VRLA 2016 – Virtual Reality Expo Virtual Report (just kidding, it’s a real report)

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Posted: Tuesday, August 9th, 2016
By: Dain Fuentes

VRLA Summer Expo 2016, a convention about virtual reality, took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center on August 5th and 6th, 2016. I was there for the second day, and here’s a report with some thoughts, impressions, and photographs.

VRLA was absolutely packed. Attendance is reported at more than 6,000 people over both days, with an estimated 1,500 industry insiders and 4,500 consumers. The day began with an introduction by Virtual Reality Los Angeles founder Cosmo Scharf (who mentioned his surprise at the number of people in attendance), followed by a keynote speech by actor / musician Reggie Watts, most well-known for his role on Comedy Bang! Bang! and his work as bandleader for The Late Late Show. I’d guess there were at least 500 people him speak, which isn’t bad for a Saturday morning.

reggie-w-on-screenIf you’ve never seen Reggie Watts speak live, he is ridiculous, articulate, witty, and hilarious. Watts has performed stand-up comedy in simulated environments broadcast for viewing on virtual reality headsets. He appeared to have a slideshow ready, but the projector was stuck on the menu, and Watts ended up improvising. It was a an hour or so of eloquent nonsense followed by loop-based a cappella musical performances, in which he alternated between romantic-sounding gibberish and technical gibberish.

 

Major takeaways:

  1. As of summer, 2016, virtual reality is much more of a factor in the video game world than in the motion picture industry. The majority of the vendors presenting were from video game companies, and the attendees seemed to largely be video game enthusiasts. Further, I didn’t see many of the leading Los Angeles VR motion picture content creators, either as vendors or attendees.
  2. There is a huge appetite for VR-related content. The crowd was enthusiastic. Like, Cookie-Monster-in-a-bakery-enthusiastic. People often waited in line longer than 30 minutes to experience games and content.
  3. I expect the consumer market being the largest segment of the overall market for VR. The attendance figures mentioned above indicate the level of interest in VR on the part of the public. This number will most likely grow as more VR content and hardware become available to the public.
  4. There were no significant camera announcements, or presentations of any noteworthy new camera technology. For a cool, Arthur Fonzerelli-type camera aficionado, such as myself, this was a disappointing. A lot of technology companies demonstrated VR viewing devices and game control systems. A few motion picture and capture-related vendors (Matthews, Kodak, Ricoh) were there to show previously-announced and available products, but this was by-and-large a gaming-related convention.
  5. The VR market is projected to be huge, but nobody’s sure what form it will take just yet. During the conference, it was report that, by 2020, VR+AR (augmented reality) are expected to combine to make a $120 billion industry. The lion’s share, maybe 2/3, is expected to be in AR. However, as of summer 2016, some of the largest production companies, such as Jaunt Studios, are largely operating under a business model that consists of acquiring branded sponsors to fund material, and producing it at no real profit (in terms of a distribution chain). One of the goals, for the time being, is building an audience in anticipation of monetizing it when the market for paid VR content is more more mature (i.e. it exists).

 

If you’re interested in Virtual Reality production, I’d highly recommend attending the next VRLA event.

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Airflow, by MindRide.

 

 

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Luna 3D, by WolfPrint 3D.

“The first automatic 3D scanning booth that makes studio quality 3D scanning possible for everyone.”

Attendees made 3D scans of themselves. This concept is part of the central conflict of Season 3 of Bojack Horseman.

 

 

 

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Motion picture projections, one in a fully-domed theater, another in a half-dome screen (by Microdose VR) were heavily-attended.

 

 

 

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Puffersphere, a spherical projection display, by Pufferfish. There’s a social aspect to this device – you can use it to watch spherical content with other people. It’s kind of antisocial, though – you can “pan” the display by swiping at it with your fingers, meaning you can interrupt what someone is watching by essentially taking that part of the screen away from them. If a person were deeply engaged with the content, it would be an evil thing to do.

Speaking of which, I sincerely hope Pufferfish acquires spherical conversions of the crystal ball scenes from The Wizard of Oz to display on Puffersphere.

 

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Samsung Gear 360, the all-in-one spherical motion picture and still camera.

 

 

 

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A 360 rig featuring BlackMagic Design cameras.

 

 

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The only game I cared about – a Star Trek game.

 

 

 

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Orah 4i, and all-in-one VR camera that specializes in live-streaming.

 

 

 

 

 

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Defrost, a narrative series directed by Randall Kleiser.

 

 

 

 

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PETA (yes, People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals), showing their I, Animal content. VR could be the platform to help activist groups engage more deeply with the general public.

 

 

 

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A “rave” experience, in which a virtual DJ wore a VR headset but most of the audience did not, did not seem to be a huge it.

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