Last Friday marked the beginning of CVR 2017 at the Vancouver Convention Center. This was the second year that CVR took place, and it transformed from a 1-day event to a 3-day one. We at Mana Marketing visited the event on industry day, which happened on May 5th, 2017.
The day began with some keynote speakers, starting with Evelyn Miralles from NASA. She is the lead VR innovator and has been working at NASA since the early beginnings of when they started to integrate VR into their operations. She took us through what NASA used VR for and there’s a surprising variety of activities that require VR training for astronauts. Amongst these were training for extravehicular activities, spacewalk activities, robotic operations, and more. VR training wasn’t confined to just earth. In space, astronauts may need to refresh their training on the International Space Station since they’ve been up there for a long time.
VR provides a safe place where they can simulate situations and receive training to prepare themselves. This is why NASA has always been at the forefront of VR. They created their own graphics engine called DOUG (Dynamic Onboard Ubiquitous Graphics) and fashioned their own VR headsets back in 1991. Evelyn did share plans of NASA moving to adopting consumer headsets in the future though, as the ones available in the market becomes more sophisticated and well-made.
Next up, Tom Emrich from We Are Wearables and Super Ventures did a talk on “Wearables’ Role in Our Human Evolution”. Being a leader in wearable technology, Tom is committed to driving adoption and innovation in this sector of the tech industry. In his talk, he explores how technology and humans are tightly connected. In the present day, we often blame tech for pulling us away from reality. For example, Tom gave an example of how when we upload a picture to Instagram, we have to choose between the real experience that’s happening in reality and the virtual one where we share a picture we took to the online world.
He sees wearable tech as the bridge that can close the gap between us having to choose between virtual and reality. These wearables augment our experiences so that what’s virtual can feel more like the real world. In the future, when wearable tech is on us 24/7, we won’t have to continually feed info into it. Instead, it can constantly collect info and provide us with important learnings, such as health statistics for our doctors.
Following Tom’s talk came a panel of speakers who explored the VR/AR/MR scene in BC. The panel was made up of Nancy Mott of the Vancouver Economic Commission, Erik Kiss who was formerly from Funny Fox, Bill Tam from the BC Tech Association, and James Hursthouse of DigiBC. A lot of questions regarding how VR was doing in BC were passed around. How prominent is the VR/AR/MR industry in BC? The experts tell us that it’s quite strong. In BC, we have a diverse array of technology and people with experience who can help with the growth of the industry. One thing that we should keep in mind is that since BC is traditionally embedded into the entertainment scene, we’ll have to work to transfer those skills and adapt them to the VR industry to continue bolstering its growth.
We were pretty excited to hear from the panelists in the “Gaming and VR” talk that came next. We had Pete Moss from Unity, E McNeill the creator of Darknet and Tactera, and Denny Unger from Cloudhead Games to talk about what issues the gaming industry faced in terms of VR. All speakers agreed that locomotion was still a huge thing in VR that needs to be fixed. There’s a lot of work to do in terms of perfecting locomotion before it can match what people want in VR without making them nauseous.
How about identifying the best genre of game for VR? There were talks of wave shooters and even bullet hell virtual reality games. However, if the medium is to survive, the technology itself will have to stand out on its own rather than relying on a particular genre of game. Which leads to AAA studios bringing big titles to VR. Is this good or bad? There’s a sense of worriedness from the panelists on the lack of involvement AAA studios have had in the VR scene since its inception. Some of the AAA titles that have been released were met with poor reviews. VR has been dominated by the indie crowd, so there’s a lot that AAA studios will have to learn from indies. Otherwise, AAA titles may hurt the VR industry if the games they make don’t pay attention to the rules of VR that indie developers have established and have been working with. If someone tries a big AAA title in VR for the first time and it makes them sick, it likely will be their last experience in VR.
