BY JAHNAVI MUPPANENI
When Michael Hodson decided to take a year off from work to travel the world, he didn’t think he would be leaving his law firm forever. But the sights and sounds of his globetrotting journey inspired him to take a different tack in life and to somehow share what he had experienced with others.
The result of that inspiration was OnlyInVR, a startup virtual reality company that Hodson established shortly after his year of traveling.
Before OnlyInVR, Hodson spent 10 years as a lawyer. In December 2008, he decided to take a break and set out on a 16-month trek across 44 countries and six continents. It would be an open-ended journey without booking any flights or hotels in advance. He wanted to do something “fun, challenging and unique,” he wrote for BBC Travel in 2015.
Hodson created a travel blog to document and share his experiences, from travel preparation to the journey itself. And as his blog shows, he quickly discovered how difficult it can be to manage expenses, reservations and transportation while traveling internationally.
When the trip ended, Hodson knew he wouldn’t be returning to his law practice, or even staying in the U.S. for any extended period. He wanted to keep exploring the world but also wanted to make it a possibility for others. He realized how exclusive traveling can be — it’s great for people who have the financial means and physical ability to travel, but it’s also a privilege not afforded to many.
When Hodson first became aware of virtual reality, he recognized the immersive technology’s potential to change how people saw the world. He eagerly started building his business and acquiring clients with the help of about 10 freelancers. OnlyInVR has produced content for clients such as the Aspen Chamber of Commerce and Samsung, among others.
The OnlyInVR team specializes in capturing and producing videos from beginning to end. They also offer virtual tours of places around the world for clients. Hodson said working in a 360-video environment requires him and his staff to pay close attention to lighting, carefully monitor shots and guide people in the right direction.
Hodson admits that seeing the world through virtual reality isn’t the same as being there in person. However, his goal is to convince people to at least try it, and even venture to film some 360-degree video themselves.
“The future is going to be big in VR, but that future is still a few years along,” he said. “Although it isn’t really a business suggestion, I will say that if you are interested in it, you should buy a cheap consumer [360-degree] camera and start experimenting, so you can start understanding how the 360 world works.”
He says VR shouldn’t be a replacement for real-life activities, but it could serve as motivation for people to do things they normally wouldn’t consider doing, especially if they don’t have the time, money or physical ability.
Hodson believes that VR could be used not only to preview prospective adventures, but also as an invaluable tool for educators.
“In the future, if you are going to learn about the U.S. Congress, you are going to put on a VR headset and get transported to that location to see it as if you were standing there,” he said. “Same for the pyramids, or a variety of other things.”
One of Hodson’s current projects is to expand OnlyInVR’s content beyond travel and tourism. The company is developing the world’s largest library of music-oriented, 360-degree video content.
OnlyInVR plans soon to release a music app that will provide consumers with behind-the-scenes views of concerts and music festivals. The app will match consumers’ music requests with livestreams of concert footage and venues. Hodson said he plans to have a music library of more than 200 videos featuring over 20 artists from various genres. Users will gain access through a Netflix-type subscription model.
“This concept has been a couple years in conception,” he said. “I’m ready for activation.”