Jazmin-Cano Jazmin Cano is a 3D artist at the educational VR startup Discovr. Discovr was within the first class of companies within the Rothenberg Ventures River acceleration program. They are creating immersive education experiences that focus on experiential discovery, immersive environments, and engaged learning. Their vision statement explains how the immersive nature of VR can help provide a much more rich and vivid learning experience:

The benefits of experiential education have been validated by integration of ‘field trips’ modern curriculums and the preservation of museums around the world. Many studies have shown that people form better memories through real life experiences and interactions, rather than reading about them from a piece of paper. We believe that this is a cue for virtual reality.

Our mission is to challenge the ways in which we digest educational content. Our products are pioneer applications in what we believe will eventually become an entire market of educational content for the burgeoning virtual reality industry.

In this interview, Jazmin talks about some of the projects that they’re working on including Discovr Rome and a periodic table educational experience. She shares some of her lessons learned, how she draws on inspiration from Ready Player One’s Oasis, and what she is looking forward to the most within virtual reality.

It’s clear to me that Jazmin has a lot of passion for the future potential of VR, and I’m really excited to see what role Discovr will play in the educational VR space.

For more information, you can check out Discovr Labs’ website or check out UploadVR’s interview with the founder Josh Madonado.

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will-masonUploadVR is a relative newcomer to covering the virtual reality space, but it’s quickly establishing itself as a leading voice in first-person accounts of trying out the latest VR technologies, but also providing a stage for the emerging players in the VR ecosystem.

Will Mason is the editor in chief of UploadVR.com, and he says that UploadVR’s mission is to elevate the VR industry through two different approaches of holding consumer-facing events to evangelize VR to the wider public as well as providing a microphone to VR startups and developers through the UploadVR.com news site.

UploadVR actually started as a VR meetup in the Bay area by Taylor Freeman after the Facebook acquisition of Oculus VR because he wanted to experience VR for the first time. There were over 100 people show up without a lot of advertising, and then UploadVR continued to do more events focusing on promoting and evangelizing VR to the wider public. UploadVR’s first big blowout event featured over 60 different VR demos and was able to bring in over 1400 people attend. Will says that they tried to create an event that had a nightlife vibe and would be interesting to attend for people who don’t typically get excited about technology, and he’s proud to that reflected in a 50/50 gender balance of attendees.

Will started to write about the VR community on the UploadVR site after the South Park episode which featured the Oculus Rift with an article VR getting a South Park Bump, and then a follow-up piece about the customer service team from Oculus making an inside joke referring to that episode by responding as “Steve” to all of the customer service tickets. The articles attracted a lot of attention on Reddit, and so he started focusing on writing more and more articles about the VR space.

Some of the other topics that we discuss include:

  • Keys to holding a successful consumer VR event
  • Some of the contributing writers including Ryan Damm, Matthew Terndrup, Tony Davidson, and more recently Ian Hamilton.
  • VR can only succeed if the VR developers are able to succeed, and they want to help provide that exposure.
  • Some of his favorite experiences are being creative in VR like Tilt Brush
  • Hardware news gets a lot of attention, and he’s really interested in how VR can be used in education
  • VR can undo the damage of what social media has done and can restore the non-verbal body language within our online communication as well as be able to scale better in online social situations.
  • Compelling social VR experiences with just simple head movements in Convrge.

You can keep track of different VR events through the UploadVR meetup page and keep track of the latest VR news on the UploadVR.com site.

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Psious Inc. is creating virtual reality experiences to help people overcome their fears using the principle of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy allows people to incrementally experience a stimulus that can cause anxiety or fears. Psious is collaborating with mental health professionals by providing them with a set of self-contained mobile VR experiences designed to help expose people to small doses of a variety of different phobias including fear of flying, fear of needles, agoraphobia, acrophobia (fear of heights), fear of small animals, fear of public speaking, fear of driving.

