A Weekend with an Online VR/AR Conference

Have you ever been to an online conference? I hadn’t until last weekend, and without a doubt, I wasn’t disappointed. The online conference was put on by a platform called With the Best, and the topics covered, of course, VR, AR, and MR (Or else why would I be writing about it?).

If you’ve never experienced an online conference before, here’s a short description of how With the Best conducted theirs: 2 days, Saturday and Sunday, starting at 7am PST to around 3:30pm PST. Remote presenters who are involved in the field held video chats about various topics. Most used presentations paired with various videos to demonstrate their topics. After each presentation they took questions from the live audience via a small chat window next to the video screen. 1-on-1’s could also be scheduled with each presenter.

Now, the meat of things.. My thoughts on three of my favorite presentations:

  • Maximizing performance of 3D user-generated-assets in Unity with Freeform Labs.
    Presenter: M-Pixel
My thoughts: As I am really just starting to learn interactive development (c# coding and Unity & c++ coding with UE4) the optimization tips that were shared felt priceless. I don’t have the network to gain specific answers for topics like garbage collecting and how Enumerators just don’t work properly in certain situations. I was incredibly appreciative for the specific time-saving optimization tips he was willing to share.
  • A real solution to navigation in virtual worlds.
    Presenter: Julian Williams
My Thoughts: I’ve done a bit of research on omni-directional treadmills, and thought I had an idea of what was “the best,” but the points Julian brought up really did open my eyes to the positives and negatives of different solutions that I hadn’t thought of previously. For example, to be truly successful for a production solution, one has to think about packaging size and weight, not just the functionality of the hardware. I also had been really caught up with solutions trying to mimic walking as close to real-world as possible, (keep in mind I haven’t tested this myself), that I didn’t even consider that the mind wouldn’t even need this exact-ness — considering our actual focus within an immersive experience.
  • Introduction to NewtonVR: the free, cross headset, physics based interaction system.
    Presenter: Keith Bradner
My Thoughts: Being new to interactive development, I was excited to be introduced to some helpful pre-scripted physics tools to apply to future projects. After my course in c# and Unity, I understand how scripting these mechanics from scratch can take a good amount of time. Having tools to use to help me develop more quickly can only enhance the end product by giving me time to focus on the concept and artistic details.

There were so many other great talks and topics that I could just go on and on, like mixed reality insights, measuring behavior within VR, industry surveys and polls, surviving the early days as an indie developer… This blog was even inspired by a talk: Engaging and Sharing Your VR Experience. Presented by Pat Cat. It all just makes me want to learn more.

Of course, there were a few negatives to an online conference: videos were often not smooth, audio sometimes wasn’t very clear, and, since it’s online, there’s a total lack of networking among other attendees. These negatives wouldn’t stop me from attending another online conference in the future: the lower cost and fact that it was only on the weekend, comparatively made it extremely accessible.

Are there any similarly accessible conferences, shows, or platforms that you’d recommend?