Brian May, guitarist with the band Queen and a stereo photography enthusiast, has launched a kit that allows users to view 3D stereo pairs and virtual reality content on a smartphone for just £25 (approx. US $37). The OWL VR Smart Phone Kit is an adaptation of a traditional Victorian-style stereo viewer sold by May’s London Stereoscopic Company. Instead of inserting card-mounted stereo pairs, users fix a plate to the viewer’s aperture that holds the smartphone in place. May says that the device provides a much better value alternative to standard VR headsets, and it is more adaptable and of higher quality than low cost models. It's in much the same vein as Google's Cardboard VR and other budget-friendly viewers designed for Google's VR app.

The OWL has a rigid structure but folds flat for storage, is made from ‘high-grade’ polypropylene and features ‘high quality’ lenses with adjustable focus. The adapter allows access to all the phone’s controls while it is in place, including the headphone socket so audio can be enjoyed during 3D movies and VR experiences.

Although not in continuous existence, the London Stereoscopic Company was founded in 1854. Over the years it created and sold stereo equipment and cards showing scenes from all around the world. Its fortunes have undulated along with the popularity of stereo photography, and was dissolved a number of times. It was revived in 2008 to promote and preserve the work of the photographer Thomas Richard Williams. Brian May has been one of the directors of the business since 2008.

The OWL VR Smart Phone kit will be available from June and will ship internationally. For more information visit the London Stereoscopic Company’s website.

Press release:

Virtual Reality from Brian May. It’s real.

Lifelong stereoscopy enthusiast and collector, and, incidentally, world-famous rock guitarist, Brian May this month launches the OWL VR Smart Phone Kit, a Virtual Reality and 3-D stereo image viewer that brings all the excitement of VR within reach of anyone with a smart phone.

Brian’s London Stereoscopic Company has been supplying his unique original patent OWL Stereo Viewer to 3-D enthusiasts since 2009, enabling a whole new audience to view the company’s reproductions of classic Victorian stereo cards, as well as the originals, plus recently released astronomy and Queen-focused 3-D images. The OWL has been recognised and adopted by 3-D organisations world-wide, as a high quality immersive device.

The new OWL VR Smart Phone Kit takes the existing OWL Stereo Viewer and, through use of a simple but ingenious adaptor, enables its use with a smart phone not only to view online 3-D images, but also those taken by the user, and commercially available virtual reality content. Manufactured from high-grade polypropylene, and fully collapsible to a thin flat configuration, the OWL is supplied ready for use in seconds. Its carefully positioned high-quality optical lenses, plus fully adjustable focus, present every user with the ideal optical geometry for perfect viewing of side-by-side 3-D images.

Working with any smart phone, the OWL VR Kit has a significant advantage over most other VR devices, which are usually tied to just one particular make or model of phone. And, in contrast with most of the low cost viewers available, the OWL kit offers full access to the controls on the phone at all times. Access to the headphone socket is also unobstructed. This is particularly useful when using the OWL to watch virtual reality films of concerts, or other content with a soundtrack. It also enables users to connect their smart phone to a home cinema system to generate surround sound to complement the 360° 3-D visuals.

Commenting on the launch, Brian May said, “Virtual Reality has taken the consumer electronics world by storm over recent months and masses of content is now rapidly becoming available. However, until now, users have had the choice of an expensive VR viewer that puts it out of reach of many people or a very low cost alternative that just doesn’t do the format justice.” He continues, “The OWL Smart Phone Kit changes all that; for a very modest outlay, anyone can now enjoy the VR experience, and also gain access to the fascinating world of Stereoscopy. Plus, with the apps that are available for smart phones, it’s now possible to take your own 3-D images and enjoy them instantly using this simple OWL Kit.”

The OWL Smart Phone VR Kit will be available from mid June 2016 for £25, direct from
www.londonstereo.com/lsc_shop.html