November 09th, 2017

VR Days Europe

In October we attended the VR Days conference, a 3-day celebration of all things Virtual, Augmented, creativity, innovation and beyond in Amsterdam. We witnessed a wide range of talks, sessions and workshops by over 120 industry veterans from the worlds of health, tech, business and the arts. 

Some of our take-aways:

Outside

It's a matter of time

Virtual Reality's adoption hasn't been quite as meteoric as some had predicted (or hoped), but there's no reason to be pessimistic that this state of affairs will be permanent. Some may have expected too much, too fast, but that shouldn't discount the massive advancements the burgeoning industry has already experienced in the few short years since Oculus' original kickstarter back in 2012. And there's much more to look forward to just beyond the horizon. Imagine a stand-alone, low-weight wireless headset with built-in eye-tracking and 8K resolution for the price of a low-end smartphone. These devices aren't here yet, but each of the individual technologies mentioned already are (we've even tried them), and the relentless march of progress will mean the component prices can only come down, just as they have with every other technology. 

These are devices capable of consistently delivering 'wow!' moments, and they will begin surfacing in the next couple of years.

But VR's true "killer app" moment will likely arrive once the resolution becomes sufficiently dense enough to be capable of rendering small, readable text. Once this has been achieved, it will become possible to virtualise our traditional desktop setups: imagine instead of sitting behind a desk with just one or two monitors, you'll just have a single AR headset with a transparent display, capable of rendering the equivalent of an entire wall of computer monitors in front of you. Limited screen real-estate, the bane of interface designers everywhere, will have become a thing from the past. 

Pimax

Translating old ideas to a new medium is not enough 

With the hardware clearly moving in the right direction, killer content can't be far behind. Every new computing paradigm brought starts by copying the previous paradigms successes into the new one, without fully considering the possibilities of the new medium's capabilities. This can leave these early attempts feeling more like novelties or gimmicks, done just because they could. 

Thankfully, the VR community is already beginning to move beyond these awkward first stumbles, as evidenced by the wealth of original and creative content on display at the conference's Church of VR exhibition, which occupied a large part of the Kromhouthal venue. 

The concept of a VR installation is rapidly becoming accepted in the artistic community, and has become a unique art-form in itself. Combining custom scripted VR software with controlled environments, along with props or environmental effects (like fans, heat-sources, vibrating chairs and even smells) allows artists to control every aspect of their audience's experience, often to great effect. 

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Embracing the limitations

But as awesome as those bespoke VR installations can be, lacking a completely controlled environment should not have to be a detriment to being able to create a memorable experience. As we saw in the Tender Claws VR Storytelling workshop, even within the hardware limitations of mobile VR headsets you're still capable of creating immersive and engaging experiences. 

We also learned how to better integrate gameplay mechanics into story (and story elements into gameplay), maximising players' immersion, engagement and well, *fun* they can have exploring your VR creations. 

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Conclusion

Wrapping up, I'd say the future of VR is looking very bright. With even Apple now firmly on board the XR bandwagon with their ARKit, Google's ARCore (basically Project Tango but capable of working without the fancy 3D scanner), and dropping prices of both Oculus and HTC's prices (and loads more brands looking to launch their HMD's at the magic $300 price-points in the coming years), it seems that now we're past the Peak of Inflated Expectations, we're working through the Trough of Disillusionment and slowly but steadily beginning to climb up the Slope of Enlightenment. 

If you haven't been paying attention to VR yet, now would be a very good time to start.

Author image

Gilles Vandenoostende

Interaction Designer

Digital designer & maker of things. Passionate about new technologies and loves to explore new realities: Virtual, Augmented or beyond.