My week in VR – “Getting ready for summer”
This was definitely a note worthy week for Virtual Reality in my world.
I had three different events in the last few days that have strongly reignited my desire to work with more VR tech.
It all started with co-hosting the quarterly New York Latino Tech Meetup and our guest James Andrew.
James is a VR pioneer and entrepreneur, as founder of Pixel Router, a VR game studio.
Currently Pixel Router has prototyped a game called Z0NE that is playable on the Oculus Rift DK and Samsung Oculus Gear.
Although from our conversation it seems like Pixel Router is shifting production to high-gear with the goal of launching Z0NE for the PS4 Project Morpheus, and James’ dedication to this effort is almost tangible.
Apart from Pixel Router and Z0NE, James contributes to NYU’s VR Lab, the “Holodeck”, alongside Ken Perlin, an eminent mind in the computer science landscape.
At our meetup, James presented to us a high level VR paradigm he is working on, that deals with the limitations of physical space (i.e. where you maybe sitting in right now) and how these real world environments constrain the limitlessness of a VR environment.
In a nutshell, we still cannot walk actual distances in a VR environment without running into walls or some type of physical obstacle.
This proposes a problem, since one of the most exciting aspects of VR innovation is creating a blend between both worlds, either through immersion or Augmented Reality.
Moreover VR technology is still not robust enough to create seamless experiences between the real world and virtual ones.
Regardless, it is exciting to listen to James’ case study and being exposed to his theories on how to potentially overcome some of these limitations with a design paradigm called the Elevator Technique.
Anyhow, whether or not this technique is viable or will be implemented or becomes a convention, it feels really cool to witness how the VR landscape is being shaped by people like James and Ken – super cool indeed.
After the presentation we had some VR demos, although in reality it became an ad hoc arcade session as we all took turns playing Z0NE on the Oculus Rift rig while other’s took turns using Samsung Gears we had on hand – good times all around.
Also a HUGE shout-out to Tumblr who hosted us at their fantastic new space in Flatiron, NYC; Manny Ramos, Tumblr’s Recruiting Manager is extending their hospitality by hosting the most recent NYLTM event, and hopefully all of our future ones, at this splendid location. #fingers-crossed
The momentum from the this event carried forward to the next day for me at my daughter’s Career Day at her school, PS 186.
Initially when I signed up for this event I thought of only speaking about what I do as a digital producer and how I build, web and native, apps.
Although as luck would have it, I still had the Oculus Gear that my company lent me and so I brought it to my daughter’s class – I swear, I could not have planned it better.
After speaking about my job title, what I do, the tools I use to do it and why I do it – I busted out the Oculus Gear.
I shared with them concepts like reality and virtual reality, environments and how the industry is being created right in front of our eyes and if they wanted it, they could one day be part of the VR scene.
Then I had all the children line up and experience some VR with the demos available in Samsung’s marketplace, more specifically the Iceland VR Tour.
I can’t describe how satisfying it was to see how each one of the children reacted to their first VR experience; some with awe, some shy and blank, others scared of what they were feeling, although almost all of them seemed to experience some type of wonder, one way or another.
Before I wrapped my presentation, a few teachers tried the VR as well, all of them were also blown away by having the future in their hands.
I walked away feeling how James probably feels when he presents Z0NE and VR technology to new people, leaving a wake full of amazement and inspiration wherever he shares it.
My last foray in VR this week was definitely more personal as I decided to (FINALLY) put together the DODOCASE VR cardboard I bought a month ago.
Albeit, I know this seems a little anti-climactic but symbolically this is pretty important to me as it is my first piece of VR equipment.
That’s one aspect of this technology that is not for the faint of heart, the price tag.
This is definitely one of the more challenging aspects of furthering VR, it’s barrier to entry due to it’s price tag for the equipment.
Currently you can get a Samsung Oculus Gear for $200 but it still needs the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for the visual display of the VR interface, which according to recent pricing from Amazon will run you about another $600-$1,000.
Also Oculus Rift has a Developers Kit for about $350 and you may not need a top of the line Windows machine, but for a good experience you still need a rig with plenty of GPU fire power, and this could cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000.
Regardless, I am creating a new row in the family budget to start saving for some of these devices, although we’ll probably pony up for a Gear before a Developers kit.
Fortunately there are some other players entering the VR arena like Sony, HTC and Valve who will help make the market competitive and hopefully start a race to the bottom for the price tag on VR technology.