SXSW attendees next week will be able to climb into a cockpit for a virtual flyby of major Tokyo landmarks in what’s being billed as the world’s first virtual-reality motion ride with ultra-high-resolution 8K video.
Unlike other virtual-reality implementations, the 8K VR motion ride at the Austin Convention Center will not require a head-mounted display or headphones — instead, it uses a hemispherical screen and surround sound to provide the VR experience.
The two-seat ride is produced by a group of Japanese media and entertainment companies, led by NHK Enterprises and NHK Media Technology, which are affiliates of Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK. They worked with spherical-screen technology vendor Wonder Vision Techno Laboratory and RecoChoku Labo (the R&D department of digital-music provider RecoChoku) to develop the five-minute ride, which is described as a “celebration of Tokyo” as the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
What’s the point? Aside from promoting Tokyo tourism, NHK is interested in showing what’s possible with 8K technology, which the broadcaster has been a leader in developing. With a resolution of 7680 by 4320 pixels — or four times as many as Ultra HD 4K — 8K promises visual displays that make it impossible for the human eye to detect individual pixels, delivering unprecedented realism.
The technology powering the 8K VR ride could be the predecessor of next-generation theater experiences. However, there currently are no commercial plans for it, according to Tetsuya Fukuhara, executive producer, business development strategy for NHK Enterprises (NEP).
“We wanted to enhance the technology by creating a new immersive VR experience for the SXSW audience that showcases our technological advancements and the beauty of Tokyo,” Fukuhara explained.
At SXSW 2016, NEP and NHK Media Technology debuted their first 8K VR theater experience. For the ride at this year’s confab, the companies used Wonder Vision’s Sphere 5.2 visual system — which is 5.2 meters wide, 3.4 meters high and 2.6 meters deep — and added an 8K-compatible projector along with a six-axis motion base.
The ride features on-the-ground and aerial views of such sites such as Tokyo Tower (pictured below), Shibuya Crossing and Sens ō ji Temple. The ride’s soundtrack is “Tokyo Victory,” a hit song by Japan’s Southern All Stars that lead singer Keisuke Kuwata was inspired to write after Tokyo won the Olympics bid.
At SXSW 2017, the 8K VR ride will be available for showgoers to experience at the Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 3, from March 12-14 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and March 15 (10 a.m.-12 noon).