A search for crazy VR in Japan

Last week I spent 72 hours in Japan. I went for a Google Design conference, but while in town I figured I’d check out the current state of VR on the other side of the world.

My main stop was a convention called CEATEC — the “CES of Japan.” Several hundred thousand people attend each year, and I was led to believe there would be a large VR presence…

As I road the 90 min train toward the convention center, I grew excited when I saw an ad featuring VR:

But when I arrived, I learned VR was a teeny tiny component of the conference. Here was the exhibit hall map:

Do you see the VR section? Let me zoom in.

Still don’t see it? One more zoom:

Anyway, there were some VR experiences throughout the massive exhibit hall, but they were mostly tacked on to booths as shiny attention-seekers and rarely had much to do with what the booth was advertising.

For instance, VR hang gliding from TE Connectivity (aka Tyco):

And Felt Tip Circus in the Motorola booth (note the line):

And Jungle DINO on the Rift in this booth selling podium-things:

There were some interesting VR-related applications. For instance, this booth used 8 rotating SLR cameras to make a 3D scan of you. It took 4 sec for an initial pass, ~30 sec for full processing, and spat out an OBJ:

Here’s the model they captured (still waiting for them to email it to me):

There were tangentially-related VR things, too, like this haptics armband:

And this prototype that would recommend color schemes based on a scan of you (using a Kinect), while also tracking movement of people in the booth:

There was one HMD from Fujitsu that shot lasers on your retina — intended as a vision aid.

DJI had a prototype headset on display (didn’t actually function):

And obviously some sweet new drones:

There were a few 3D printing companies, too:

And robots everywhere:

And a device that let’s users feel music through their hair?

And this thing you put on your head to make you happy (I think?)

So that was a conference. Overall, meh. But I think that’s more a representation of the conference than Japan. Most of the major players in tech were absent from the conference.

Outside of the conference, I ventured in Akihabara — “electric town” — to look for VR. This is a mecca for crazy electronics fans.

Sadly, I only found ONE VR-focused shop. And they were just selling Vives and other off the shelf hardware. They had a demo sign-up and some European tourists enjoying themselves.

There are also “VR Arcades” elsewhere where you can rent headsets by the hour, but I didn’t find those.

The thing I really should have checked out was VR ZONE Project I can, a high-end VR arcade that has 6 experiences, mostly using Vives, with special gear. Unfortunately you need to book this place 30 days in advance!

There’s also Sky Circus that I missed. Clearly I did this wrong.

Next time, Japan…