'Thursday Night Football' Game on Twitch Free Live-Stream

    Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is Twitch’s most popular live-streaming gamer. Now he’s taking his play-by-play skills to the NFL — although it remains to be seen how many of his millions of followers are actually interested in his commentary on gridiron action. This season, Amazon-owned Twitch has provided free live-streaming feeds of the NFL’s “Thursday Night [...]

  • Amazon Starts Selling Chromecast Again, YouTube

    Amazon Starts Selling Google’s Chromecast Again

    Amazon is once again selling Google’s Chromecast streaming adapter, three years after yanking the product from its website. The e-commerce giant began listing the third-generation model of Google’s Chromecast streaming stick, as well as the 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra, on its website this week. The move could be a first step toward a more comprehensive business [...]

  • Rebecca Campbell Disney

    Disney Sets Out International Leadership Team Post-Fox Deal

    Rebecca Campbell, Diego Lerner and Uday Shankar are set to be Disney’s three key international chiefs when its deal for 21st Century Fox closes, the company announced Thursday. Campbell will run the Europe, Middle East and Africa team under the new structure, which is conditional on the Fox deal closing. She also adds Russia and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content