Proof of Concept: TedVR

Programming ,Random Musings ,Unity ,Virtual Reality
February 6, 2015

As part of my explorations on VR trends, I put together a proof of concept for viewing Ted Talks in VR and how current web experiences will transfer into the new medium that virtual reality brings. I’ve affectionately been referring to the project as Ted Extended, but as a full disclaimer, this is a project I’ve done unaffiliated from Ted.

When passion meets technology, it becomes possible to unite people in entirely new ways. The content that is provided by is currently available for streaming online (and are very, very popular educational talks, with some live events boasting over 10,000 attendees) – but here’s an idea: what if you were able to generate virtual spaces around these speakers to continue the conversations past what is currently feasible?

The idea behind Ted Extended is creating an environment where users could create community events around particular Ted Talks or a series of videos in VR to facilitate the growth and understanding of new ideas. Ted is a perfect example of what can come out of the overlap between passion and technology, and an open-format way to share ideas and engage with speakers would encourage the spreading of the ideas that Ted Talks perpetuate. Given the data that shows how people see themselves utilizing virtual reality in a social way, Ted Extended could be implemented in two distinct ways:

  • The Ted Talk Classroom: This is a small space environment that allows groups to gather to view Ted talks and elaborate on the content with supplemental screens that show information about the speaker and topics at hand. Reminiscent of chatrooms, users can gather based on interest or on a per-talk basis in virtual reality.
  • Ted Extended: These larger, open events are more aligned with how current Ted Talks are given, allowing for larger audiences to gather to watch an event. This would have several different potential forms, and would allow for follow up talks given by speakers in virtual space, or a panel of experts to discuss merits and debate existing content in a way that is open to the general viewing public.

Both of these methods allow for an immense amount of supplementary content to be provided to help guide viewers through material and content.

The foundation of Ted Talks is to inspire people to continue discussing and sharing ideas, and this is seen in the high-availability that Ted uses to distribute their talks. Much of the existing content is already available on YouTube, so the work around creating an immersive, Ted Talk-centered space would be utilizing their developer API to create supplementary content while streaming the YouTube talks in a virtual space. In future explorations of community spaces, Ted Talks could be hosted live in a virtual environment and played back later in an immersive recording, or recorded with 360 degree positional cameras and converted to a VR-friendly format.

The below video shows a proof of concept video for viewing a Ted Talk video in a 3D, Oculus-enabled environment with a supplemental screen on the right hand side for the author biography. The demo uses a trial version of UWebKit.

Because the demo scene utilizes a few non-free libraries and requires Unity Pro to build with, the code is up under a private GitHub repo. It was hacked together in a couple of hours, so it’s not being maintained, but if you’re interested in getting access to peek at what I did here (the audio does work within the scene, but wasn’t captured in the screen recording) send me a message and I’ll get you access.

Anyone else really excited for the potential here?

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