THE BLOG

The Rise of Immersive Imagery

05/08/2015 16:16 BST | Updated 03/08/2016 10:59 BST

The world was once enthralled by the discovery that it was possible to capture real life scenes in two-dimensional images via a new machine called a camera. We've come a long way since then and developments in technology mean that imagery is becoming more and more immersive. With the launch of the Oculus Rift headset at an affordable price for consumers and, on an even more accessible basis, Google Cardboard, fully immersive experiences are a (virtual) reality for us all. I'm fascinated by how such developments extend and expand the way we experience the world.

From the beginning part of the appeal of photography was the way it allowed us to experience people, vistas and events that we could never get to see in reality. Images continue to let us see on our smartphones quite literally what's happening on the other side of the world. As humans we crave authentic experiences and ultra-high resolution imagery, 3d technologies and virtual reality are meeting our expectations for an even deeper visual experience.

In today's world of hyper-connectivity, our sense of space and our desire for meaningful experiences have undergone a revolution. A growing visual trend we've identified through the Getty Images creative research team is 'Wonderlust'. This is the increasing fascination with the boundless beauty and unpredictability of nature. These are images that show the expansive scale of our world - mountain ranges, oceans and forests - and our spiritual and physical relationship to it.

Over the last year we've seen a 30 per cent rise in searches and purchases of imagery with concepts and keywords related to the Wonderlust themes. An American Express survey found that 88 per cent of respondents are seeking more enriched lives, with travel as the number one dream on everyone's bucket list - is it any wonder that Instagram is full of beautiful sunsets, wide-ranging jungles and people standing on the edge of mountains? The recent headline-hitting 'ultimate selfie' - an Ohio man capturing himself in front of an active volcano, the moon and the Milky Way - is also the ultimate Wonderlust image; hugely immersive and awe-inspiring for the viewer.

As immersive technologies evolve we have the ability to create even more compelling experiences of the world and even the universe that would never be possible for most of us to see in reality. We can explore and connect with landscapes and even space-scapes without leaving our living rooms or at least our local cinema where big screen and 3D technology have made films like Gravity and Interstellar hugely popular.

Down to earth and closer to home we recently released 360° imagery for the Oculus platform, using iconic moments from the Tennis Championships Wimbledon and the Cannes Film Festival, allowing people to experience places or events in a more interactive and immersive way. Far from looking 'at' the images we are now 'in' the images - it's the next best thing to being in the moment itself.

As virtual reality evolves and we become used to mediated experiences that are increasingly indistinguishable from real life, we can expect image making to advance too. There will be so many more ways to capture events and experiences in the world and not merely reproduce them as humble 2d films or photos but practically replicate them in the minds of other people. We already have the 3d panorama and a 360 view, but what happens when we can walk around and explore the scene? How will creative image makers embrace this technology to change the way we feel about the world and how we interpret it?