Virtual reality has become the focus of conversation in the first episode of the new raunchy documentary series called The Digital Love Industry which was produced by the investigative journalist company known as Vice. The 33 minute segment dives into the taboos surrounding love and sexual experimentation that always accompanies emerging technologies.
Some of the best places in LA are found deep inside warehouse complexes where creative people manifest extraordinary things. One such place exists within the collection of calm and tranquil art lofts located in an area known as the Brewery. In the past, it has housed Pabst Blue Ribbon as well as the Edison power plant; and innovation seeps out from every corner here.
In one of the buildings is a workshop where entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, programmers, designers, roboticists, and game developers have gathered to make what they are calling “The Carnival of the Future.” More specifically it is being branded as the STEAM Carnival and looks to bring together lasers, robots, virtual reality experiences, and fire performances for a travelling high-tech circus like no other. Watch the video tour below:
Futurama was an amazing show that allowed the writers complete freedom to describe whatever they thought might be developed in the future, and one type of technology that the writers kept putting in were adaptations of virtual reality gear. Specifically, wearable devices called ‘Net Suits’ were consistently depicted in the show, as wires coming from the device fed into a computer allowing the users to explore the inside of the 3D modeled metaverse. This list dives into the references found in within the adventures of the Planet Express crew.
Season 1, Episode 2 – ‘The Series Has Landed’
The first occurrence with Virtual Reality comes in the form of a game that Amy plays while the Planet Express crew visit the moon. The experience is called ‘Virtual Virtual Skeeball’ and utilizes a standalone unit that fits on top of the gamer’s head. Two antennas stick out of the side of the headset most likely acting as a wireless communication interface that probably connects to a server somewhere else. Wires extend from the top, attaching to the device itself.
There is no mention of how this VR set is powered, but it looks like it is energized on its own. Perhaps the user must plug the goggles into the wall, or maybe it is wirelessly charged through the antennas. Regardless of how it is powered, this device is a nice allusion to the future of VR being integrated in to carnival-like environments. Arcades of the future will surely be filled with virtual reality sets giving the attendees an immersive experience that stands out from the other types of games. Not sure how people will pay for the game though. It could be coin operated, or just included in the ticket price of the attraction, but more likely credit card activated. No matter what, this reference showed that Futurama knew that virtual reality would be big in the future.
Black monitors and portable computers sit atop white Formica tables as 30+ VR developers bang out 3D modeled code in a co-working space that has been transformed into a horror-themed development world. Wild, red eyes stare deep into the Oculus Rift goggles that are strapped to the faces of the coffee-wired testers. They type furiously, dragging around first-person perspectives inside LCD screens while thoughts of buzzing bees and malicious things form in plain view.
Creatures of the night and destructive environments manifest out the developers’ heads, starting to take shape, seeping into the minds of the users bringing out the most imaginative nightmare scenarios. Suddenly, the scene changes, and the wearer of a DK1 glances down standing on the thinnest of ledges looking down at a falling fate of death. Below, the shaking legs of an animated avatar float above a drop so far that the G-forces alone would surely kill the unlucky person who accidentally took a misstep in the wrong direction.
Spaceship sounds echo off the corners the room. At the same time, creepy voices whisper their murderous plans to kill unsuspecting victims nearby as they craw their way through all encompassing darkness.
Then, the blank heartless eyes of a lost zombie appear tapping into the digital matrices along the edge of a mixed reality. Not quite augmented, and not completely virtual, but somewhere stuck in-between.
Ominous lights flicker. This time the landscape transitions to a desert ghost town. Fog rolls in, and the dark shadow of a man teleports itself into the distance. He hovers slowly towards the camera. Then BOOM! He lunges ready to tear out organs, feasting lusciously on bloody flesh.
“they want to kill you!”
“you’re going to die slowly”
Don’t lose your head just yet. Now, ask, “what is fear?” Is it found embedded in the zombie room, or perhaps located within a haunted elevator where no matter how hard you try, you just can’t escape..? It’s best to keep the lights on in this Mad House. No one will leave here alive!
As of July 3rd, 2014, Orange County has hosted five virtual reality-themed events that have attracted hundreds of people to various locations in the nearby area. Hackathons, demos, and info sessions have all been organized creating a spark in the VR industry that will continue to flourish like a hearty vine growing toward the energy of the sun.
However, the cost of getting to these meetups continuously is beginning to stretch passed the limits of those involved in the emerging VR culture. Unless the person is a developer who wants to show off their new projects, or is someone who wants to help set up the events, the overall satisfaction rate drops off slightly just because of the price of gas to get there. There needs to be more of an incentive to swing by and check out what is actually happening.
