On Swipe, Sky’s technology show, Queen guitarist Brian May tells how he’s been taking on the virtual reality craze with a Victorian way of seeing things.
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SWIPE: Brian May’s talks Virtuality 10 Sept 2016
GEMMA MORRIS (SWIPE PRESENTER): Stay with us. Still to come I’ll be talking virtual reality with a music star, Queen guitarist Brian May, coming right up after a roundup of this week’s tech news.
Now I got to sit down with a very special guest this week. He’s a music legend. I know that’s a term that gets over-used but we think in this case it’s warranted. You might know Brian May best for his guitar playing in the rock band Queen but he’s also an astrophysicist and now a tech developer. Who doesn’t love a selfie? Brian May has got a whole youtube playlist devoted to videos of him filming his audiences with a 3-D selfie stick.
BRIAN MAY (on concert clip): Are you ready for this…
GEMMA: It’s not a gimmick. The guitarist and doctor of astrophysics is really into 3-D innovation – even developed his own the OWL VR kit, inspired by his love of stereoscopy a Victorian way of viewing images in 3-D.
BRIAN: I designed this viewer for Victorian stereo cards and the stereo cards that I make every day in my life, you know.
GEMMA: What are stereo cards?
BRIAN: Stereo cards enable you to see something in 3-D instead of flat and it’s always been odd to me and since I’ve been a kid I wonder why people don’t do that all the time. You know if you can take a stereoscopic picture, something that’s 3-D and got depth, why wouldn’t you do that all the time rather than just have a flat picture. I had to invent this myself. I mean, I didn’t invent the stereoscope, but I invented this particular one which focuses and collapses flat. What I did was design an adapter, which is this little backplate here which fits in and there’s a plate here, a metal plate, which attaches to your phone. So once that’s on there the phone just slips in here and it’s held tight and there’s your virtual reality machine, you know.
It’s all fun stuff, but I can for instance take a picture of you in stereo. Right, are you ready. You can be relaxed but you know frozen. That’s lovely – right one – and then I move to the right and take another one and then this little app will enable you to slide these things around and sync ‘em up. You press this button and you have your two pictures side by side. Put it in the VR viewer and you can see yourself in stereo or your mates and I think you’ll be shocked and stunned. Tell me what it looks like?
GEMMA: Wow, yeah. I can see the depth of field
Gemma Morris tries out Virtual Reality with Brian May
GEMMA: You released this a few months ago…
GEMMA: What’s the reaction been like since then?
BRIAN: The reactions been great and the timing’s really good because we have a lot of VR stuff coming out from Queen as well.
GEMMA: A lot of people must have asked you this. Why?
BRIAN: Since I was about eight years old and I discovered a little stereo card in a Weetabix packet and I went “Wow. That hippopotamus looks real”, doesn’t look flat anymore, I just thought stereo was the way to go.
GEMMA (on clip): Virtual reality is huge right now with fans spending hundreds of pounds on a single big-name headset. At the budget end of the market there are options like Google cardboard, so is the OWL a rival to that?
BRIAN: Yeah, it is a sense a rival, although I’ve been working with Google to make this lovely animation experience which they’ve just done for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Yes you can view it on here or you can view it in Google cardboard. Slightly different geometry. Slightly different feel.
GEMMA: Do you think virtual reality is really going to stick because a few years ago everyone said that 3-DTV was the future and then kind of failed didn’t it?
BRIAN: I think we, in common with the Victorians, like to have our own experience which is sort of controllable. We like to have a private world which we can live in if we want to. So I think this is something which will stay around. I actually have a slight reservation about the 360 thing because you have to sit in a swivel chair. You see people doing this the whole time with these things … now that gets – it’s a bit like watching a 3-D TV. We don’t wanna be in a swivel chair, cut off from reality the whole time, you know. I don’t know what we’ll stick the most. I have a feeling that the Victorians actually got it right in the first place.
GEMMA (on clip): This is what most of us better know Brian May as. Queen guitarist alongside Freddie Mercury …. but don’t think for one second the step into virtual reality mean he’s turning his back on music. He’s bringing one of his latest shows to 3-D viewing.
BRIAN: People will be able to sit with their virtual reality machines and you experience the concept just as if you were there suspended in space above the audience. You can look down at the audience and kind of wave to them, and then it will take you actually onto the stage and you’re interacting with us, so there’s something amazing and it’s something I dreamed of for a long time.
GEMMA: Next for Brian he’s off on tour to Asia and then on to another tour in the UK with a selfie stick though right?
BRIAN: I’ll probably be taking the 3-D selfie stick everywhere, yeah.