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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
            Back to Open Skies


22 June 2016

Words: Andrew Birbeck / Images: Peter Harrington Rare Books

Back in 2011, Sol Rogers was at a crossroads. A senior university lecturer in Digital Animation, Visual Effects and Emerging Technology, he had a chance to push forward with a freelance project that was simply too good to let go.

“Before I knew it I had a team of six and Rewind was born,” he explains of a virtual reality (VR) and creative production agency that is helping change the media landscape before our very eyes. In just five short years, Sol and his team have enabled us to sing with Björk, go on a spacewalk, face g-forces of up to 10-g with Red Bull master pilot Martin Sonka, and be part of the huddle in the Turkish international football team dressing room for an inspirational half-time talk. It’s jaw-dropping stuff.

But as amazing as that all is, for Rogers, his highlight is something a little more personal. “The day we moved into our own bespoke studio, three years ago, was a real standout moment,” he admits. “Finally it felt like we were running a proper outfit and I’ll never forget the feel of having those keys in my hand.

“But, of course, the work has been pretty amazing, too. Launching the Red Bull Air Race interactive VR flight experience was an incredible moment. It was the world’s first VR experience for a global brand, and seeing the reaction from the crowds and pilots was amazing. Suddenly we all knew that VR was going to be hugely successful.”

Although VR isn’t a new concept, it’s still one that can be difficult to get your head around. Here’s how Rogers sees it: “VR immerses you in a new reality, making you feel like you are experiencing the other reality firsthand. Augmented reality adds to your current reality – developed into apps and used on mobile devices to blend digital components into the real world. Mixed reality is the future, though. “We’re working with Microsoft’s HoloLens on a headset aimed at blending the physical and digital worlds. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the extraordinary ways in which this technology could be genuinely transformational, from daily living to entertainment, to education and medicine.”

It’s something that’s already having an effect in real time. In 2015, the United Nations commissioned a series of films to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees and Liberian Ebola victims. One of the films, Clouds Over Sidra, is a moving, eight-minute virtual reality film that allows you to pan the camera 360° and follow a 12-year-old refugee, Sidra, as she guides you around her temporary home. It inspired one in six members of the public to donate – twice the average of the UN and Unicef.

“Making people feel makes them act,” says Rodgers. “It’s a very powerful medium in that respect, and we’ve set up a not-for-profit organisation, VRTogether.org, to help research and create VR content that will have a positive impact on humanity.”

While the benefits are many, there can be cautionary tales, however. “There are studies claiming that, by 2020, some people will spend more time in VR than in the real world,” explains Rogers. It’s something of a dystopian view but it serves as an appropriate nudge that VR should complement a lifestyle, not replace it. “The majority will use it for entertainment, escapism, education or experimentation,” says Rogers. “I’m positively excited about how VR can change the world for the better.”



Cutting-edge London can be found at…
Silicon Roundabout – the capital’s tech hub.

For a good dollop of inspiration…
I’d recommend heading to devour.com

The top VR expo in the capital is…
BVRLO. It’s London’s most popular VR meet-up where enthusiasts can get hands on with the tech.

London’s best 3D (immersive) cinema is…
Secret Cinema. It has screenings at various city locations.

The best words of advice I can give are…
Base a company around a personal passion, otherwise it will always just be work and never succeed. After all, who can say that they like to work?