Fans of fashion were able to do that this year at several shows during New York Fashion Week (NYFW). Whether they lived in Madrid or Minneapolis, all they needed to see the action was a Samsung Gear VR headset and a phone loaded with the VOKE GearVR app, downloadable from the Oculus store. “You feel like you’re at the event, even though you’re sitting in your living room,” said David Aufhauser, chief strategy and product officer for VOKE, a leader in bringing live VR experiences to audiences.
Aufhauser said this is the first time a live fashion show has ever been shown in “true VR,” meaning stereoscopic 3D virtual reality. That’s when a spectator is not only experiencing the event with a 360-degree view, but also experiencing full 3D depth, allowing her to feel present. Unlike HD TV where the image is great but the characters are flat, Aufhauser said in VR the runway models look like real people. You feel like you are sitting in the audience watching the runway show.
When two people watch a TV show, they’re looking at the same thing. In VR, even though it’s the same scene, two people can look at whatever they want to – one person’s eyes might follow a certain model, while someone else checks out the crowd. “Everyone has a personalized experience,” Aufhauser said. “You get to see what you want to see, not just what the camera dictates.”
Bringing Fashion to the Masses
Getting tickets to exclusive NYFW events is challenging and cost-prohibitive for many fashionistas, but at NYFW 2016, VR tech made it easier and more affordable. “This year, we’ve done a lot of programming to make fashion week more accessible, to bring a wider audience in,” said Catherine Bennett, senior vice president and managing director for events at IMG, the group responsible for producing fashion week.
She called the VR experience “amazing” and said it is an excellent way for people outside of the industry to see what NYFW is all about. At the event, IMG teamed up with Intel and several designers – including Erin Fetherston, Noon by Noor, Lisa N. Hoang, Dan Liu, Namilia, Marissa Webb, Band of Outsiders, Irina Vitjaz, Supima, Misha Collection, Prabal Gurung and Telfar – to live-broadcast their runway shows.
VOKE set up two camera rigs, each loaded with 12 cameras, on either end of the runway. The live footage captured by the cameras was then stitched together in real-time. To do so requires capturing the footage then rendering it into a digital version. This requires massive processing power supplied by Intel Xeon processors and Quick Sync video for transcoding. Graphics Virtualization Technology allows multiple workloads to share a common set of resources.
Even without a VR headset, viewers could see the show in 2D via the NYFW website live and after the event and with the ability to pan, tilt, zoom in, zoom out and scroll back and forth.
“We believe that technology is helping to drive transformation and growth in the fashion industry,” said Sandra Lopez, vice president of strategic alliances and business development for Intel’s New Devices Group. “Technology is forcing fashion to re-imagine itself.” Even without a VR headset, viewers could see the show in 2D via the NYFW website after the event and have the ability to pan, tilt, zoom in, zoom out and scroll back and forth.
“Fashion Week was previously an exclusive invite-only event,” said Lopez. “This new technology opens it up to the masses, allowing designers to engage directly with the consumers. Fashion fans from all corners of the world to have front row access.” The technology used at NYFW is just an example of how VR will be used and integrated into everyday life in the future.
“Being able to experience anything live anywhere in the world at any time is a pretty unique opportunity,” said VOKE’s Aufhauser, who envisions a time in the near future when fans can don a VR headset and be transported to a live basketball game, the Olympics or even Times Square. The time is coming where those friends in Minneapolis and Madrid could watch live fashion shows in Milan. It’s already happening with recorded events – and it’s a matter of time before live events, like the runway shows at NYFW – become part of everyone’s social lives.