WHITEFISH, MT / ACCESSWIRE / January 22, 2015 / Immersive entertainment, virtual reality, 4D movies… these are some of the buzzwords that have been inserted into our cultural conversation by various technological advancements over the last few years. Facebook (FB) purchased Oculus Rift for $2 billion, highlighting the value of technologies advancing in the space. The newest demo version of Oculus Rift, called Crescent Bay, was a huge hit at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES). We'll leave you to your own Internet searches, but a perusal of the articles written about this demo indicates that consumers absolutely love what they can experience currently and are only looking forward to further enhancements and, of course, commercial availability.
In this article we will look at some public companies with technologies that enhance those "realistic" experiences. The first two, Guitammer and D-Box, offer tactile and motion-based technologies that make virtual experiences more real by engaging other senses. The last one, GoPro, focuses on visual engagement and recently announced an interesting new initiative.
The Guitammer Company
The Guitammer Company (GTMM) initially developed its Buttkicker(R) brand hardware as a solution for bassists and drummers to feel the beat of the low-end without having to turn up their stage monitors to problematic levels. This patented low-frequency transducer has since been applied to gaming and simulation settings, as well as both home theater and 4D cinemas. In all of these applications, the technology adds a sense of feel (haptic or tactile, the sense of touch) to the audio and visual experience, giving consumers a much more realistic and immersive experience. The technology is installed in theaters worldwide, including AMC Prime, IMAX and Disney locations, totaling over 14,000 seats in 12 countries.
Guitammer is taking an interesting approach with its technology, and this is probably the reason you should pay attention. In 2011 the company secured a patent for the "capture and remote reproduction of haptic events in synchronous association with the video and audio capture and reproduction of those events." In other words, if tactile or haptic information is to be broadcast in concert with audio and video, Buttkicker Live(R) (also marketed as 4D Sports) is the technology for the job.
Since then, Guitammer has become increasingly focused on this live broadcast technology. In 2013, in a partnership with the National Hot Rod Association, NHRA races were broadcast by ESPN2 in a proof-of-concept trial, and this year's San Jose Sharks' home games are being broadcast over Comcast SportsNet California. Guitammer's tactile technology allows viewers to feel the rattle of the boards and the impact of the checks right at home. Here is a Bay Area news report highlighting the broadcasts: http://bit.ly/1sWGuGa.
The goal is much larger: position the patented live broadcast technology at the foundation of immersive live sports broadcasts, similar to Dolby's position at the foundation of sound reproduction. To that end, Guitammer's CEO Mark Luden is the chair of a committee of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers dedicated to creating a standard for the broadcast of tactile data. Don't let Guitammer's tiny market cap fool you, the company is partnering with major players in the broadcast world and may be positioned to make its technology ubiquitous.
D-Box Technologies (DBO.TO) is another company that has developed technology around the haptic sense. Focused on movement, the company has developed hardware and software systems, called actuators, which produce realistic immersive motion effects for a variety of content. D-Box is focused in two broad categories, entertainment and industrial.
Its entertainment products include adjustable movie loungers with controls that enable the consumer to set motion intensity to High/Medium/Low/Off depending on the individual's preferences. It also integrates with existing theater software systems to help manage things like seat reservations and activation. The seats contain actuators that are cued by a patented frame-by-frame stream of information called the D-BOX Motion Code(R). The system provides a variety of motion effects in real time with the ability to immerse the viewer in a speeding car or in a gently rolling sailboat and is installed in over 266 theaters worldwide.
Perhaps more interesting is the company's other focus, on industrial and simulation applications. Recently recognized as one of KMI Media Group's three "up and coming" companies in Military Training Technologies magazine, D-box has turned its technology to a wide variety of industrial applications. Motion simulation is essential in things like flight and driving simulators, military gunnery training and heavy equipment training, and the company is positioning its technology in all of those areas. As simulated training models gain further acceptance in all areas of society, and as virtual reality technologies further enhance these offerings, D-Box is filling the need for motion simulation in order to provide a more realistic, immersive and effective training experience.
GoPro (GPRO) built its market, and its impressive stock performance since the company's June 2014 IPO, on providing consumers innovative ways to visually document their lives. What started in niche markets with extreme athletes has now moved to the mainstream with cameras designed for and used by everyday people.
The company announced last week a partnership with Vislink to bring the video recording of sporting events into real time. GoPro cameras are already used in a variety of sports, but the video has only been viewable in playback after the event is over. This partnership with Vislink, a leading video and data provider, aims to provide a real time, wireless, high definition video feed that can be incorporated into live broadcasts. GoPro expects test broadcasts this winter at the Winter X Games in Aspen and other live events.
GoPro President Tony Bates said in the press release, "GoPro has changed the way people see the world, creating an immersive viewing experience. Now with unique GoPro perspectives available to broadcasters, watching live events is like being part of the action instead of watching it from the stands. Our partnership with Vislink brings a new level of excitement to live broadcast and we can't wait to see what players, broadcasters and fans do with this new innovative solution."
The idea of being part of the action was also discussed by Guitammer's Luden at last year's Cable Show. "Imagine not just watching the race… but imagine 'being' the driver and being able to feel what he feels." Guitammer envisions on-player sensors (already in use in the NFL and Major League Soccer), complementary to the on-player video proposed by GoPro, to provide consumers with the motion and impact of the player's experience, live and in real time.
These quotes speak to the overall theme of immersive entertainment and virtual reality, the idea that people "watching" (maybe soon we will change the term to "experiencing") events can feel a part of the action. That people without the athletic ability or chutzpah of a snowboarding daredevil can get a fairly realistic taste of what it is like to fly yourself fifty feet into the air while pulling off elaborate twists and flips. As these technologies of the senses develop and intertwine, combining sight and sound and feel and motion into immersive virtual experiences, the results, both financially and experientially, could be startling.
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SOURCE: Emerging Growth LLC