Having some fun at OC5!

Notes from OC5 demos, talks & more!

This year, SB made the trek out to San Jose to check out the latest updates from the Oculus ecosystem, and had her fingers crossed that they’d make an update on Project Santa Cruz.

Here are some of her notes during the fantastic 2- Day VR / eating-fest:

P̶r̶o̶j̶e̶c̶t̶ ̶S̶a̶n̶t̶a̶ ̶C̶r̶u̶z̶ Oculus Quest! $399 USD / SP2019

Hello! SB here.

During MZ’s keynote, one prediction he made was that his team believes the threshold for VR will need to hit 10M per platform before the ecosystem becomes self sustaining. That refers to the distinct platform, so think 10M on Rift, or 10M on Go etc. Standalone makes sense in that context, and is crucial to being able to hit those numbers, and if the ecosystem allows for compatible experiences, that’s pretty exciting for developers.

Oculus Quest, $399 USD / Spring 2019, became the centerpiece of the conference, the lodestar (thanks Anonymous NYT oped for that term) of the two days at OC5. The excitement of platform compatibility, of high quality/ low friction VR for the masses permeated the air. 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF), touch controllers, 50 launch titles, built in spatial audio and the potential for more “Mixed Reality” than we’ve seen to date. The future of MR will be built on the foundation of VR, bringing in tracking and depth sensing into The headset. The demo videos of seeing the headset scan an environment and reskin it according to the theme of the experience, that’s pretty cool. As he put it, Mixed Reality is on the road map.

The Oculus platform ecosystem
Discussing future of MR and how VR can incorporate AR

Some other fun updates from the keynote included Mike Abrash’s updated predictions (still optimistic), ILMxLab’s new Vader experience with Oculus Quest, as well as the broadening of the Facebook mission to “defy distance” and improve the social experience in VR, which included developments with expressive avatars and transforming workflows for remote working (imagine using Maya in VR directly, or being able to have an expansive workspace from home, where coworkers can interact with you via VR, etc etc.

Another exciting update — Oculus Go casting to mobile phones and more. Transforming the awkwardness of VR demos forever. And making it more social.

Excited for Oculus Quest, we are.

Demos at the conference included Tennis, Superhot VR, Face Your Fears, The Void’s Secrets of the Empire and Dead and Buried.

Tennis & Superhot

Lectures, Panels & Final Keynote

Colum Slevin: Breaking the Story: Emergent Narrative from Shared Experiences

Colum Slevin started / ended his talk by using the image of Janus, and making the point that in developing content and new stories for VR, we must look to the past, but with an eye towards the future.

“The past,” Slevin noted, “is context, not a blueprint.”

The important takeaway from his talk for me, was the idea of taking what’s new about VR, and letting that guide what kinds of stories are important to tell. In the image above, you can see he highlights:

Location — Connecting the location based experiences to the home
Interactivity & Agency — games as a head start, but involving “experiential memory”
Tribal / Social — connecting fun with social presence and sharing
Standalone — relieving the friction to VR, unrestrained design space

And makes the point that these elements might be relevant for other mediums, but combined they give insight into the elements that make VR special.

Some references from his talk:

Walter Murch Lecture

Making a New Reality

VR as a “Consensual Hallucination

Ludonarrative Dissonance

Force Field VR — Martin de Ronde & FF’s Anne Frank House VR

The next lecture I attended was Developing Different Genres in VR: Learnings from the Edge of Reality from Force Field VR’s Martin de Ronde.

In it, he zeroed in on his studio’s template of tapping into core “play” emotions to make successful VR experiences. Some examples include hiding, tag, physical thrill, patterns, caretaking (pets) and others. He also went into more detail about the genesis of their Anne Frank House experience which was an interesting topic for me (since we’ve finished our own Holocaust VR experience for CMU). Their experience takes the empty space of Anne Frank’s house, and imagines it with the objects of her family’s life, to give it a new dimension that only VR can offer.

Intense E-Sports: Sneak Peak at Paris 2024???

The next lecture I attended was React 360 & Oculus Browser: Uniting the Web with VR by Andrew Mo

In this short talk, he went into detail about Facebook’s efforts to bring in the web into the Oculus Browser, and how the immersive web (Web XR) will play a role into the average user’s experience in VR. He touched on the nature of user generated content for the immersive web, Facebook’s coming 3D Photos (with depth info built into it), how Quest will affect this with room scale, interacting through 2d interfaces in VR, Mozilla Hubs (inviting friends through a link, no vr headset required), React 360, webgl2, integrating these elements into Facebook overall, and their efforts to assist the developer experience. (I tried my best guys, but this technical info was a little out of scope for my brain).

Here’s a camera that’s bigger than my face

This is a much better recap than I can write about John Carmack’s keynote. I will add that he spent the entire rest of the day answering questions from developers. That’s something I have never seen before, and I wish I had taken a picture of him with a group of twenty people huddled together outside of the happy hour reception on the last day.

Training Transformed: Walmart Explores VR at scale

(Can you tell this blog post is running out of steam?)

This was a really fascinating look at how Walmart (representative of enterprise VR in general) went all in on VR training. Some things to note, they started off with small pilots, with experiences that integrated into existing training curriculum. These VR modules reinforce learning, and provide the “practice element” that boosts confidence for associates and ingrains lessons like: the “wet produce” section optimization, customer service interactions, difficult conversations with associates, etc. The company that partnered with Walmart also highlighted the importance of remote maintenance and troubleshooting problems from afar, since they won’t be on site across the thousands of Walmart locations when problems arise. Walmart, for their part, seems invested in integrating VR training beyond customer facing associates, envisioning it being used to help on board other technology they implement in stores in the future — interactive instructions to help install tech infrastructure overall.

Creative Development for Emerging Platforms (Robin Hunicke of Funomena, Ruth Bram of Oculus)

Robin goes into a really nice conversation about the nature of authentic storytelling, leadership and design, and the importance of designing for the platform with an open mind. She talked a little about her experience designing Journey, Luna, and her approach to working with her team of diverse developers. Even though the room was packed, her speaking style was really intimate, and it truly felt like a one-on-one conversation.

And that’s all folks. I’m packing up my swag, and heading back East.

Selfie crashing