Xavier-Palomer-Ripoll
Xavier Palomer Ripoll is the co-founder and CEO of Psious says that they originally got started in order to help one of the other co-founders get over his fear of flying. They were able to create an experience that successfully helped him overcome his fear of flying, and so they decided to build a company around this therapeutic application of these immersive technologies.

Psious already has over 90 mental health professionals who are using their bundled solution to work with patients suffering from a variety of different anxiety disorders. They’re starting to hear success stories and anecdotes from patients including one man who was able to ride the subway for the first time in six years after using their VR exposure therapy solution.

Xavier says that it may take traditional 10-15 sessions of traditional exposure therapy, and only an average of 6-8 sessions when it’s supplemented with a 15-minute VR exposure therapy experience. They usually start the VR portion in the therapy on either the second or third session, and they’re proud to hear the feedback that the patients really respond to and request these types of VR experiences in all of their sessions.

Here’s a number of research studies and meta-analyses that Psious has posted on their site that indicate that VR exposure therapy is really effective:

Psious also points to a number of research studies that indicate that the success rate of exposure therapy is a lot higher, and that you can get results faster if you use VR in combination with cognitive behavioral therapies. It also reduces the number of dropouts during the therapy.

Psious has a lot more information about their product and research to back it up listed in there product guide here. It’s exciting to hear about some of these therapeutic applications of virtual reality because it helps convince me that there are a lot of pragmatic applications of VR that are going to just become more and more common as the technology becomes more affordable and accessible for these types of applications.

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brian-bullardBrian Bullard is the co-host of the PodVR podcast as well as an independent VR game developer. He’s developed Moto Rider VR and the Oculus Game Jam game called Turret Defender.

He’s known as “Bullardo” online, and he’s an active member of the VR community. He talks about some of the highlights over the past year including the growth of Silicon Valley Virtual Reality community, the PodVR podcast, developing games as an indie dev, and some of the other community events from VR livestreams, VRCasters.com, and hanging out in VR Chat.

Here’s the other topics that we cover in the interview:

  • Starting PodVR podcast with Matt Carrell
  • Livestreaming with VRCasters.com & discussing SVVRCon news
  • Rapid development with the mobile VR game jam
  • Evolution of the Turret Defender development process
  • Learning to how to develop for mobile & the Gear VR
  • Leaning towards doing desktop experiences for Oculus and the Vive
  • Wants to explore more room-scale VR development with 2-handed interactions
  • Convincing an independent game development studio to do VR once there’s a proven market
  • Meeting people face-to-face from the VR social scene
  • Growth of the SVVR community
  • Compelling social VR experiences like developer talks
  • Looking forward to the immersive VR games that come out, and looking forward to building his own games. Film, entertainment and live events.

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Yaoping-HuDr. Yaoping Hu is an associate professor at the University of Calgary, and she won the best 3DUI poster with “Conflict Resolution Models on Usability with Multi-user Collaborative Virtual Environments.”

One challenge with social interactions in VR is that some people dominate the conversation. In the real world, the only way to deal with this is by confronting people after they’ve crossed this boundary. But often people don’t like to be confrontational, and so the social norm is to just politely wait until they’re finished. The advantage that virtual reality can bring to team collaboration is that you can start to use computer algorithms to moderate the conversation in order to make it more balanced.

Yaoping’s team looked at a couple of different conflict resolution models including first-come-first-serve (FCFS) and dynamic priority (DP). FCFS models are known to be unfair because it merely grants an interaction opportunity to whomever is the most agile user. The DP model instead starts to consider all of the user’s interaction histories, and uses force feedback 6DOF controllers in order to give the signal as to when it’s someone’s turn to talk. The VR programs starts to become a virtual talking stick, and the subtle feedback of the controllers was shown to be one of the more effective methods for controlling the flow of the conversation so as to make it more balanced and hear from more of the participants.

conflict

This is still pretty early in it’s investigation of this technique, and the next steps are to start to apply this to real-world situations to see how it works in practical situations. But preliminary results showed that the DP model shoed lower decision making times and higher consensus as well as a perception of more equality in the interactions. Using a DP model can provide the potential of being a useful feature and improve multi-user collaborative virtual environments.

