Brian May is a legend for being Queen's lead guitarist, but Doctor Brian May is an astrophysicist and former maths teacher with a passion for 3D. This love has birthed his Owl Stereoscope that holds any smartphone, allowing it to become a 3D virtual reality device. We went along to his launch event to find out more.
If you think this sounds like something you've already heard of, that's because it is. The Owl is essentially another variant of the Google Cardboard device that uses two lenses to turn a dual-image into a three dimensional one. Move your head and the view in the virtual world, created by the phone's app, moves as if you're really there.
Brian says: "Telling a story in VR is a challenge. You can miss a lot, as in real life. It's a very young technology and there's a fantastic amount of room for people to use their ingenuity to create experiences."
Google created a modernised version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody for viewing and hearing in virtual reality. Even the audio was in three dimensions as Brian says: "The audio, very cleverly, stays in one place so as you turn your head not only the imagery stays but the sound does too."
The Owl Stereoscope recognises that the Victorians, who cracked 3D way back in the 1800s, got it right first time. Brian says: "Owl gives you very good focus and geometrics. A lot of people haven't looked at the experience of the Victorians. This should stop headaches and sickness. It makes it light easy to hold up."
This flat plastic unit folds up to allow for a lens-to-phone layout that's conducive with 3D. A magnetic strip attaches to any phone and the magnetic back plate on the Owl holds any sized device in place, be it Android, iOS or whatever. The stickiness of this strip gave up half way through our demo so how this would work long term, especially if you don’t always want it on your phone, is puzzling.
The Owl Stereoscope is just £25 and will be available from mid-June. There will also be an Owl Light model which is essentially just the lenses in one piece, which you can hold to your eyes for viewing 3D images anywhere.
Brian finished the launch event reflecting on a VR experience he had at NASA: "Ultimately VR will change the world as it'll be a place where there's everything you want and can love and cherish. Eventually people may not want to come out."