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We travel around the LA Convention Center and learn about cool new tech that helps to take you even further away from reality.
At first, it might seem like the Convention Center is a little too big for the VR industry. However, with virtual reality growing as an industry in recent years, we’ve witnessed more developers and players embracing its technology while trying to get in on the action as evident by the large and excited crowds present at VRLA 2017.
The expo floor of VRLA is quite different from what you’d expect at a typical video game show. And frankly, this makes sense—modern VR is more about experiences rather than games. VR simply feels organic in architecture, social media, and other places making video games, while important, not a necessity within the VR industry.
One of the most impressive demos on the floor was a small project done by Brink VR, a startup with a handful of dedicated employees from LA and San Francisco. Their demo brought the concept of adventure photography to life on a whole new technical level. Adventure photography involves capturing pictures of the majestic beauty of nature (and human interaction with it) in often the most extreme and remote locations on earth—seems like a fun yet scary hobby! And this little startup makes adventure photography appealing to the masses by making the activity less intimidating with their VR demo!
Instead of just taking adventure pictures, Brink VR utilized drones, scanning equipment, and 360° cameras in their demo to create high-definition environments of Neutron’s Park in California and The Wave and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona (as well as other beautiful locations). All of these secluded portions of the great outdoors are perfectly scanned in 3D to create a wonderfully smooth VR experience. And while those experiencing the demo don’t actually do much, the content and visual quality of the demo are stellar! Brink VR is going to sell their products online as consumer experiences, yet it just feels like the startup is going to have a huge future working with other companies like Quixel.
Epic Games, a household name in the video game industry, also had a nice presence at the event. First of all, the company sponsored an insightful panel that featured some of the best minds in the CGI industry talking about the changes coming to their work pipeline with the expansion of VR. Secondly, they had a demo of Robo Recall on the floor. The game is free for all Oculus users, but few people still have had the chance to experience it. The Oculus platform remains extremely expensive for the average consumer and investments in powerful PCs, Oculus VR glasses, and Oculus Touch controllers remain luxuries available to only a few lucky developers and passionate early adopters. Nevertheless, Robo Recall seems like a good reason to give this hardware a shot because the game embodies much of the amazing work Epic has done for years. With smooth controls, fast and fluid gameplay, and beautiful visuals, Robo Recall is a thrilling VR game. Moreover, the character design contributions from Pete Heynes, a long-time Epic Games contributor, were largely influential in making this game a spectacular love letter to the action genre. 80.lv believes that games like Robo Recall can make VR a hit among video game lovers too!
Another exciting aspect of VRLA 2017 was hardware. Traditionally, big hardware providers take the entire stage at shows like Siggraph, demonstrating their impressive motion tracking and texturing technologies. This year, though, we’ve seen more hardware providers showcasing some outstanding environment capturing equipment. Radiant Images particularly stood out at VRLA 2017 since the company provided so many advanced technological solutions that help to build up top-notch 360° environment captures in a short time. Just look at these monstrosities, which can easily cost you more than a new car.
Games are still an important part of the VR market. We’ve got a variety of developers trying their hand at VR—several indie developers are building impressive action-fighting projects where the player faces more than 30 enemies at once (all done with Morph3d) in Unity. There also are tiny development houses from Japan that are bringing their own set of games and talking about their new exciting projects at VRLA 2017.
The segmented VR market already is under attack by a large number of companies, which provide analytics, advertising, and other services to VR developers. There’s hardly a need for them at the moment since the market is so small but this may very well change in the future.
The majority of the VRLA 2017 crowd consisted of VFX artists of old. These artists are incredibly interested in figuring out this new technology, hoping to find new ways to build content for VR and explore its untapped potential. It seems like these professionals aren’t necessarily interested in moving VR into video games but rather new places where entertainment plays a less significant role in the overall experience. And we are looking forward to experiencing that new direction thanks to VR!