VR/AR Association

The Gathering of the Immersive Tribes: VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver Takes It Up a Level

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The industry gathering that officially cemented Vancouver as one of the major centers of virtual reality and augmented reality (or, just use extended reality – or XR – as your umbrella designation), the VR/AR Global Summit, provided a view of the technology and creative sectors that are driving new avenues for audiences and investors on a global scale. Held at the gleaming Parq Vancouver hotel and casino, which just recently celebrated its first anniversary, the event was largely sponsored by Vancouver’s events chamber, and had the British Columbia economic development stamp of approval all over it. And, for those of us who have known Vancouver as a powerhouse in the visual effects and videogaming spaces for years, the increased emphasis on Vancouver as a hub for XR development of all kinds is both obvious and welcoming.

Nathan Pettyjohn welcomes the crowd at the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver, September 21, 2018

HP Entertainment’s Joanna Popper details HP’s work in the immersive space

While the VR/AR Global Summit, held on Friday, September 21stand Saturday, September 22nd, was as much a homecoming and meet-up for members of the three-year-old VR/AR Association, many of whom had never met in person (and, yes, Kris Kolo, the elusive, near-mythical executive director, was there for people to actually meet, and dispel rumors that he is merely a clever avatar), the event summoned an even greater level of introduction to innovation that is happening rapidly in the immersive space, even for those whose revenue depends on some form of XR development.

 

The brainchild of Anne Marie Ens, executive producer of the event, the VR/AR Global Summit brought leaders from Hollywood, New York, Washington, D.C., the Bay Area, Taiwan, Ukraine, New Zealand, and, of course, all across Canada. What was resident, even from hardware providers, at the event was the level of creative production that is just starting to bubble in a meaningful way from major tech companies, from Intel’s Optane platform, showcased in its Smithsonian Museum Renwick Gallery walk-through, to HP’s impressive work with the likes of VR Studios, which itself got a PR boost the week prior to the event with Cineplex’s announcement of more than 40 full VR arcades to be installed across Canada by 2021.

Intel’s Raj Puran, with YDreams’ Daniel Japiassu; VR Studios’ Chanel Summers; Dark Slope Studios’ Ben Unsworth, and DreamCraft Attractions’ Krystian Guevara at the location-based entertainment panel, September 22, 2018

Perhaps the most famous global IP that was on display at the show was from Taiwan’s Studio2 Animation, which debuted its VR series of shorts for the popular animated character Barkley the cat. The 6-minute block of 25 shorts marks a major move into VR for animated content; the Barkely feature film was a huge hit in mainland China and Taiwan in 2016.

Chris Pfaff, Grace Chuang, and Chiu Li Wei (Studio2 Animation) with Studio2’s Barkley the cat

Producers were quite evident at the show, and highlighted by back-to-back panels on Saturday afternoon, as Chris Pfaff led the ‘Producing in XR: What to Know Before Immersion’ panel, with Silverscreen Cinematics’ Jeff Olm; AWE Company’s Srinivas Krishna, and MediaCombo’s Michael Owen. The panel explored major AR and VR production techniques, as well as post-production considerations. A second panel, ‘Storytelling and Content Creation in VR/AR’ featured Observe Media’s Travis Cloyd; InspireVR’s John Penn; Vuze’s Jim Malcolm, and Cloudhead Games’ Denny Unger.

Michael Owen, from MediaCombo; Jeff Olm, from Silverscreen Cinematics; Chris Pfaff, from Chris Pfaff Tech Media, and Srinivas Krishna, from AWE Company, prior to, and on the ‘Producing in XR: What to Know Before Immersion’ panel, September 22, 2018

Michael Owen, Srinivas Krishna, Chris Pfaff, Travis Cloyd, and John Penn after their panels, September 22, 2018

Local Vancouver firms were quite visible, from Cognitive3D to Mythical City Games to Stambol Studios. Dark Slope Studios, based in Toronto, held a private event with its principals; the studio is creating location-based immersive entertainment and features an all-star cast of principals, including Raja Khanna, Ben Unsworth, and CJ Hervey.

