Recently, I attended two great events at the UploadVR offices in San Francisco, and a third at the Runway incubator office hosted by the AR/VR association.
I met some interesting people, saw some fantastic demos, and heard a inspiring talks; I’d like to share my thoughts, experiences, and takeaways from these events.
The first event at Upload VR was a Non-Gaming VR Meetup. It was nice to talk with people who have visions for utilizing this up-and-coming technology for more than gaming applications.
There were a few narratives being demo’d, and while I wasn’t able to watch them all, one that I wanted to mention was called The Rose and I. This narrative was about a little character, magnificently animated, on a small world where a single rose grew. It was very short, just a few minutes long, yet entertaining and fun.
A few people I spoke to mentioned the length of the short was a little disappointing, but, to me longer narratives tend to need interactivity for continued interest. While it’s great to be able to look around within the narrative world, the yearning to interact with something is inevitable. In Virtual Reality, the immersion pushes me to want to be as involved as possible. These short animations and demos are like the modern comic strip, and I hope they continue to be made in this fashion for the VR ecosystem.
Lune was another experience that I had time to check out. It was very trippy and was made specifically as just an experience piece similar to Irrational Exuberance, where abstract objects react in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect. As you interact with the environment, it continues to progress and change continuing to draw the viewer in.
One of my favorite demos was an application that is currently available on Steam called Masterpiece VR.
It’s a social 3D VR sculpting and VR painting tool that multiple people can work on. As a comparison, when I first tried Tiltbrush I was impressed, but I found myself wanting more of a 3D sculpting type of tool with smudging, smoothing, pushing, and pulling capabilities. Masterpiece VR offers these exact types of capabilities making for a much more well-rounded VR artistic medium.
Tactonic was a piece of hardware demoing a new VR locomotion technique that uses a floor pad to detect slight shifts of weight to determine your movement within the virtual environment. I’m interested to see if someone finds a great widespread application for this technology.
If the floor of a large room was covered with this material, what sort of possibilities does that enable? It doesn’t look like it’s being made for that sort of application, but who knows what will come in the future.
Filmmaker Live is a piece of software that’s really needed for narrative development. A common hurdle that people run into is the need for storyboarding, visualizing, and planning VR narratives. The breaking of the fixed frame into an immersive world environment steals the control that current storytellers have, and because of that loss of control, creators of VR narratives have that challenge of figuring out how to draw attention or, alternatively, how to populate all viewing angles in a way that linear storytelling can still be successful. With Filmmaker Live, one can place virtual objects in scenes and easily animate for more rapid iteration process.
The second event was a VR Art Jam, also hosted at Upload. This event was really fun and quite a party. There were some fantastic demos that celebrated artistic experiences on high-end HMD’s. I ended up being a last minute volunteer to this event so, due to my responsibilities, I wasn’t able to experience everything they had around.
The first thing that I’d like to talk about is the green screen room that Upload has built in the back of their offices. This green screen room allows for really fun live-streams to be filmed offering the capability to overlay the actual person using the headset to be composited over the virtual environment so we can see what’s being experienced. In the green screen room, they put on a comedy show with a guy in Tiltbrush who acted out in creative ways taking things like improv suggestions from the live audience. For the majority of the party, they had Tiltbrush artist, Danny Bittman, create live art, streamed in this superimposed way. It was fun and interesting to watch his process. The art was a fairly abstract piece that progressed from smaller to larger as he painted.
On the subject of Tiltbrush, there were a couple of other Tiltbrush artists that had their work on display using HMD’s set up around the office space. These artists were clearly experienced with using Tiltbrush to create art in VR. Having used Tiltbrush myself, I’ve found that line accuracy does not come easily, especially when creating volumetric objects.
I helped set up a photo backdrop for a demo called Prynt. Prynt is a device that fits onto your cellphone and prints out the photos that are taken. This doesn’t sound too amazing, but there’s a twist: after the photo is taken, there’s a period of time that is then recorded as a video.
When the smartphone’s camera is pointed towards the printed photo, it plays the video overlaid on top of the still photograph, reminding me of the living portraits shown in the Harry Potter movies.
The third event I attended was at the Runway incubator in downtown San Francisco. This event was hosted by the AR/VR association and presented Robert Scoble and Shell Israel’s new book, “The Fourth Transformation.”
These guys have been traveling around talking to all of the notable people in the field to get a good idea of what the future of the AR/VR industry will look like. As of the time that I’m posting this, I haven’t quite finished the book yet, but am thoroughly enjoying the vision they have painted of the future of the industry and technology. They seem to do a good job backing up their predictions with current practices, early technology, and other observations. I’m excited to read the rest and chat with other enthusiasts about the possibilities portrayed.
Do you have any VR/AR technology books, fiction or non, that you would you recommend?
This week I’ll be attending SciFi Comes Alive 3D World | VR + AR Demo Night and Virtual Reality Film - VR Storytelling - stay tuned for the highlights!