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tipatatTipatat Chennavasin is the creative director of the River virtual reality accelerator by Rothenberg Ventures. Rothenberg Ventures funded 13 different VR companies with $100,000 each as a part of their first class.

They’re currently accepting applications for their next incubator class through June, and they’ll be announcing the next class of companies sometime after July 4th.

Some of the benefits of being in the River VR accelerator include having three months in the co-working facilities in San Francisco and access to the River advisors and the team at Rothenberg Ventures. The intention of River is to help VR companies grow, and he talks about the history of the River accelerator program and how he originally got involved with it. Mike Rothenberg saw that there was a lot of potential for being an early-stage VC to support emerging virtual reality companies get started.

He talks about some of the characteristics that River is looking for including passion for VR, patience since it’s still early days for VR, and finding people that feel compelled to create their visions in VR regardless of whether they’re funded or not. He talks about the collaborative spirit of the first class and how the community formed amongst the participants of the first River program.

He talks about some of the apps and market potentials of virtual reality beyond just gaming, and some of the open problems including input and positional tracking, and doing VR-based presentations, memory palaces, and popular topics that have a lot of brand love like his Unofficial Pokemon VR game.

Some of the advice that he gives to VR companies includes making sure that the demo has a high-enough frame rate, to not make people sick in your demo, and that you have to be scrappy and lean since there’s not a lot of investment checks being written right now. Also, you have to really ask “Why does this experience need to be in VR?” It’s not enough that it’s cool, and you have to go beyond the novelty and it has to be more efficient, effective and add value by having it be immersive.

Some of the unique characteristics of VR include scale for buying products, 360-degree experiences and using your head to looking around, you can give dreamlike experiences in VR and making dream experiences in reality.

He’d like to see easier ways of doing animation in VR in a more intuitive fashion. He’s also looking forward to detective games, memory palace applications, and time travel to historical events to feel like you’re a part of it.

Part of the power of VR is to be able to see through your eyes and walk in your shoes, and how VR really is an empathy machine as Chris Milk has said. VR will help us understand ourselves, our brains, and our minds in a better way from curing phobias and other neuroscience applications. He sees that VR could help enable an experience-based economy that can replicate travel or owning things in a way that’s could be more sustainable.

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Justin-MoravetzJustin Moravetz of Zero Transform is a developer based out of Bend, OR and he’s been developing virtual reality experiences for all of the VR HMDS rangin from Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, Valve’s HTC Vive & Sony Morpheus. Some of those experiences include Proton Pulse and Vanguard V.

Justin visited the Portland Virtual Reality Meetup and participated in this facilitated discussion last week just a day before Oculus’ big E3 press conference where they announced the Oculus Touch input controller prototype.

He talks about:

  • Justin’s current plans to build out a development studio.
  • His experiences in developing for all of the VR HMDs
  • How to get Valve’s attention by having something tangible to show them
  • The advantages of untethered mobile VR
  • Using external tracking solutions in combination with Gear VR
  • The milestones he’s trying to hit over the next year as all of the major VR HMDs start to hit the market

Justin has a lot of great insights into VR development, and it’s worth listening to hear an overview of his perspective of the VR landscape.

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Soren-HarnerSoren Harner is the chief product marketing officer at Meta, and he talks about the Meta 1 developer kit and augmented reality eyewear. They have an SDK to create experiences within Unity which includes different gesture interactions to use your hands to select buttons.

Meta was originally incubated by YCombinator, they went on to have a successful Kickstarter for the Meta 1 developer kit, and they recently raised a $23 million dollar round of funding.

