How a Dubai-based startup is changing the face of Middle East VR filmmaking

Fri, 2020-01-10 00:56

ALEXANDRIA: Advances in virtual reality (VR) technology are
opening a new world of possibilities in areas ranging from
filmmaking to medicine, merging the digital and physical worlds to
create fully immersive, life-like experiences.

For Karim Saad, VR was an obsession that started at a young age.
After graduating in the 1990s with a degree in filmmaking from
Saint Joseph University in Beirut, he began exploring his talents
in many creative ways.

“When I was in college, filmmaking was primitive. But by the
time I graduated, a noticeable shift in filmmaking started to take
place,” he said.

It was not until 2012 that Saad had his first VR experience at a
trade fair in Germany. “I remember the day I first put on a VR
headset, a beta version of the Oculus we know today,” he
said.

“Despite it being just a prototype, I was amazed and
determined to bring this technology to the UAE. One year later, I
did.”

In 2013, the Middle East’s first VR filming startup was born.
Around the same time, the Oculus Rift headset was released, and
Saad began experimenting with the technology.

“I was obsessed with VR and 360 videos. I would buy equipment
all the time and document everything — from weekend travels to
day-to-day life — and show my friends, family, network and even
potential clients. By the time I started Giga Works, I already had
more than what I needed, in terms of tools.”

Two years after launching the startup, Saad got his first real
job — a marketing campaign for a food product imported into the
UAE.

The campaign revolved around the concept of comparing old and
new Dubai.

Using the Oculus Rift for the first time in the region, Saad
delivered a video experience that plunges the viewer into the
desert in a vintage Land Rover (also one of the first cars to come
into the UAE) and then suddenly takes them to the “new” Dubai,
featuring the Marina Skyline, Sky Dive Dubai and more.

The campaign was just the beginning for Saad and his VR
startup.

“When it comes to tech, people are reluctant to try new
things. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced was introducing
VR to the conventional marketing landscape in the UAE,” he
said.

“VR marketing isn’t cheap, but it is worth it. It offers
immersive experiences that help customers connect with the brand
and product in new and exciting ways. I try to overcome this
obstacle by educating people about VR’s uses and
potential.”

According to Saad, VR today is only at 5 percent of its
potential. Future uses will include sports, recruitment, medicine
and education.

“With VR tech, you can access a wider audience,” he said.
“VR education, for example, will enable those with limited
resources or funds to go to schools and get an education
virtually.”

In a TED Talk last year, Saad spoke about “smart education”
and explained how VR would soon replace schools.

“The uses are exponential and up to our imagination,” he
said.

“There are no limits to what we can do with this technology,
especially when you combine AR (augmented reality) and VR to create
mixed reality.”

Giga Works conducts VR marketing campaigns for leading brands,
creating travel experiences, documentaries, educational videos and
immersive entertainment.

Now the futuristic filmmaker is working on an immersive VR
expedition around Antarctica to raise awareness about global
warming.

“For me, the next phase is all about telling stories, creating
art and filming more movies. VR has come a long way, but still has
a long way to go,” he said.

This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the
Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid
Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and
ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of
the Arab region. 

 

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Source: *FS – All – Science News Net
How a Dubai-based startup is changing the face of Middle East VR filmmaking