The largest XR-focused conference in the United States returns for another year of VR & AR madness.
Despite only having existed three short years, VRLA has already managed to cement itself as the one of, if not the most impactful annual immersive entertainment event in the United States. The Los Angeles-based conference has become a go-to platform for developers looking to expose their hard work to a public audience, serving as a Comic Con of sorts for those hungry for the latest in VR, AR, and other immersive content.
This year was no different as a slew of new exhibitors, as well as plenty of returning veterans, packed the show floor with some truly jaw-dropping VR & AR projects. From an virtual classrooms to VR massages, here are just a handful of excellent projects from the many stand-out experiences we were fortunate enough to check out:
Brought to us by immersive and interactive design studio Cutmod, VR Massage is a trip, out-of-body experience which involves a VR headset, a Microsoft Kinect camera and a real-life massage therapist. Upon first entering the exhibit I was instructed to lay down on a specially-designed massage table fitted with an HTC Vive headset at the face rest.
A trained masseuse then proceeded to conduct one hell of a relaxing massage, which I was able to view from the third-person via a real-time heat map video captured by the Kinect camera. It was an odd sensation watching myself from an outside perspective while simultaneously feeling the sensations of my actual massage, but enjoyable none-the-less.
For more information on how to bring a VR massage to your next corporate event, visit Cutmod.com or reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org.
An arcade-style instillation perfect for first-time VR users, Extreme Machine ditches the VR controllers in favor of a full body motion platform that relies upon the distribution of weight to control it’s huge catalogue of compatible experiences.
From extreme kayaking and downhill skiing, to aerial dogfights and intense dinosaur escape, most games available in the library lasted what felt like roughly 5 minutes, allowing potential businesses such as movie theatres, malls, and other public venues to cycle in new players at a steady rate for maximum profit.
Surprisingly what I first thought might by one of the more “gimmicky” exhibits on the show floor ended up being one of my favorites of the entire weekend. And based on the positive reactions of several immersive arcade owners I spoke to who plan on bringing Extreme Machine to their own establishments, businesses appear to agree.
EXIT REALITY & NEUROGAMING
And the award for “Most Improved Show Presence” goes to Exit Reality! Kidding aside, the immersive entertainment distributor made waves this year with a massive installation that utterly dwarfed it’s humble presence at last years VRLA.
The official Exit Reality truck of course makes yet another appearance except this time, thanks to a partnership with Neurogaming, it was surrounded by an assortment of VR gold such as an official VR rendition of the popular online tank brawler World of Tanks, multiplayer shoot-em-ups, even competitive VR future pong. However, it was their PolygonVR setup that really stole the show.
A full-body multiplayer online VR co-op experience, PolygonVR is an online arena of sorts, capable of connecting to other compatible arenas around the world for a global competitive VR experience. As I strapped into several foot and hand trackers, I was handed an incredibly well-built gun peripheral featuring some impressive kickback and reloading functionality. After prepping myself for the incoming battle I was joined in person by several teammates. Little did I know that one of them was actually playing remotely from NY, a fact I discovered only after attempting to high five my virtual teammate after a round well-played.
ANTILATENCY POSITIONAL TRACKING
While this is by no means our first encounter with free-roam positional tracking, Antilatency’s latest full-body experience changes the game with a specialized position-tracking puzzle floor mats. By placing the connector, reference bar and IR marker in the mats themselves, Antilatency has created a free-roam VR platform with a theoretically endless tracking area. By adding more connected mats to your experience you increase the available play space, allowing for a tracking space up to an astounding 100,000 sq. ft.
The demo shown on the VRLA show floor, while strictly just a demonstration of the technology, was definitely one of the more visually-appealing of the exhibits this year due in large part to its massive foam floor. The intuitive tracking system also features multi user functionality, easy installation, support for multiple VR platforms and even an SDK for Unity 3D and UE4.
OMNIVIRT 360-DEGREE ADVERTISEMENTS
Immersive advertising specialists OmniVirt are on a quest unlike any other: to turn online advertisement into an enjoyable experience. The way they’re going about this is by turning boring, conventional banner ads into interactive pieces of media. This includes everything from gyroscopic 3D product displays, AR promos and 360-degree sponsored content. For example, instead of having a boring 2D ad just plopped in the middle of an online article, why not include an interactive 3D model of the advertised product for users to inspect, resize, rotate, even place throughout their home using augmented technology?
However the most impressive part of this entire project is the complete lack of a third-party app. Whereas most mobile AR & VR experiences requires users to inconveniently download a specific application, ads running on the OmniVirt platform are accessible directly through the content it’s being advertised on without the need for an extra download. Clients can also manage their ads, monetization and impressions via a simple & easy UI. Apparently this new method has proved effective, as the company ha already confirmed partnerships with major names such as The New York Times, Google, Discovery, Universal, Netflix, and more.
Another comedic gem from the fine folks over at RYOT, DOOR #1 is a multinarrative 360-degree live action journey back to high school for a night of love, loss and maybe even some space travel. Users step into the shoes of a high school graduate returning to his old stomping grounds for his 10-year reunion.
Users have the chance to head down several different roads in this zany comedy, each leading to a unique outcome. Talk to your highschool sweetheart, or stick with your buddy? Accept a dance with an awkward aquantence from years past, or go smoke weed in the bathroom with the janitor?
The choice is up to you, leading to several outrageous endings from smoking weed with Snoop Dog (yes, the real Snoop Dog) as you travel the galaxy in search of adventure, to straight up dying. A witty script and a few cameos make this one of RYOT’s best pieces of content.
INTEL VIRTUAL CLASSROOM
With one of the largest structures on the show floor and easily one of the lengthiest lines, Intel’s Virtual Classroom was a hit among attendees, showcasing the exciting future of digitally connected VR learning environments. Utilizing the Linden Labs’ Sansar VR social platform, I was instantly connected to a classroom filled with other real students as we sat in on a fascinating lecture covering several pieces of historical art currently on display at the Smithsonian. The catch: our docent wasn’t actually in the same room as us in real-life.
Intel’s Virtual Classroom serves as a preview of what the future could hold for education: students connected with educators around the world on a much more personal and intimate level. A partnership with Smithsonian also allowed us an extremely detailed look at real-life artifacts right down to their texture. Artifacts that would otherwise be impossible to inspect on such a close-up level without physically traveling to the museum itself. Plus I doubt the real Smithsonian would allow me to climb on top of the art like I did during my VR demo.
Once again VRLA has managed to bring together the very best in immersive entertainment for a weekend that was literally packed with excited attendees and enthusiasts. The Los Angeles conference continues to prove that the XR industry is here to stay.
Image Credit: XtremeVR / VRScout / OmniVirt