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VR game and TV production concept

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I have started developing a VR game and TV production concept. The VR game concept is full immersion with motion capture and head mounted displays for all the players. The TV production idea generally turns the VR video game into a spectator sport like “American Gladiators”, “Survivor” or any professional sport, but with VR enhancements and a hybrid real/VR game arena.

Since I am a patent attorney, the first part of the project has been the preparation and filing of a massive patent application that covers a wide variety of features that make the concept come alive. The website with the text of the patent is: https://sites.google.com/site/realandvr/

And a PDF of the accompanying drawings is at: https://sites.google.com/site/realandvr/home/vrtvdrawings/VRTV_drawings.pdf?attredirects=0

I'm looking for any kind of feedback or criticism I can get.

Thank you.

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This patent application covers a broad range of features, techniques and devices that raise full immersion virtual reality (VR) video gaming to a whole new level. One of the more interesting aspects of the patent application, however, is the potential to completely encompass an entire new genre in television or video production. Consequently, there is a potentially very lucrative “pay-to-play” angle in this opportunity in addition to the possibility of developing new types of video games and television shows.

A little background: The TV sitcom has been declared dead many times, only to be revived by the success of a single show. “The Cosby Show” did it in the early 1980s, for example.  But even though this show led the way, did the creators of “The Cosby Show” get anything from the successful copycats? No. Additionally, “CSI” not only revitalized the whodunit, but also spawned a whole new genre of crime drama. Except for their own spinoffs, however, could the creators of “CSI” benefit from other shows in this genre? No. Furthermore, the debut of “Survivor” in 2000 created another whole new genre – reality television. But did any of the imitators and also-rans give anything other than a pat on the back to the creators of “Survivor”? No.

The patent application in the present opportunity opens the possibility that all copycats in this new genre will have to “pay to play.” In other words, their shows won’t even be able to get produced or broadcast without paying a royalty to the eventual patent holder in this case. In all likelihood, for example, there would be an up front fee just to be able to begin development of the copycat’s project. Then there would likely be monthly or annual recurring royalty fees during development. Such fees would be very similar to buying an “option” to a script for a movie. Also, there would be an increased fee when actual show production begins with enhanced recurring fees until the show is broadcast. At this point, there would be a royalty fee for each episode, possibly tied to the show’s ratings and length. Additionally, since the new genre involves technology, as described in the patent application, there is the potential to develop a consulting business to actually help the other productions. Alternatively, because of the necessary technology, another way to look at this opportunity is that the technology is the “star” of the show, so the patent owner should get paid like a star. How many millionaire actors did “Friends” create? How many millions did Cosby get for “The Cosby Show” or Seinfeld get for “Seinfeld”?

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1) Prior art. It's not a new idea. Some friends and I were kicking a similar concept around in the mid-90s -- and we definitely didn't invent the idea[1].

It's a fairly obvious extension of "Knightmare".

In fact, interviews with the developers of that show have them discussing working on a combination VR/TV show version; the cost of doing it at that point in time was largely what stopped them and ultimately ended the production of the series, but the work they did is still prior art to your patent.

2) Even assuming the prior art doesn't invalidate the patent, you've just killed the market. Why? Because TV shows cost millions of dollars or pounds to produce.

They will take a punt on spending lots of money on an untried idea in case it's worth tons more (The original "Big Brother", for example).

They WILL pay for a licence to a proven format ("Who Wants to be a Millionaire" franchises, for example).

But this is now an untried idea you want them to pay a licence for...

I know you think your idea is so cool that people will kill each other to try and do it, but that's very rarely true. Especially if it means them carrying the risk of gambling millions of their money and giving any potential winnings to you.

I suspect they'll look elsewhere. Ideas tend to be pretty common (and hence your prior art problem), whereas execution is rather rarer. Unless you're actually a TV production company, and you're about to go prove the win yourself, then I suspect you're about to be the monopoly player in a zero value market.

And just on the off-chance the idea is a win, you don't need the patent. Because people WILL beat a path to your door to buy the format anyway...

[1] Why didn't we do it? Because we were poverty stricken students and it was rather beyond our reach... we couldn't work out a way of dropping the cost into a sensible budget using the equipment then available. Modern digital cameras, highly accurate visual tracking systems[2] and really good real-time image synthesis makes it easier although it's still not trivial.

[2] Anyone remember the "sword of damocles" mechanical head trackers??

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First off, I like the idea. I did a lot of work in the VR space and I think there is a killer app out there somewhere. However, from my perspective there are two big hurdles to overcome before VR is ready for the living room:
1) HMDs are expensive. Consumer grade HMDs have been around for 10 years or so, but the prices have stayed pretty much the same. Today there only a couple of "low price" (less than $2000 US) HMDs with integrated tracking. The VFX3D from IIS (now defunct) and the z800. You can find display only solutions like the icuiti for cheaper (under $1000), but then you have to add a tracking solution. Once you start looking at Polhemus and 5DT solutions you are talking $5000++.
Now consider a family of 4 who would normally sit around a single shared display in their living room. They are probably not likely to purchase 4 HMDs @ $2000 each when they get an HD 3D TV + shutter glasses for around $2000. You could argue that the VR experience is more immersive than the 3D TV experience, and I would agree, but it's going to be like arguing that the Porsche 911 is a better driving experience than the Minivan. Even if that is true, in then end it will come down to which one fits the family budget.
The cost factor could go away if a lot of people started buying these displays, but I don't see that happening because:

2) The equipment is cumbersome. In my experience, people do not like wearing HMDs for extended periods of time. 30 minutes to an hour is about the limit. Beyond that many people begin to experience headaches, nausia, motion sickness, vertigo. Once the initial novelty factor wears off, people rarely ask to try it again. Another issue is position tracking. You can either use a sensor array that gives the user a fixed area in which they can walk, or you can use an input device like a Cyberpuck that the user can use to navigate. Sensor arrays obviously consume space and input devices are not very intuitive for most users.
The only way VR is going to gain widespread appeal is to ditch the HMD and use only natural motion/gestures for input/orientation/position. CAVE systems try to ditch the HMD, but they take up a lot of space. You need something that can integrate into a room as easily as a television. It also needs to be intuitive to use. If you look at gaming the trend is to decrease the amount of equipment that the user is required to hold/wear and increase the use of natural gestures for input. The Wii gave us a great implementation of natural gestures as input. The Kinect takes this a step further by not requiring the user to hold any equipment. A tracking system for VR will have to be as hands-off and take up as little space as the Kinect before it will gain mass appeal.

So that's the current state of the tech of VR. What we need is a break through in CAVE type display systems and position tracking that does not require an entire room for this to really work.

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Katie and CodeMunkie,

Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate any comments I can get at this time.

As for Knightmare, it clearly didn't go far enough to make my idea old news. Even Knightmare VR lacked several important elements that I think are necessary for compelling TV viewing. It is, nevertheless, a very good starting point, since it's the closest thing I've seen to my idea. I've done a lot of research on this, and haven't found any reference to how far they may have developed the technology. It's not clear whether they truly cover my idea, so there is potentially a lot of room for some of the features described in my patent application.

As for a consumer application, CodeMunkie's comments are right on the mark. So a consumer product is still somewhat in the uncertain future. That's why I think the TV production idea is best for now. Even though a consumer is unlikely to buy a good head mounted display to play 3d games in his living room, a production company would find that cost to be a minor part of the overall cost of development. So for now, I'm pushing forward on the TV production idea, even if it does suffer the very real problems mentioned by Katie.

Again, thanks for responding to my post.

- Jon

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