Raja Khanna, center, executive chairman of Dark Slope Studios, welcomes the audience at a private event, Tap & Barrel, Athlete’s Village, Vancouver, September 21, 2018

Of all the myriad experiences being demonstrated on platforms from Vive to Hololens to, yes, Magic Leap, perhaps the most compelling was YDreams’ ‘The Last Squad,’ produced with ArkaveVR. The 3-person VR shooter is an ideal arcade game, and is addictive in its graphical clarity, screen direction, and sheer entertainment value. As a sign of Vancouver’s attractiveness for the XR community, YDreams recently moved its company to the city. The BC Tech group put the final punctuation on the event by holding an after-party at The Cube, the 6,000-square foot co-working space that hosts a wide range of start-ups in the VR/AR space.

The Cube, scene of the after-party for the VR/AR Global Summit, Vancouver, September 22, 2018

Overall, the VR/AR Global Summit was an affirmation of what the VR/AR Global Association set out to accomplish when Nathan Pettyjohn and a few people started a truly global organization in 2015: bringing the immersive community together on a grand scale. This is still an industry in its early days, and yet even those who have been involved in it for decades see something new every day. So it was in Vancouver; another eye-opener for the immersive crowd.

Amar Dhaliwal, Atheer; Parm Sandhu, Telus, and Kris Kolo, executive director of the VR/AR Association 

 

 

VR/AR Association Brings ‘AR for Producers’ to The Alley in Manhattan

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Some of New York’s leading AR technology developers attracted a crowd at The Alley, Verizon’s 5G collaborative lab and work space in Chelsea last Tuesday, May 8th, at an event sponsored by the VR/AR Association’s New York chapter. ‘AR for Producers: How to Engage Audiences on Multiple Platforms’ was well-titled, as most of the audience was comprised of new media and television producers who are looking at AR for a wide range of production elements, including fan engagement, 2nd-screen extensions, and location-based entertainment.

 

JR Dawkins welcomes the crowd to The Alley     Michael and Serge Doudy provide an overview of the VR/AR Association

Eric Schwertzel, head of business development for eyecandylab’s US presence, demonstrated the AugmenTV concept, in which TV content triggers experiences on mobile using an AR app. This is a long sought-after play, and should have traction in sports as well as episodic TV.

Eric Schwertzel discusses AugmentTV

Gordon Meyer, head of marketing for Lampix, demonstrated the company’s projector-based AR solution, which is ideal for retail and public venue experiences.

Gordon Meyer presents the Lampix innovation

JR Dawkins, head of business development for Envrmnt by Verizon, showcased the Envrmnt AR Designer tool, the industry’s first true drag-and-drop AR tool. The simplicity of the tool enables anyone – with no coding experience – to create AR triggers on physical objects, and more.

JR Dawkins presents AR Designer      Ryan Hilla assists with AR Designer demo

Far beyond what previous generations of AR solutions have provided, the presenters discussed the value that 5G will bring to AR, enabling seamless, low-latency experiences with greater connectivity levels.

JR Dawkins, Gordon Meyer, and Eric Schwertzel discuss the AR industry

Chris Pfaff, JR Dawkins, Gordon Meyer, and Eric Schwertzel during the panel discussion at ‘AR for Producers’

For many in the audience, it was their first time in The Alley, which opened last spring, and has gained a following among the technorati of the city.

Lampix demo at ‘AR for Producers’

Chris Pfaff and Ally Perez, event coordinator for The Alley, powered by Verizon

VR/AR Association Presents ‘Narrative in VR: How to Create Compelling Stories with Virtual Reality’ at NYU Tandon Future Lab

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On a steamy late-September Monday (September 25, 2017), on the first day of Advertising Week New York, the VR/AR Association hosted an event with some of the leaders in VR storytelling, ‘Narrative in VR: How to Create Compelling Stories with Virtual Reality,’ at the NYU Tandon Future Lab in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

(l to r) Brian Seth Hurst; Caitlin Burns; Raheel Khalid, and Lewis Smithingham at the NYU Tandon Future Lab in DUMBO

Moderated by Chris Pfaff, the panel featured Brian Seth Hurst, Chief Storytelling and President at StoryTech Immersive; Raheel Khalid, CTO of Verizon envrmnt; Caitlin Burns, founder/CEO of Caitlin Burns & Associates, and Lewis Smithingham, president and partner at 30ninjas. An audience of 35 producers, artists, and students were part of a lively discussion regarding VR’s narrative structures, and how much of today’s VR industry has adapted game design techniques to better deliver moving experiences.

