I went to one of the first big VRLA meetups a little over 1.5 years ago. It was held in the parking lot of USC’s MxR Lab, and even though it was not a huge crowd, it was actually quite mind-blowing how many people came to a virtual reality meetup. It was the first time that VR seemed like it might be a thing. The meetup before it was essentially a private industry event held on Digital Domain’s mocap stage, a few hundred nerds interested in seeing some VR and learning something. But this one was different. People were coming from all over, and from all walks of life. Everyone was talking about actually making content, not just thinking about how cool it would be some day. There was a palpable buzz in the air this time, and there were even some VR companies that had been recently formed to create hardware and software just for VR – incredible! And every VRLA since has pretty much doubled in size over the one before it. VR is a thing, it has become undeniable now, and last weekend we had the pleasure of presenting some of our projects at the VRLA 2016 Winter Expo, the biggest and best yet.
It is a true pleasure to see how much the event has expanded; in many ways VRLA has become a visible symbol for how fast virtual reality is growing as an industry, and how much interest there is in it. Mirada had a booth, and we demoed many of our recent VR projects: The Strain, Michigan Football VR, Google Shop, and GE Minds and Machines. We also had our content playing on a touchscreen video sphere, which was a huge hit with the crowds and definitely made a lot of people think differently about how you can view and interact with 360º video.
I also had the opportunity to be on a panel to talk about storytelling in virtual reality – a topic I am obviously pretty passionate about. The conversation was a great balance between different perspectives with Annie Lukowski of Vanishing Point, Bryn Mooser of RYOT, Jonnie Ross of VisionaryVR, and myself. While this is such an exciting new medium, there are so many things that directors and content producers must consider when developing, filming and creating their content for virtual reality and this was a pretty spirited talk about these issues.
There is a great article in Forbes that gives a great rundown of the conference and panel:
At this point in the history of virtual reality, we tend to take storytelling for granted — in the sense we are concerned with more visually stimulating items. However, as with the progression of gaming itself, the techniques behind story will quickly become central to the construction of VR worlds.
And another good overview of the expo from DigitalLA. This article talks about the rise of the Viewmaster VR viewer (we use several to demo the Google Shop app), and this announcement covers some of the demos and companies that were there. Also, this keynote from AMD’s Roy Taylor is a must-see for anyone who wants to know the answer to the question “when is VR going to be here?” (hint: not as soon as some people think).
UPDATE: The recap video of the VRLA 2016 Winter Expo is now live, I’ve swapped the video at the top of the page out for that, and linked the 2015 Summer Expo Recap here instead.
The video at the top of the post here is a recap of 2015’s Summer Expo if you want to see what that one looked like, while this video is the Spring 2015 recap. And just for some nostalgia, here’s an article about the first time we showed off the Google Shop VR Tour at a VRLA.