Now, OCVR and VRLA are both doing a good job to meet the demand for virtual reality in the Greater Los Angeles area though so far. Each group is providing amazing locations for their events. Examples include the legendary MxR Lab, the headquarters of a local independent gaming company called Sleepy Giant, and the innovative co-working place known as PeopleSpace. Heck, even an afterparty for the large gaming conference E3 was even held at the iconic Ace Hotel in downtown LA, which shows that the people organizing the events are making the right connections to further the community of VR.
The meetups are also bringing in appetizers and refreshments to keep the stomachs of the attendees filled and hydrated. OCVR is leading the way in this direction because of their food truck experience. They give out free food, free beer, and more through the use of their Burger Monster truck. This definitely helps to incentivize the experience of those looking to travel from far away. Those who decide to make the journey might not be able to afford a 1st class plane ticket, but they can drive down and eat until their heart’s content at one of these events.
But there must be more that can be done to help cut expenses to get to these meetups. Already virtual reality enthusiasts are starting to figure out who lives near them and who would be the best to carpool with. For instance, VRLA co-founders Jonnie Ross & Cosmo Scharf, drove down from Los Angeles together to visit the Orange County VR team during their 2nd demo event at PeopleSpace. Their trip was short, but the effect is still the same.
More individuals travelled from other cities to go to that 2nd demo meetup as well, which you can see in the embedded ‘Transportation-oriented’ video below.
Most people took a motorized vehicle of some sort to get there. Cars, food trucks, SUV’s and Jeeps all carried people onto the highways weaving in and out of traffic driving towards one of the hotspots of VR in town. But that’s not all. One guy even took a skateboarding contraption that he put together.
The obvious next step for those coming to the events is to arrange more carpooling, especially since Oculus will be releasing their new consumer headsets soon. This will help bring the costs of travel down, while upgrading the level of experience involved. Those making the journey together will learn from each other and might even become closer friends. After that, ideas of organizing larger modes of transportation for the community like buses, or trains, can come to fruition.
In the meantime though, let’s see what happens next.
Article written by @industrychanger
Bonus Interview with Karl Krantz at VRLA2:
All videos that were captured at the OCVR’s 2nd Demo Night can be downloaded for free here:
Imagine, if you will, a key of gold that can be inserted into any door opening up the contents stored within. It has no specified ridges on it, but rather contains segments of a universal code that, when turned slowly, unlocks the pins located inside.
With that tool in hand, you are now able to venture into the future of our existence seeing what is capable and what can be achieved. Ideas start swirling around you falling from the interstellar sky. Writing appears in front of you asking which direction you would like to travel. Which dream of another would you like explore?
Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There’s vomit on your sweater already. You’re nervous, but its okay because you know that this is just a temporary ride. It is a wild ride when shooting down a tunnel in space. As galaxies and planets pass by, you realize that you are a part of something bigger. But what?
Now snap back to reality. Oh there goes gravity.
You can feel the community all around you. The presence of 300 hundred like-minded individuals pushes forward toward a way to explore these thoughts of what virtual reality actually is. A research lab is nearby. Let’s see what’s inside.
Turns out it is creativity that holds us all together. It brings us to places that we never would have thought existed, including hacker-related incubator spaces like the Mixed Reality Lab at USC in Los Angeles, California. Students who learned new skills here went on to create companies like Oculus and Survios. But this begs the question of how they got there. Where they just smarter than the rest of us? Or where they just given the right tools at the right time?
So, lets ask a virtual reality pioneer some of those questions:
From the sounds of what Mark Bolas is saying, the key is to have the right environment around. You need people that are curious. And you need tools.
If you got all that, then you are really travelling in the correct direction towards figuring out who you are and what you are on this planet for. And, you can even journey into other worlds. Granted you have the right combination between hardware and software.
Once all strapped in, it is time to dig deeper and find what the future of our dreams look like. Where are the ideas coming from? And who is laying down the foundation for those to build up after?
So, lets pick Jonnie Ross‘s brain and see what he comes up with:
To wrap up, virtual is a dream. It is a kind of a dream. We are right at the forefront at a turning point in how people perceive themselves (and others) in time. In a sense, it is a form of storytelling. In a way, it allows us to share our ideas and experiences through technology transporting us somewhere else entirely.
It will all now come down to how we push these dreams further once they have been unlocked. Musicians, writers, game developers, film students, and many other creative people will all explore the edges of what is capable through this medium. Look for what comes next, because it will change the very fabric of how we communicate and learn from each other.
