I went to Unity Vision Summit 2017

I went to the Unity Vision Summit this year for Part Time Evil. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a VR/AR summit. Basically, it’s the Unity VR equivalent of something like WWDC for Apple.

What I did there

Awkwardly Standing Around: I did this a lot between sessions.

Marveling at all the Hollywood Landmarks: As a theatre person, I can feel the magic any time I’m near these places. And the Vision summit was in the Hollywood and Highland center (see the 360 image below), which is basically at the location of the Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre. Pretty cool. If you’re like me, these places send you on endless Wikipedia searches until you end up at the silent film era and Sid Grauman.

Going to talks: I tried to go to everything relevant to what we do at Part Time Evil. So at Vision, that was Story in VR, Cinema and VR, and a whole lot of AR technology talks.

Here is the view of Hollywood and Highland, where I did my awkward standing.

My impressions

Unity 2017 is going to have a lot of VR and AR functionality built-in. This includes the already rolled-out native hooks for GoogleVR. But it will also include a large amount of features for Vuforia, and Text Mesh Pro. Ok Im slow to write this, and we’re already using 2017 for a project. So far so good.

Keynote: Really good stuff here. I feel like the heart of our company, PTE, is in the border between games, theatre, and movies. The main thing about VR that gets me so excited is that the intersection between those things is a new sweet spot. We heard from a couple of amazing VR movie studios, some consultants, and the CEO of Unity. His section included some demos of new technology. Oh and Microsoft will be sending us another headset. We will use it wisely.

Side Note: No keynote should ever be almost 4 hours. I am not a good sitter. And this was actually a super interesting keynote. Probably my favorite one ever, but wow, that needed a bio break. On the plus side, it was good training for the flight home to Austin.

Trust me, it was packed. But I would feel weird taking a 360 photo with all those people!

The Crowd: It was great to be in the company of other people who make things. I go to SXSW so much as an Austinite that I have “marketing fatigue.” Everything in SXSW revolves so much around BRANDS. Branded this, branded that (wasn’t there like a 50 foot tall Doritos machine?). I basically beg people to talk to me about making things. Vision was quite different. Everyone likes to use the term “nerd” now and it’s cliché; but this wasnt the pop culture nerd crowd. This was us talking about what things we will make in 2020. Can’t beat that. Lots of new friends here…

The Future of XR: We can all laugh at our predictions in five years. However, most people at the keynote seem to think that XR will be the future of interacting with computers. A merging of computers and humans. That leads me to the next point….

Adoption by the masses: I still think we won’t see everyday, regular adoption of XR (in the way we use cell phones) if it’s dependent on glasses or goggles. I might be a tech professional, but I’m also from Pittsburgh. I just ask my “Pittsburgh self” it this makes sense. Sometimes that person says “naw, man, nobody wants to wear that” (with the right Pittsburgh accent). I always try to listen to that voice, and it’s he’s often right about mass adoption of technology. I think us tech people are wishful (which is the point), but you have to maintain “a compass of reality.” Or the alternative is that people end up thinking Segways will change transportation forever. And we know how that went.

My Favorite products at Vision

Software: Oooooh man did I love the mood of a game called Virtual Virtual Reality. It is bascially “the Portal of VR” (at least I thought so). A menacing, yet snarky AI tormenting you, the dumb human.

Hardware: Ive used most headsets, but not one after the other in one session. I did this on purpose, in the same room. My conclusion is that hololens is really the closest to where I think things are going; it’s untethered, you can still see the world around you, and it does a great job of tracking surfaces. That would be followed by Daydream and GearVR, which are accessible, affordable (if you have a phone), and easy to setup/maintain. I still consider Vive and Oculus to be great for hardcore gamers, demos at conventions and on-location. They all have their place.

Conclusion: Then I went home. The view was nice.