Presented by La French Tech

Everyone knows that France is a country that offers some of the most awe inspiring and unforgettably rich human experiences. Today, the country that delights us with a range of physical experiences that touch all our senses now stands at the forefront of another way people interact with the world — Virtual Reality. An emerging blend of technology, art and culture, VR is transforming many aspects of our lives, from how we work, play, learn, entertain, shop, and communicate.

And France is clearly leading this experiential revolution. The country’s deep legacy in creative design combined with its rich expertise in engineering and technology make it a logical nurturing spot for this new renaissance happening in human experiences and interaction.

At the recent South by South West (SXSW) event, a mecca for the convergence of culture and tech, the talent and innovation of France’s VR movement were on full display. A dedicated VR Showcase at The French House in Austin captivated visitors with groundbreaking new creative experiences. An award-winning showcase of French innovation at the event included productions such as:

Firebird (featured at Kaleidoscope, Paris Virtual Film Festival, Shanghai International Film Festival, Brussels Virtual Reality Festival)

Above: Firebird

I, Philip; France’s first Virtual Reality fiction production

Above: I, Philip

Notes on Blindness (featured at Tribeca Film Festival, Sheffield Doc Festival, Sundance & SXSW 2017,)

Above: Notes on Blindness

Out of the Blue (featured at Sundance & SXSW 2017)

Above: Out of the Blue

Renowned VR expert and champion Robert Scoble visited the showcase and was left in awe at the creativity and innovation.

“I have been working in and around the VR space essentially since its inception, and I can honestly say the innovation coming out of France is among the best in the world,” Scoble noted. “This year’s SXSW was a milestone year for VR as it emerged as a truly transformational medium. What I saw and experienced at The French House blew me away and there is no doubt the entrepreneurs, artists, and engineers behind the French VR industry will be leaders in how this technology will shape our lives for years to come.”

The French creative influence fuels VR

France has a deep history as a leader in all things creative — art, music, cinema, architecture — so it’s no surprise that it’s leading the way in yet another medium. A recent study by Ernst & Young valued the French creative industry at 83.6 billion euros. The French love to be entertained (they are the biggest cinema goers and video game players in all of Europe), and they love to share their creativity as well. Drawing on a foundation that includes the country being ranked as the second largest exporter of films in the world, as well as the world’s number 2 in video game production, France is now leveraging that expertise to break new ground in VR.

The groundswell of support and momentum for VR in France is impressive. The CNC (the National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image), an agency of the French Ministry of Culture responsible for the production and promotion of cinema, has invested in more than 60 VR projects since 2014.

A recent report from the Venture Reality Fund notes that France is taking the lead in virtual reality development in continental Europe and points to 19 VR startups in France in its landscape of influential emerging VR players. The ecosystem of VR is growing quickly in France, as evidenced by the emergence of organizations like Uni-VR, a Paris based “think tank’ on all things VR that unites the community of creators, developers, engineers, and entrepreneurs shaping the future of the industry.

In total, there are close to 600 start-ups in France focused on VR and the deep tech underpinnings that are essential to its development — critical areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, vision processing, and big data.

Leading the VR revolution in France are award-winning studios and production companies such as Innerspace VR (known as the best real-time animator in the world), OKIO Studio (which specializes in surround sound production for VR) and Novelab (which creates innovative immersive experiences and was involved in the above-mentioned Notes on Blindness).

In addition, at SXSW, emerging innovators in the VR hardware and software space showed their wares, including Orah, a major provider of high quality live and postproduction 360° video creation software, Giroptic, maker of innovative 360-degree imaging vision technology for VR; 3D Ruddder, which provides a revolutionary foot-powered motion controller that can be used while seated for VR, gaming and engineering.

VR is in its early days of adoption and refinement. Most of the applications to date have been in the area of creative uses like video gaming, television, and filmmaking, which are all being transformed by VR. The so-called “fourth wall” of a screen that separates a viewer from the action is removed in a virtual space, immersing the user/viewer in the midst of it. VR content is now being featured at major film festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, and Tribeca.

But industry watchers forecast the rapid adoption of VR in other areas from smart cities to education and training, medicine, transportation, travel, real estate. And, France is poised to be a leading innovator and influencer in how this technology impacts our lives in ways unimaginable today.

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