Virtu-OWL Reality from Brian May
Lifelong stereoscopy enthusiast and collector, he’s also a world-famous rock guitarist in his spare time, Brian May has just launched the OWL VR Smartphone Kit.
This Virtual Reality and 3-D stereo image viewer brings all the excitement of VR within reach of anyone with a smartphone.
Brian’s London Stereoscopic Company has been supplying his unique original patent OWL Stereo Viewer to 3-D enthusiasts since 2009, enabling a whole new audience to view the company’s reproductions of Victorian stereo cards. Not only do they use these to view classic images, the company also produces new cards such as the recently released astronomy and Queen-focused 3-D images.
The OWL has been recognised and adopted by 3-D organisations world-wide, as a high quality immersive device.
The new OWL VR Smartphone Kit takes the existing OWL Stereo Viewer and, through use of a simple but ingenious adaptor (or as Brian described it, “basically a fridge-magnet”), enables its use with a smartphone.
This means that you cannot only view online 3-D images, but also those taken by the yourself via apps such as Camera 3D, and commercially available virtual reality content.
The viewer contains carefully positioned high-quality optical lenses which are fully adjustable for focus thanks to a simple yet clever sliding mechanism.
The OWL VR Kit has a significant advantage over most other VR devices as it will literally work with any smartphone as the viewer comes with a metal plate which sticks to the back of whatever phone you are using and this locks against that magnetic back that I mentioned earlier.
Also, as this viewer does not enclose your device at all, you have access to the controls on the phone at all times. Access to the headphone socket is also unobstructed. This is particularly useful when using the OWL to watch virtual reality films of concerts, or other content with a soundtrack. It also enables users to connect their smartphone to a home cinema system to generate surround sound to complement the 360° 3-D visuals.
We were treated the the UK premier, for all intents and purposes, to the Bohemian Rhapsody VR video which was viewed at the recent Google I/O developer conference. OWL did a good job in a darkened room with the audio being supplied via some Mitchell and Johnson headphones. The animated video was pretty good but Brian himself would have liked some input on the project as he felt that some areas seemed a little “flat” and that they could have used more “Queen iconography” in the content. He did also point out that Queen seemed to be omitted from the credits too!
Commenting on the launch, Brian May said:
Virtual Reality has taken the consumer electronics world by storm over recent months and masses of content is now rapidly becoming available. However, until now, users have had the choice of an expensive VR viewer that puts it out of reach of many people or a very low cost alternative that just doesn’t do the format justice.”
Going on to add:
The OWL Smartphone Kit changes all that; for a very modest outlay, anyone can now enjoy the VR experience, and also gain access to the fascinating world of Stereoscopy. Plus, with the apps that are available for smartphones, it’s now possible to take your own 3-D images and enjoy them instantly using this simple OWL Kit.”
Brian also whipped out his OWL light (maybe Lite – hopefully not) which is a single sheet, pocket-sized clear version which, to me anyhow, seemed to only lack a flick-out handle to recreate something akin to some opera glasses.
I like that fact that this can be flat-packed and that it is reminiscent to the original Victorian stereo viewers. Let’s see if it has that kinda magic to take on Cardboard and the other VR viewers.
The OWL Smartphone VR Kit will be available from late May 2016 for £25, direct from LondonStereo.com.