If you’re working in VR and looking for investments, CVR had a panel on “Investments in VR/AR/MR”. The speakers consisted of Ray Walia from Victory Square Ventures, Hrish Lothikar from Rogue Initiative, Masaru “Nogi” Ohnogi from Gumi, and the panel was led by Tom Emrich (Super Ventures) from a previous keynote talk. One major takeaway is that investors are looking to invest in companies whose target customers understand VR. One issue that many VR products and services face is that the main consumers they target still have yet to wrap their heads around VR. For VCs, the last thing they want to do is to pick up an investment where they have to take on the role of educators in order for them to reach the target market. One thing’s for sure though: AR is going to be a lot more applicable to a wider variety of industries. This is what VCs are going to be vying for when it comes to investments.
Asides from talks, CVR also provided a large show floor for various VR demos and virtual reality games. Microsoft was one of the first exhibitors we visited and they were letting attendees try on the HoloLens.
They had a neat area set up in their booth that invited you to take a trip into space via the HoloLens. Since the HoloLens is a mixed reality headset, the user is able to see their surroundings at all times unlike in VR. However, AR comes into play when what you see is altered with holograms that are formed from your headset. Taking into account what you’re looking at, the HoloLens will project images and words onto your surroundings. We got to take a look at planets and explore the solar system from a fairly small booth area. That was definitely a neat experience!
From Cloudhead Games, we tried out the upcoming chapter of The Gallery called Heart of the Emberstone. The game’s demo gave you a good sense of how The Gallery utilizes VR. You’re instantly met with several puzzles that really requires you to kneel down so that you’re able to solve them. The environment is also vibrant and mysterious, which leads you to want to stay in this sci-fi world you’re now transported to.
Another game that caught our attention on the show floor was Blasters of the Universe. Watching people try it out was a different experience altogether. We had to ask for a shot at the game as we watched people duck, jump, and wave their arms around. What exactly were they trying to dodge? It turns out it was everything. Classifying itself as a VR bullet hell game, you’ll find yourself met with hundreds of bullets that you’ll have to avoid or block. Meanwhile, you’ll also have to eliminate as many of your enemies as possible. The game has a unique aesthetic that can be described as retro, but also future-esque. Super cool and engaging game that will likely leave you short of breath!
Archiact, the host of CVR, also had a large booth at the event. We tried out Hidden Fortune, a game that’s now optimized for the Gear VR. I couldn’t help but madly wave my glowing wand around once I got a hold of the controller. You’re instantly set on a quest to find certain objects amongst a variety of floating items before you. Your wand can grab objects, and I had some difficulty reaching some of the items that were hidden behind other objects until I realized my wand could also shoot orbs to knock things out of my way. The game isn’t all about retrieving items though. You’ll eventually have to use your wand’s grabbing and shooting abilities to do a variety of puzzles such as playing a series of musical notes to open a door. Be ready to meet a cast of hilarious characters in your journey of rescuing your parents from a mad wizard!
We stopped by LlamaZoo as well. LlamaZoo aims to provide educational value to the VR scene. In the demo we tried out, we were shown the anatomy of a canine in the middle of a veterinary clinic. Lines are emitted from your controller, with which you can use to pick and pull out any part of the canine. There was also a screen behind you, that upon picking up a part, the screen would display information regarding that particular piece. The amazing thing about this demo was definitely the amount of detail in the model. You’re really able to take a detailed look at the muscles, bones and even veins of the specimen!
Last year’s CVR was met with complaints in regards to its lineups, which was understandable considering how it was a 1-day event that had to cater to 2,800 attendees. Taking into account last year’s experiences, CVR has transformed to a very pleasant experience that provides a lot of educational and experiential value to anyone who attended the event—whether they were from the industry or not. Seeing the amount of people in the city working with this new means of storytelling and immersion was very inspiring. Super excited to see what CVR 2018 will have in store for Vancouver!
As a parting note, we wanted to do a quick shoutout to the Vancouver VR Community. If you’re working in VR, love VR, or looking to get into VR in Vancouver, check out their website to find out how you can get involved. It’s full of goodies such as resources to help you get started with developing in VR, and a list of studios and content creators who are working with VR. You’ll be with like-minded folks and you’re sure to learn lots!