Last week, Bend-based Deschutes Brewery stopped by downtown Portland to unveil a three-minute long immersive virtual reality experience in honor of its flagship beer, Black Butte Porter. Using an Oculus Rift (a virtual reality headset released earlier this year), Deschutes' VR video lets you hike up Black Butte and take in the view from the top of this ancient Central Oregon cinder cone—without leaving your living room.
Okay, I'll admit, the demo wasn't really like Johnny Mnemonic (at all), but it was still very cool. The Black Butte VR experience is not like looking around a static image on Google Street View. It's a moving 3-D video with audio that makes you feel as if, for example, you're standing along the banks of the invitingly blue, gently babbling Metolius River. Putting on an Oculus Rift is an incredible experience in itself, allowing you to glimpse the actual possibilities of virtual reality outside of Hollywood's many visions.
“Most people outside of Oregon don’t even realize that many of our beers are named after actual places right here in our backyard, so we are excited to bring these brands to life,” wrote Jason Randles, the brewery's digital marketing manager, in a press release. “These places, and the beers that were inspired by them, are the heart and soul of Deschutes and speak to our roots in this special place we call home.”
The video was shot by Impossible Engine, a Bend-Austin based creative agency, using a rig of 12 GoPro cameras arrayed in a circle. Later, a sophisticated piece of software automagically stitched the footage into a single panoramic, stereoscopic image—one that lets you look in any direction while the video is playing, giving the appearance of three dimensions. (If that doesn't make a lot of sense to you, find someone with a Google Cardboard and try it out yourself. It's worth it.)
You can view the video on your computer, Google Cardboard, or, if you're a fancy-pants technophile, an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive—though only the latter two options allow for a true 3-D experience.
A second VR video, of Mirror Pond, was not ready this week but will be released soon.