Your Shot: How Leo Burnett Sydney & Samsung Captured a Virtual Reality Birth
A world-first live streaming virtual reality (VR) birth using Samsung Gear VR* has let an Australian father experience the birth of his son. Although in Chinchilla, a remote Queensland town, Samsung’s Gear VR headset allowed Jason (Jace) Larke to experience the birth in real time, as if he was standing in the Perth delivery room – 4,000 kilometres away.
The world’s first live streaming virtual reality birth using Samsung Gear VR*, part of Samsung’s ‘LifeLIVE’ campaign, demonstrates the ability of new technology connecting people in ways that create powerful and emotive shared experiences that wouldn’t otherwise exist. The campaign was developed by Samsung Electronics Australia with its creative agency, Leo Burnett Sydney.
LBB catches up with Andy DiLallo, CCO of Leo Burnett Sydney to find out how they made the impossible possible.
LBB> How were you able to create a live 360 feed? We know that live action footage usually require a lot of stitching together in post production when it comes to VR - how were you able to get around this?
AD > This wasn’t the first project we’d done involving Samsung Gear VR so we knew quite a bit about what we could do immediately and what would need development. And, yes, the live component was the most complex challenge. Getting it right was a process of experimentation that spanned several months.
We leveraged some existing technology and with Rapid VR customised it to enable better real time stitching and live streaming to the device. To enable the seamless transition of data, 4G wifi uplinks were needed throughout the entire birth. This required us to install a satellite dish on the roof of the hospital. In order to optimise our 360 stich a custom camera rig was developed, considerable testing went into finding the best camera angles, position and lens to ensure that we delivered a seamless visual to the user.
To further enhance the father’s experience we also matched the camera position and height in the birthing room to replicate his seating position on the other side of the country.
LBB> What added pressures and complications did you face given the project revolved around a birth?
AD> By nature, births are unpredictable so we had to be at the ready 24 hours a day. The only thing we could really control in any way was the tech – making sure that it was up and running and ready to be activated at any time, but there were unknowns even there. Because the project involved bringing two people together across a huge distance, one being in a very remote location, we were always monitoring things like download speeds and mobile connections, making sure they were as fast and secure as possible. But we knew there was always going to be an element of luck. While we were filming, for example, two major hurricanes were hitting Queensland, either one of which could’ve caused major blackouts in the region. We had backup generators, but even still, the whole enterprise could’ve ended right there. Thankfully, though, the Gods smiled on us.
LBB> What sort of feedback did you get from Jace and Alison?
AD> Before being involved in the project, they were only expecting to connect with each other via Skype. Some people would’ve stopped at that, feeling comfortable with what they know, but Jace and Alison weren’t afraid to take a leap of faith.
The first time Alison tried the Gear VR she was, in her words, ‘blown away.’ She could literally see that this was going to be very different to Skype. Afterwards, she said that was comforted knowing that Jace was, in a very real sense, there with her thanks to the technology. Thousands of kilometres away, Jace forgot about the room he was in, completely absorbed in the VR world. For both, being part of something new and different added an entirely new dimension to what was already a profound moment.
LBB> How has this project changed the way you think about VR? It feels like we're at a point where we're trying to figure out how and if VR will be used as a mass/mainstream tool...
AD> We wanted to show that VR isn’t just tech for tech’s sake, but something that can deliver a real human benefit. It’s obvious that it can – and will – revolutionise experiences like gaming. Right now it’s also being experimented with in areas as diverse as tourism, real estate and the military. Those are practical applications.
We wanted to humanize the tech to explore its emotional benefits. VR is still so new that we’re all still taking first steps, but when something comes along that connects people in truly meaningful ways, you can be guaranteed that they’ll continue experimenting with it. Humans crave contact and closeness and that drive will be a huge determining factor in the way VR evolves. If it continues to deliver meaningful connections more easily it will, without doubt, become part of our lives on a mass scale.
LBB> Can you see this kind of project (using VR to connect loved ones who can't make it to important life events) eventually becoming quite commonplace?
AD> Absolutely. Everyone wants to be there when a life-changing moment happens, but it’s simply not always possible, which is incredibly unfair. Anything that can break down those barriers will be embraced, especially in a world where family and friends are increasingly spread out across the globe. There are also so many countries with ageing populations there will be vast numbers in future who won’t always be able travel easily. They’re going to seek out deeper ways to connect and stay close.
LBB> With production managers based in Perth, QLD and Sydney. What was it like working with the Rapid VR team and director Dave Klaiber and Taylor Steele?
AD> We couldn’t have asked for a better team. This was a project that required extreme and seamless collaboration both creatively and technically. We had a strong vision for how the final film would look and play out, but we were also reacting to what Jace and Alison brought to the story as we spent time with them, so everything was a work in progress.
Dave and Steele were in constant contact, making sure the footage they were gathering complemented each other. Meanwhile, the teams spread out across the country checked and re-checked the tech. Needless to say, it kept us on our toes. But it only worked because we all worked together.
LBB> What kind of impact do you hope this campaign will have on viewers not used to the concept of VR technology?
AD> LifeLIVE was created to prove that VR technology can have a human purpose. While it’s applications in things like gaming and entertainment are exciting, we wanted to get people thinking about the way it might one day play a pivotal role in their lives. So VR won’t just be about enjoying and immersing yourself in fictional worlds, it will change the way you relate to the real world and all the people you know and love within it. It doesn’t get much more important than that.
Category: Cameras , It, phones, Av and computers
Genre: Creative technology , Digital , Experiential