This past weekend (June 7th- 8th) the Manta Ray Bay Resort was kind enough to invite 360Heros to join them at their 2014 Scuba Show booth in Long Beach, California. Professional diver Bill Macdonald served as the 360Heros representative, as he introduced numerous booth visitors to their first experience with virtual diving.

This was accomplished by showing attendees 360-degree dive footage via an Oculus Rift. The 2014 Scuba Show marked the first time an Oculus Rift had been utilized as a medium to present fully spherical and interactive underwater diving footage.

When paired with 360Heros scuba gear, the Oculus Rift opens up exciting new possibilities.

Thanks to this virtual reality display, more than 100 people were able to experience what it’s like to swim with sharks without leaving the safety of the booth.

Prior to the show, an immersive underwater experience of this nature was something few people in the world had ever seen before. Previous attempts to capture 360 shark footage had been unsuccessful up until this point.  The successful footage shown below was captured by Bill at the Manta Ray Bay Resort’s “Vertigo” dive site, and represents the first successful spherical shark footage ever captured. The footage was presented to booth visitors with the Oculus Rift, offering the public a rare window into this exotic underwater world.

Booth attendees had the chance to experience virtual diving via an Oculus Rift
Booth attendees had the chance to experience virtual diving via an Oculus Rift

Reports suggest that the Oculus Rift stole the show, with one of the larger groups to approach the booth proclaiming “This was the best thing we’ve seen at this show so far! Thank you very much!” Typical reactions included expressions of awe and questions as to how such a realistic virtual diving experience was made possible. Apparently standing on dry ground in a convention center took nothing away from the aquatic adventure offered by the Oculus Rift, as Bill noted that one attendee reached out and grabbed him for fear of descending “deeper into the ocean.”

Enthusiastic tourists weren’t the only ones taking the plunge into virtual diving, as high profile professionals were also keen on the technology. Notable individuals who viewed the diving footage included Dottie Frazier (the first-ever female diving instructor and Scuba Show guest of honor), Pat Smith (renowned underwater archaeologist), Chuck Nicklin (hall of fame diver) and Bob Keet (Emmy Award winning photographer). This group of accredited individuals were equally blown away by the virtual diving experience created with the Rift in comparison to other booth guests.

Pictured: William McDonald and Scuba Show honored guest Dottie Frazier
Pictured: William McDonald and 2014 Scuba Show honored guest Dottie Frazier

For Bill and the 360Heros team, the Scuba Show was an opportunity to test the Oculus Rift’s effectiveness as an 360 video presentation tool. This was a test it passed with flying colors, as Bill described the Oculus Rift as “one of the biggest opportunities to create an impact I’ve seen in my 50 years in the diving scene.” Formerly, experiencing life below the ocean and swimming with sharks were perspectives reserved for professional divers. With the introduction of this technology, Bill noted the opportunity to “take this perspective and bring it into the consumer realm.”

Prior to the Scuba Show, utilizing this piece of technology was a possibility enjoyed by a just a handful of organizations across the globe. With the word out and Bill planning to utilize it at future trade shows, the Oculus Rift’s role in sharing 360-degree underwater video with the public is just beginning. 360Heros would like to thank the Manta Ray Bay Resort for giving us the opportunity to showcase this virtual diving experience and for another opportunity to continue sharing fully spherical video with the world.

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