Marco Castro, artist in residence at NYU Tandon Future Lab, welcomes the crowd

Brian Seth Hurst showed his groundbreaking piece ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ which premiered on HTC Viveport at Sundance 2017, and was produced for PBS Digital Studios. Currently the most widely distributed VR film to date, ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ was what Hurst detailed as an invention process, as it is the first live action VR film shot at 120 frames per second, and includes innovation such as 180 framing and Bokeh inside the sphere.

Brian Seth Hurst discusses ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

Raheel Khalid showed some of Verizon envrmnt’s latest work, its ‘Virtual Sports Bar’ experience, which creates opportunities for multi-user drop-in experiences. He has helped build new tools for multi-user VR experiences that will enable producers and consumers to shape their own VR narratives in real-time.

Raheel Khalid shows off the Verizon envrmnt virtual sports bar, and discusses new VR tools for multi-user narratives

Caitlin Burns described some of her work on Space Nation, a Helsinki-based organization that uses virtual experiences to train civilians for space travel. She also discussed some of her early learnings in VR storytelling, and how to overcome technological hurdles to maintain narrative focus.

Caitlin Burns discusses Space Nation

Lewis Smithingham described challenges that he has faced with VR and AR productions, including his work for the ‘Conan O’Brien Show.’

Lewis Smithingham describes the challenges of live VR and AR production

Raheel Khalid gives Lewis Smithingham a Google Daydream demo

VR/AR Association Event, ‘VR for Producers’ Features Verizon envrmnt, Littlstar, and Associated Press at NYU Data Futures Lab

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The first VR/AR Association New York Chapter event of 2017, ‘Virtual Reality for Producers: How to Create and Deliver for the New Content Frontier,’ took place last Wednesday night, February 15th, at the NYU Data Futures Lab, and it delivered not only a full standing-room-only crowd of 95 people, but some of New York’s finest producers working the VR scene.

You can watch the video of the event at:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B58D21m9dOMOdFJJSGE1UWMzVzA

Kris Kolo, New York chapter head of the VR/AR Association, introduces the goals and benefits of the organization

As more New York producers learn the craft of producing in VR, the industry will grow concomitantly. Wednesday’s session was an ideal session for learnings from the likes of Paul Cheung, direct of interactive at Associated Press (AP); Alissa Crevier, global head of partnerships, at Littlstar, and Christian Egeler, director of VR/AR product development with Verizon envrmnt.

Chris Pfaff introduces the speakers and sets up the event

Paul Cheung guided the audience through his learnings with the almost dozen VR cameras that he and his team have tested. He discussed some of the work that AP has done with branded content partners, and how to adapt the standards of the AP (an organization that literally developed the journalistic standards known as “AP Style” over the past 180-plus years) to VR production. In other words, while shooting a scene, do you keep the DP and/or the producer in the shot, or matte that out? For AP, that choice is obvious: leave the production team in the frame. Cheung described some of the learnings in VR as they apply to the overall production work that his interactive has to deal with, enabling a smoother workflow scenario.

Paul Cheung discusses the range of VR cameras that AP has tested and and used

For Alissa Crevier, Littlstar’s work has grown to the point where the company is as much a platform for content as it is a stand-alone producer of VR content. This has created a new kind of channel for VR partners, and the Littlstar roster of clients includes the who’s who of major content distributors, including Disney/ABC, Discovery, Nat Geo, Showtime, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. Crevier’s experience with Spotify, and the music industry in general, have helped her navigate clearances and understand the vagaries of the live music scene, and live streaming, to understand the value of WebVR versus individual VR platforms, such as Oculus, Gear, or Vive, among others.

