(Pocket-lint) - It is a pleasant evening in The Shire. Primroses sway in the wind as the sun catches on the green grass of the rolling hills that stretch as far as the eye can see. Gandalf, tall and commanding but shaggy and dirty, is ambling off into the distance down a lane, waving goodbye. Behind is Bilbo's familiar round door.

Seconds later our world changes. We're now standing at the foot of an old, stone arched bridge. Gandalf is walking across it. The sun is still glistening and, taking advantage of the calm weather, water birds play on the water.

The idyllic scenery is only occasionally disturbed by a large, black, ominous circle on the floor that doesn't belong. It forces us to second guess our surroundings. Maybe we aren't in The Shire after all?

The landscape changes again. A big, old oak tree that looks to have been around for hundreds of years towers upwards to the dusky sky. It is getting dark and the light is starting to fade. There's a bang. We turn but it's just fireworks. Gandalf is having fun with a spot of magic, lighting up the sky with vibrant reds and whites.

The world goes dark, the experience is over. It is at this point we should admit something, we've never been to The Shire, Bilbo's house, or met Gandalf.

All the time we looked around numerous places in The Shire, we've been sat in a rather dull grey meeting room hidden behind a store cupboard in an average-looking office just off the A4 outside London.

But it is here, with a little help from British broadcaster Sky, that we might just have witnessed the future of television.


The company behind this new virtual reality experience is called Jaunt. Founded in early 2014, it has already excited Silicon Valley and others, with investments from Sky and, more recently, Google Ventures.

The technology is simple but incredibly clever. A special camera with multiple lenses films a 360-degree bubble of its surroundings, while dedicated software is then used to stitch the footage together in a similar way a panoramic mode does on your smartphone's camera.

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To view the footage, it is best if you don an Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard or other virtual reality headset and a pair of headphones. They serve to fully immerse you into the experience.

As you move your head the world moves with you and that instantly gives you a sense that you are there; Peter Jackson's Middle Earth in the demo we experienced, but it could also be on the edge of a stage while the musician's play, or a red carpet at a world premiere. Anywhere really.

Jaunt has also started experimenting with the technology in a number of other guises. The company filmed Sir Paul McCartney perform Live and Let Die on stage. And it was used to film a trailer for The Mission, a movie that follows a WWII special ops team that parachutes onto the Eastern Front.

For a brief moment sat in a dull meeting room, we were transported to another world

In each case you get to see the action as it happens around you as it plays out. This adds an interesting extra dimension to watching a film or footage and you soon understand that if you look in the wrong direction, you might miss something happening behind you.

However, a benefit is that watching a movie over and over again could possibly uncover new and interesting experiences every time.

In the case of the 90 seconds of footage we watched, Jaunt sent a camera to New Zealand to see what it could knock up in a week and a budget of practically nothing. It managed to piggy-back onto the release of the final chapter in The Hobbit trilogy, which hits cinemas in the UK on the 12 December. And that was a wise move as it showed potential with something popular and familiar.

Sky has not only invested in the company but also has its director of entertainment channels on the board of Jaunt. It's keen to explore what's possible for television too, so is currently exploring whether it is a technology that could change the way we watch sports, films, documentaries or TV, full stop.

Aside from Sir Paul McCartney at the Candlestick Stadium in San Francisco, Sky has also filmed Sky Sports boxing footage and Sky 1’s Got To Dance. A whole catalogue of shows, including comedy Trollied and the Sky Atlantic drama Fortitude for 2015, have both been visited by the Jaunt camera too.


With the VR world expected to make big waves in 2015, thanks to the possible consumer launch of Oculus Rift, those who opt to buy headsets from Samsung, Google, Sony and Oculus itself will need content to play and watch. And that's where Jaunt is hoping to succeed.

READ: Oculus Rift: The best experiences and games available right now

So far, the pitch for virtual reality has mainly been about its ability to enhance gaming. Jaunt though expands that remit to watching, and presenting 360-degree viewing experiences that place the user as merely a spectator.

Whether that experience has the power to succeed where 3D failed is yet to be seen. Once again it is a technology that requires us to put something on our head, although this time it completely shuts the wearer out from the real world.

For a brief moment sat in a dull meeting room, we were genuinely transported to another world - and in a more powerful way than just watching images flicker past on a framed glass screen. It was like the difference between being in a room and at the heart of the action or just watching what transpires through a window. 

Our journey to Middle Earth was just 90 seconds. Just imagine what the technology could deliver in the hands of someone with great talent and more than a week on his or her hands to make it happen.

Writing by Stuart Miles.