Soren talks about some of the differences between augmented and virtual reality, and some of the outstanding technical and cognitive challenges for AR. The goal of virtual reality seems to be to achieve a sense of presence in a virtual environment, but there are different ways of looking at what constitutes a successful augmented reality experience.

Soren says that Meta is focused on working on different use cases to help solve specific problems. Ultimately, a good AR experience is one that is usable, helps solve a problem, is convincing, gains traction in the marketplace, and integrates well with the human perceptual system. Rather than gaming or entertainment, Meta is targeting professional applications, data visualization, and working with 3D models and Building Information Modeling management.

There are privacy and social implications with using AR in public places, and Soren expects that there will be a period of climatizing to the new form factors before people become comfortable with the AR headsets. Meta is focusing on indoor use cases since their AR headset requires it to be tethered to a computer for now. Soren sees that Meta will use digital content to facilitate collaborations, and that they’re leaving a lot of the content up to developers.

Reducing latency seems to be a big area for Meta, and Soren admits that latency is an issue that they’re continue to work on it. Oliver Kreylos called out the latency in this hands-on review of Meta at SVVRCon.

The gesture controls that Meta has implemented include tracking your hand as a point cloud so that you can use the highest point on your hand as a tapping motion for selecting buttons.

Meta has some prominent members of the wearable computing community including the original cyberman Steve Mann, Columbia University Professor Steven Feiner, and Jayse Hansen, who worked on the sci-fi user interfaces for a number of movies including Iron Man, Ender’s Game and Avengers. Soren said that sometimes a user interface that looks great for Hollywood may actually not be a very practical human computer interaction model, and that’s where Feiner’s insights can help bring Hansen’s visions into something that is usable and practical.

Finally, Soren sees that augmented reality will help integrate and digital and physical worlds in a new way so that we can understand the world better, help teach people things, provide new communication tools, and help manage information about the world around us.

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oculus-touch
Virtual reality developers and enthusiasts have been waiting for Oculus to give some clarity on their default input solution, and today at their pre-E3 press conference they made some key announcements. The first is that CV1 will be shipping with a wireless Xbox controller, which means that VR developers for the Rift can rely upon having at least what has already been the industry standard input controller. The second key announcement is that Palmer Luckey showed off the Oculus Touch input controller prototype, which won’t be shipping until later in Q2 of 2016.

The Oculus Touch won’t be ready in time for the consumer launch, which creates some user input fragmentation within the VR experiences that developers are creating. There are some serious design design decisions that have to be made, and so VR developers will unfortunately have to design for both rather than picking the controller that’ll work the best for their game.

The lighthouse controllers with the HTC Vive will be launching in the holiday season of 2015, which means that the only outlet for full two-handed interactions and 3DUI will be with Valve’s HMD up until the middle of 2016. Hopefully the second consumer release of the Rift of CV2 will eventually ship with the Oculus Touch controllers so that Rift developers can rely on a standardized default 3DUI input solution.

LINKS:

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Sky-Nite
Sky Nite is the CEO of New Dimension VR, and he was at SVVRCon showing Cytopia. Cytopia features a main character inspired by Edward Snowden, and is about the abuses of surveillance and what happens a powerful NSA-like organization gains global control.

Sky talks about some of the limitations of movement that they implemented in order to create a more comfortable VR locomotion solution. In Cytopia, the levels are all designed so that you’re mostly moving forward to minimize the feelings of motion sickness.

Cyptopia also features a character that uses psychic powers in combination with head and hand tracking. One of the VR locomotion techniques and gameplay mechanics that they use is that you can psychically teleport into other people’s bodies, and then use whatever weapons and other items that that person has on their body.

Sky is also the author of the Virtual Reality Insider ebook, which is a great introductory text about the VR industry that provides a fairly comprehensive overview of the VR space. He’s planning on updating it after all of the E3 announcements come out over the next couple of weeks.

Sky is definitely a very animated and passionate evangelist for virtual reality, and you can follow his latest work via his e-mail list on New Dimension VR site.

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