Alissa Crevier presents Littlstar’s productions and its content platform model

Christian Egeler took the audience through the Verizon envrmnt learnings, and how they have applied to the studio’s growth in areas that include their Social VR platform. The envrmnt cross-platform SDK has gained traction in the industry, including with the March, 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, which includes an AR app, a native app, and integrated envrmnt SDK so that trigger images are easier to recognize. Egeler also showed an Alpine Village demo with dynamic updates (first showed at the Amazon Web Services Invent and Nvidia conferences). He hinted at the possibility that envrmnt might release a “build your own” 3D engine later this year. A VR experience produced for Super Bowl LI was also demonstrated.

Christian Egeler shares learnings from Verizon envrmnt’s studio work, and showcases new work, including its Social VR platform

The audience, mostly comprised of producers, was intrigued by the experiences that the three presenters had. The lively panel discussion dove into issues surrounding the growth of an industry that still has yet to standardize areas of production and post-production, as well as the growth of WebVR, in the wake of a still-early headset market.

Paul Cheung during the panel discussion

Mina Salib (right, speaking), program manager at the NYU Futures Labs, introduces the audience to new opportunities at the Labs

Paul Cheung (rear of photo, against window), and Alissa Crevier (right front), address audience questions after the ‘VR for Producers’ event

 

Augmented Reality for Producers Event Packs the House at NYU Data Future Lab

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The latest augmented reality (AR) technology, and some of its leading producers, packed the house at the NYU Data Future Lab last night in SoHo, at Chris Pfaff’s ‘AR for Producers: Bending the Arc in Real Life’ event, presented with the VR/AR Association, New York Chapter. The event was held at the end of the first day of Advertising Week New York 2016, and brought together technologists and producers alike for demos and discussions regarding AR’s application to multiscreen content.

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Ariff Quli, chief commercial officer, Americas for Blippar answers a question at ‘AR for Producers’ at the NYU Data Future Lab

 

A full house of more than 75 people crowded into the Think Tank at the lab, and witnessed a presentation of Provision’s Holovision holographic display unit, which is used by several leading consumer brands. Ted Iannuzzi, creative business technologist with design and development firm Ixonos detailed the product’s significance in the context of his long history in emerging technologies. Ixonos is currently working with Provision to design the next generation of the Holovision experience, which will incorporate the first ‘touchless’ touch screen.

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Ted Iannuzzi, creative business technologist with Ixonos, demos the Provision Holovision holographic projection kiosk, and discusses past visions of AR

 

Blippar’s US director of commercial operations, Ariff Quli, led off the event, showing how the Blippar app drives interactive engagement for brands including Spotify (a playlist driven by Blippar from a Coca-Cola can) and others. Ariff even pulled an audience member aside to draw a picture, which was then rendered elegantly using Blippar’s recognition technology.

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Ariff Quli demos Blippar; activated Spotify playlist, tagging physical objects, and bringing audience member’s drawing to life (a butterly!)

Diego Florentin, head of business development for Montevideo, Uruguay-based Squadability, showed some of his company’s industry-leading AR work for brands, including the Harry Potter exhibit at Universal Studios. He made a passionate pitch for producers to drive more content with AR tags and hooks, to enable greater development.

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Diego Florentin, from Squadability, inspires the audience with demos of AR work for brands and media companies

Futurefly’s founder and chief product officer Ozz Hakkinen discussed his career as a successful game publisher, who wanted to move into game development, and how that spurred his latest work, the RAWR app, which applies contextual content hooks to an avatar-based experience that enables a new kind of chat.

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Ozz Hakkinen, founder and chief product officer of Futurefly, demos the RAWR app, with contextual emojis for avatar chat

Much discussion ensued regarding the coming of Magic Leap’s platform; head-up displays (HUDs), including Osterhout Digital Group’s glasses, and the incredible impact that Pokémon Go has made on the AR industry. Much discussion took place around the latest developments in AR from the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

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Chris Pfaff, CEO of Chris Pfaff Tech Media LLC, and Ted Iannuzzi, before the event

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Paul Wilford (gesturing), research director at Bell Labs, talks about VR as a Service (VRaaS) before the event

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Mina Salib, manager of the NYU Data Future Lab, welcomes the audience