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While Virtual Reality has taken the tech world by storm, it has its skeptics. One of them is Barry Sandrew, founder of Legend 3D and one who has been around the entertainment industry for a long time. Sandrew invented the colorization process used in updating many black and white films and was a pioneer in 3D conversion of films as recently as 2007.

VR will be used in surgery and have applications, principally in gaming and, perhaps, in education, but, says Sandrew: “I am giving a different perspective after working in the trenches of Hollywood…Investment interest peaked but is now diminishing…People want to be witness to a movie and not a participant,” said Sandrew, citing surveys that indicate a lack of interest by the general public. Just like colorization, he added, it is “not everyone’s cup of tea.”

Sandrew’s views were part of the first presentation of its kind in San Diego that looked at the future of virtual reality. The conference at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice attracted VR enthusiasts as well as many who came to hear about its prospects in storytelling, health, education and other applications.

Unlike Sandrew, Brian Levine, founder of the local VR Startup group, sees VR taking off in the near future among the general public because components, such as goggles used for viewing, are coming down in price. Also, he demonstrated how the general public, including his parents and son, have acclimated themselves to the technology.

The conference spent a considerable amount of time reviewing how VR is used in narrative storytelling, including journalism. Matt DeJohn of VRTUL Inc. demonstrated how he and the Asian Heritage Society produced a historical documentation in VR of the Vietnamese-American experience, in marking 41 years since the fall of Saigon. The audience also viewed a Ted Talk presentation by journalist Nonny dela Pena, who showed how she captured two events, including a bombing in Syria, by replicating it digitally. Dean Nelson, professor of journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University, questioned whether this was true journalism.

“The word ‘virtual’ (means) it’s not literally true. Journalism is what literally happens, not a recreation or retelling,” Nelson said, also questioning whether a digital representation of an event used to raise money for a cause, as the Syria documentation did, should be branded as “advocacy journalism.” By “trying to move you to care or give money, it just isn’t telling you the truth…but multiple truths,” Nelson added.

Other uses of VR in health and education were discussed, including the treatment of emotional disorders such as post-traumatic stress. Arno Hartholt, one of the founders of the USC Institute of Creative Technologies, demonstrated the creation of digital characters that actually interact with humans, saying he sees that as “a leading force in creating experiences how we teach, train and help.” The institute has worked closely with the U.S. Army on several training projects.

How to make money with VR was also explored by a panel that included SDSU professor Bernie Dodge and branding expert Bennett Peji. Everyone agreed that despite some of the limitations of VR, it is an “immersive experience that can excite kids,”  in Dodge’s words.