'Elsewhere' Turns Any Video Into A VR Experience

'Elsewhere' Turns Any Video Into A VR Experience
September 22, 2016

The VR industry has a pricing problem. Virtual reality has the potential to transform gaming, entertainment, and more, but so far it has come at a steep price point. But on Thursday, a new product came onto the scene that promises to turn any regular 2Dvideo into a 3D, VR experience at minimal cost.
Called “Elsewhere,” the device consists of a simple pair of plastic glasses combined with an iOS app. At first glance, it seems like a similar concept to Google GOOGL +1.34% Cardboard, but there’s a crucial distinction: Google Cardboard turns specially-designed videos into VR, whereas Elsewhere can make any regular 2D video into VR, no special engineering needed. That means you can turn your old home movies into a VR experience, or your favorite nature documentary, or historical footage of 1940′s Germany (which I got to experience during a demo at FORBES’ San Francisco bureau this week). I wasn’t just looking at video of Nazi Germany at a distance–I was there, standing on the street in WWII Germany. It was eerie and awe-inspiring at the same time.
Elsewhere comes to the market from husband-and-wife team Aza Raskin, the founder of Songza, and Wendellen Li, a designer and entrepreneur. Working out of their home and a coworking space in Oakland, the two built Elsewhere with minimal startup costs and zero outside investment. They designed the iOS app  and have had 10,000 sets of glasses made at a factory in Shenzhen, China. It’s all then assembled and shipped in the United States, and sold on their website for $50 for the glasses and app combined. They don’t yet have an Android version of the app, but say they hope to eventually.
The app works in two main ways, VR mode and AR mode. In VR mode, you use Elsewhere to watch videos directly from the camera roll on your phone, and with AR mode you use Elsewhere to tap into your phone’s camera and turn the world around you into 3D. That can mean looking into a mirror and seeing hyperdimensional depth, or pointing your Elsewhere glasses+iPhone camera at your favorite show playing on TV. ”When we were watching the Game of Thrones scene where Jon Snow was getting trampled, we both had to put down our glasses and take a break,” Li says. “It was just too intense.”
Li and Raskin also say they want customers to use Elsewhere to share experiences with one another, though sometimes this can lead to quirky outcomes. “My dad has Elsewhere,” Li says, “And now he just sends me videos of food as he’s eating it every day.”

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