In a blog post published earlier this week, Commissioning Editor for VR Zillah Watson confirmed that the “Hub will be wrapping up its commissioning and production work.” The VR Hub launched in November 2017 following a handful of earlier VR releases from the BBC. According to an announcement blog, its aim was to create a “small number” of VR experiences with “broad, mainstream appeal” in order to offset VR’s various barriers to entry.
Those experiences included Nothing to be Written, developed by Unit 59, which won our Best Mobile VR Experience award in 2018. It also produced the excellent Doctor Who animated VR short, The Runaway earlier this year. All of these experiences will still be available to download, but don’t expect to see any new content coming out from the Hubs banner.
A BBC spokesperson provided UploadVR with the following statement:
“The VR Hub had funding for two years, so is now wrapping up its production and commissioning. It’s been an important part of our charter commitment to promote technological innovation and maintain a leading role in research and development which benefits the whole industry. We’re really proud to have produced some award-winning projects in that time, and we’ve learned valuable lessons about producing unforgettable virtual reality experiences. We’re produced a guide sharing what we’ve learnt with the wider industry, and we’ve built up experience across the BBC so different areas will be able to develop their own ideas.”
You can see that guide right here.
BBC’s differing VR missions
While The Hub acted as a centralized location for much of the BBC’s VR work it wasn’t solely responsible for all of its output. BBC Studios is responsible for the wider organization’s portfolio including TV programs and continues to work on immersive projects with commercial viability. It will also soon launch Doctor Who: The Edge of Time, a new VR game developed by Maze Theory and the recently-announced Micro Kingdoms: Senses on the Magic Leap AR headset.
Elsewhere, the BBC’s R&D department, which helped produce many of the organization’s earliest pieces like Easter Rising: Voice Of A Rebel, may yet work on more immersive projects under its experimental banner. Other divisions of the BBC such as News and Sport also worked on VR experiences like Trafficked and World Cup VR. They too could possibly produce their own VR experiences in the future.
It’s a situation somewhat similar to when Facebook closed Oculus Story Studio in mid-2017. The group produced short-form VR narratives for the Oculus Rift and Gear VR/Oculus Go. Facebook still invests in and distributes similar experiences under other publishing initiatives.
The VR Hub’s final project, meanwhile, will be a six-part series called Missing Pictures. In it, film directors will discuss projects they were never able to realize while viewers are immersed in conceptual visuals. The group will also be taking its content on tour to UK libraries over the next year.