Article written by @industrychanger
Film captured by William Correa with @hndpla
More interviews found below:
Questions of self-discovery answered in this video with Mark Bolas:
Should inner city kids get involved in technology?
Tell us more Mark:
Next week we will explore the transportation aspects surrounding the virtual reality movements.
Los Angeles VR – http://www.virtualrealityla.com/
Orange County VR – http://orangecountyvr.com/
Silicon Valley VR – http://svvr.com/
San Francisco VR – http://www.meetup.com/virtualreality/
Las Vegas VR – http://www.meetup.com/Las-Vegas-Virtual-Reality-Meetup/
Mixed Reality Lab – http://projects.ict.usc.edu/mxr/
Das Tapes Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/das-tapes
Just down the road from the Oculus Rift headquarters is an office park where hotels, parking garages, and corporate buildings are located. This where Sleepy Giant, an independent game company focused on enthusiast gamers, held an event with OCVR.
The pivoting glass doors opened up at the entrance leading to a beautifully constructed lobby with elevators found on both sides of the area. Security access was given to those who RSVP’d on the website allowing them to travel up to the 5th floor.
Once inside, about 100 people gathered together sitting on wooden tables and standing up against the walls ready for the speakers to begin talking. They drank beer and ate Hors d’oeuvres while focusing their attention on the front of the room where the 1st presenter was preparing himself.
This is when Doug Griffin demoed a version of Faceshift, which is a that technology should enable creativity through the use of motion capture to produce facial animations that are realistic and emotional, with a system that is affordable and easy to use.
After that, E McNeill (creator of the cyberpunk hacker game called Darknet) got up and discussed the benefits and challenges of virtual reality. Some of the limitations he talked about included hardware performance requirements, limited resolutions, small market size, and the potential for nausea symptoms in some users. On the plus side, E spoke of fantasy fulfillment where anyone can unlock their dreams and the amazing developer support from Oculus & Sony.
Once the speakers were done, a long line quickly formed to try out the new Mario 64-style third-person cartoony game called Lucky’s Tale on the Oculus Rift DK2. A young developer was the first to try it out, gaining inspiration for his next project.
What made this experience top-notch was the community involvement by Oculus employees. They were there to answer questions, provide support, and get feedback from the VR enthusiasts who were happy to be discussing their thoughts on the new platform.
Shariq Hashme, the Oculus intern, showed up. His collegue Dean Beeler, their Senior Software Engineer, went down the line talking to the people waiting to try the game. And David Borel, an Oculus developer, assisted with the headset.
Amongst the crowd were food truck owners, 3d developers, science fiction writers, bloggers, journalists, marketing associates, lawyers, hardware manufacturers, and many other types of people.
OCVR co-founder, Dylan Watkins, walked around sparking innovation with his Iron Man sweatshirt and spikey hair. He spoke of upcoming meetups, possible collaborations with Alex Gray, and mobile makerspaces.
Jamie Ortiz, VP of marketing and communications with Sleepy Giant, was happy to see such a big turnout and would definitely host another event here. He also talked about growth hacking and what the term hacker actually means.
When the night came to a close, the remaining members hung outside for a bit longer discussing whatever thoughts flowed in. Arman Bastani with Oval Integration was there. Wagas Hussain, the creator of the Unreal LA Developers group floated around as well.
Jeff Howell, a SoCal attorney, talked with a local journalist about the possibilities of reducing crime and incarceration with the use of Virtual Reality. They also discussed how science fiction writers are the ones that lay the foundation for tech pioneers to create their work.
Overall, it was a night filled with amazing people.
Article written by @industrychanger
Full Video of E McNeill’s presentation:
Orange County VR’s meetup page – http://www.meetup.com/OC-Virtual-Reality-Meetup/
Sleepy Giant’s Website – http://www.sleepygiant.com/
Other Notable Attendees:
Ian Hamilton – journalist and writer
Jason A. Huff – developer with Atom Arcade (interested in music production for the Rift)
Michael Anetsberger & Joel Swank – who are looking for 3D developers
Phil Osborne – science fiction reader
Ever since Jaron Lanier coined the term virtual reality in the 1980’s, our perception of existence has radically changed. Extravagant and complex worlds have been created in computer simulated environments organized by bits of 1’s and 0’s flying through cyberspace giving us a glimpse into what actually exists.
But what is real? Why are we here? Is there more to consciousness than what is observable and comprehensible?
These are the hard questions that philosophers, authors, and science fiction writers have been asking for centuries. Even now, groups of like-minded people are aggregating together to bounce ideas of reality off each other.
