Takeaways from the Virtual Reality LA Conference
In April I attended Virtual Reality LA (VRLA) to check out the state of VR a year after the launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. These two devices started the mass adoption of VR for the consumer market. VRLA gives an interesting look into all of the amazing things people have created for VR.
The most innovative concept found at VRLA was the Ultrahaptics booth and their ability to create tactile objects out of thin air. This is done by modulating ultrasonic waves to create sensations on your skin. While the objects aren’t solid they do have an unmistakeable presence. Combine that with good motion tracking, and this allows users to even juggle objects in VR.
SpaceVR is a 360 micro satellite camera that will be streaming back to earth. When astronauts first see earth from space they experience what is called the Overview Effect, an experience where national borders melt away and our geopolitics seem petty compared to the health of the planet and its inhabitants. By showing us the full view from orbit, SpaceVR will attempt to provide an Overview Effect to VR users in hopes of promoting global unity.
In my opinion, Cover-me, a game made by Master of Shapes, was by far the most interesting project at VRLA. In a previous Insights article I wrote about building VR games and applications that allow mobile users to interact with VR users. Cover-me takes it a step further by allowing mobile players to join the same tracking system used by the VR headset as the VR player. By doing this they allow mobile and VR players to interact in the same space both physically and virtually. It’s exciting to see an effort being made to bring friends and family into a shared VR experience using mobile phones. I hope to see this idea for solving the isolation problem with VR receive more traction. You can find their blog posts on how to build these games here.
Most of VRLA focused on providing new content for VR and how this medium enables artists. I’m in the camp of “video games are art” but VR has given other artists a new medium that is garnering a lot of excitement. The Visionary arts section of the expo allowed artists to display their work in VR. Kyle and Sana from Liquid Light are both old VR friends of mine who are currently using Tilt Brush, Unity, and other tools to create immersive visual and musical pieces. Soon, VR will allow users to be transported to new worlds and build new worlds within this medium.
Aside from product announcements, the talks at VRLA covered a wide variety of business advice regarding user behavior, UI/UX design, VR experience building and so forth. While there were workshops on development from Unity, Unreal, and Google Daydream, most of the conference seemed to revolve around the expo. Perhaps in the future we’ll see VR conferences more focused on developers and development techniques.