Held in Split, Croatia. 25–27 May, 2018

We did it! 50 like-minded people from around the world, all leaders in the XR (VR and AR) space, convened in our beautiful city of Split, Croatia to learn, celebrate, and build friendships over 3 days in late May.

It started off 6 months ago with me sitting in front of my laptop on a desk at Boost VC in Silicon Valley going through the everyday grind and hustle. Lucky me, surrounded by amazing people working on exciting and inspiring products. A thriving community.

I felt something was missing, though.

It wasn’t just because my desk was in the basement cut off from the wonderful Northern California weather. I missed my hometown, Split. A city on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. A perfect little peninsula surrounded by 12 km of beaches and countless bays, small green hill, and crystal clear sea. 1700 years ago, roman emperor Diocletian — the most powerful man on the planet, chose this piece of heaven to be his retirement home.

I started reminiscing about how my home inspired me to start my journey and gave me the energy to go around the globe by allowing me to go back and forth from work mode to fjaka.

Then it hit me. Why don’t I bring the wonderful people I’ve met here and from other parts of the world together to Split and give them a dose of what helped me? Wouldn’t we be able to have a productive, exciting, yet relaxing meeting of minds that beats any conference? Moreover, couldn’t I show them the potential our incredible city has to become a hub for tech entrepreneurship?

Imminent goosebumps… and when I shared the idea with others as well as photos and videos of Split, they got goosebumps of their own.

And 6 months later, here we are. Our first Summit.

Daniel Sproll of Realities.io

We wanted to make this first event intimate in terms of both size and atmosphere to maximize our chances of success, which we aimed to measure by the participants’ level of mutual learning and enjoyment, not to mention the connections they made. So we were very deliberate in our invitations — and it paid off greatly.

Krasi Nikolov of Quark VR

In the end, we had 50 participants representing the XR tech community from Europe, China, and the U.S., including the following 5 incredible speakers: Dominic Eskofier, Daniel Sproll, Krasimir Nikolov, Amir Bozorgzadeh and Alexander Haque.

We also had 4 amazing experts who couldn’t come yet were keen in participating they dialed in via Skype: Tony Parisi, Ryan Wang, Az Balabanian and Igor Knezevic.

So amazing location, wonderful people, and an exciting, world-changing topic… it was all on us to make sure this all came together over the 3 days. Let me give you the highlights.

Day 1: From the Office to the Beach

We started off at 6 pm at our office in a wooded area just off the beach. We chose this timing to kick off things Dalmatian style — relaxed and laid back on a warm summer evening to get people to feel at home and comfortable.

Amir and Daniel discussing latest all immersive in a caffe bar just next to our office

We warmed up with remote presentations by the people dialing in.

  • Ryan Wang — Global XR adoption and China’s role
  • Tony Parisi — Trends in VR/AR from Unity’s perspective
  • Az Balabanian — Creating magic from 3D and photogrammetry
  • Igor Knezevic — Hollywood’s take on immersive computing

Then I gave an introductory presentation to welcome people, give an overview of Split and the environment that makes us so special. After that were the demos on the latest platforms such as HTC Vive Pro and Focus, etc., followed by drinks and pizza on the beach. Yes, we moved everything onto the sand. After wrapping up, I hear some had fun in the thriving Split night scene ;)

Day 2: Split, historical and futuristic

Oliver guiding people through Split’s history and culture

Started the day with a professionally guided group tour of old Split and its rich history. We wanted people to understand why Diocletian, the most powerful man on Earth back then, chose to retire and enjoy life the most in Split. If it worked for him 1700 years ago, why not for us?

We then had a delicious lunch of traditional Dalmatian food and went to Bajso tavern, which then became our venue for Day 2’s summit sessions.

  • Daniel Sproll — VR is dead — long live the VR
  • Krasi Nikolov — From zero to Minority Report
  • Alexander Hawk — VR, the good, bad and ugly
  • Amir Bozorgzadeh — Meet the new standard XR metrics
  • Dominic Eskofier — How NVIDIA is enabling the holodeck
Drone view over the 2nd day venue

These sessions were interspersed with opportunities to enjoy more food, and towards the end, we moved to the terrace overlooking the Adriatic sea to have deep and entertaining conversations over wine and grappa. A perfect summer night. Life at its best.

Day 3: Immersion in a Split Reality

Another historical tour in the morning to immerse ourselves in Split’s rich history, this time to Klis Fortress, built in the 1st century and a critical spot for Dalmatia’s defense over time. XR is about immersion, after all!

At the Fortress of Klis, just above the city — fun times!

We spent the afternoon of Day 3 on panel discussions and XR demos. Our aim was to make people think what’s the current reality of the market for XR. The highlight of the day was our “false narratives” panel, moderated by the great Amir Bozorgzadeh where we discussed the true state of the industry around the factors that distort our understanding of XR and the resulting confusion about where we are. Amir’s write-up of this panel is on VentureBeat and it’s a must-read. LINK to article.

After a day full of discoveries, discussions, and networking, we wrapped up the day — and the summit — on the beach again. Because that’s how we live and work in Split. Immerse yourself in technology and work, then go off to the beach to relax, unwind, and recharge. One splits life between those two states in Split (bad pun, I know). People are happy here, and the people who come here should go home happy. And they did.

That’s it — we’re proud to say that with SplitX, we pulled off something totally unique and rewarding for our participants. Not your usual conference, more of a meeting of minds in our beautiful city filled with stimulating ideas, provocative discussions, new friendships, and lots of great food and wine on the beach.

As with any new and ambitious technological endeavor, it takes the collaborative effort of those who lead the charge to drive mass adoption, develop markets, and build an ecosystem where we all thrive in the long run. We dare to say that for XR, our hometown became a cradle in which that collaborative mindset was nurtured.

Too good to be true? Why don’t come check us out yourself ;)

Our sincere appreciation to those who helped us make SplitX a success: Boost VC, Fjaka Tours, Mushroom Cups, Azadux, Ivan Budisin and last but not least — amazing Ivan Guć of ToothCam. And most of all, our wonderful panelists and participants — thanks for coming!

Special acknowledgement goes out to Naotake Murayama, his input and support was of immense help throughout the journey of SplitX so far. Even better, he’ll be visiting Split next week to discuss how we can take this even further!

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This is what you get when you do a good job of hosting people XD

Loved every moment of it.