One particular interesting collection of thinkers was brought to the public library in downtown Los Angeles on May 8th, 2014. They discussed their views on existence through their own perspectives and experiences.
First to the stage was Mike Semanchik, who is an attorney with the California Innocence Project. Interviewed by Joseph A. Lapin, a conversation of innocent people locked away for crimes they didn’t commit ensued. Mike questions what reality is like behind metal bars as evidence gets destroyed outside the suffocating walls of a jail cell.
As sexy music by Das Tapes plays, the next guest walks out from behind a tattered blue curtain and sits calmly down in front of an attentive audience. His name is Cosmo Scharf and he is a film school student who started a Meetup group called VRLA that sparked a virtual reality movement in town. Since their initial VR event in April, more meetups have spawned nearby. With immersive multimedia devices like the Oculus Rift readily available, ideas of our existence can be entertained in digital worlds. One can see what it like to be wrongly accused for a crime, or learn from the Civil War by actually dropping into a simulated battle raging in war. You can even learn mathematics by becoming equations or geometric patterns allowing the user to wiggle around as something else.
Up next was author Mark Haskell Smith whose newest book, RAW satirizes reality television. He speaks of lies and forced interactions that happen in the scripting nature of so-called ‘reality’ tv shows. Hollywood has fashioned drinking and soulless skankiness into something that people are striving for. Icons like Kim Kardashian and ‘The Situation’ have deteriorated truthfulness and have become consumer engorging machines that devour everything corporate sponsorship provides.
With these 3 perspectives of law, virtual reality, and reality television, each individual in the crowd could ask themselves what existence really means to them. Whether they related to being locked up with no chance of escape, or wanted to try out the next wearable technology in town, or just knew of the Kardashian family, the thinkers in the room were allowed to deeply reflected on what the criteria of truth is. Some might get lost in the circling thoughts that accompanies the exploration of infinite dimensions and sections of reality. Others might let everyone else do the work. Either way, this event shook the very foundation of what we think we know.
Article written by @industrychanger
The Working Poet Radio Station: http://www.theworkingpoetradioshow.com/
Mike Semanchik’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/MSemanchikEsq
California Innocence Project: http://californiainnocenceproject.org/
Cosmo Scharf’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/cosmoblosmo
VRLA’s Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/virtualrealityla/
Mark Haskell Smith’s Website: http://www.markhaskellsmith.com/
Here’s the full video of the event (found on this page):
Strap yourself in. It’s going to be a wild ride!
It is 7pm on a Thursday night and there is a food truck named Burger Monster stationed in the parking lot of a coworking space called Peoplespace. They are giving out free food and drinks including beer for a virtual reality infused meetup that has sparked over 100 people to venture into a quiet building ready to jump into a new digital world.
Exhibitors are lined up against the walls on white fold up tables presenting demos that they are currently developing. Projects range from deep interactive hacking games, to custom content for brands and retro versions of the Bomberman and Zelda games. Some of the Oculus team even presented themselves showing off the new DK2 units and talking about the time when Mark Zuckerburg called them in for an acquisition meeting that turned into a multibillion dollar buyout.
As developers, VR enthusiasts, and potential investors mingle, it is easy to see that the virtual reality movement is clearly birthing into something here. If you look closely though, you can see who is laying down the groundwork for the digital communities in this area. One instance is Karl Krantz who came all the way from Silicon Valley to check out what is happening in Orange County. Another good example is Jonnie Ross who worked with Cosmo Scharf to found VRLA. Together with these types of leaders and the growing interest in this field, Southern California is poised to become a national hub for virtual reality and pave the way for immersive online, social interactions. Digital worlds will be created here of which the likes we can only imagine!
Orange County VR Meetup Group: http://www.meetup.com/OC-Virtual-Reality-Meetup/
OCVR Website: http://orangecountyvr.com/
Darknet Game by E McNeill: http://www.darknetgame.com/
Specular Theory by Morris May & Ryan Pulliam: http://www.speculartheory.com/
SMS Racing by Holden Link: http://holdenlink.com/project/sms-racing/
Oculus Rift: http://www.oculusvr.com/
Karl Krantz Twitter Profile: https://twitter.com/karlkrantz
Los Angeles VR Meetup Group: http://www.meetup.com/virtualrealityla/
Cosmo’s Twitter Profile: https://twitter.com/cosmoblosmo
Burger Monster Food Truck: http://burgermonster.net/
Article written by @industychanger
^^ photo of Ian Hamilton & Karl Krantz ^^