London Virtual Reality inaugural meetup

Last week was notable for an inaugural Virtual Reality London meetup. I was lucky enough to get a ticket.

Space - Mind Candy office in Shoreditch

Organizer -

Mind Candy was conveniently located on my bike route between home and office. Trickiest part was to get tickets - originally they released 50 of those, and I was way too late for that party. Then there was Tube strike day - and event got postponed for a week. 2 days before new date they released 50 more tickets, and hurray, I was in.

In addition to talks they made a small exhibition of everything VR. Headsets, rigs, simulations, software solutions. Couple of notable things were:

  1. Red Bull Air Race simulation by Rewind. Real time render of you piloting an acrobatic plane. It was interesting to note that pure visual stimulus of you being in the airplane can generate authentic feeling with your vestibular system. It felt very much like gravity was shifting according to the movements of the plane.
  2. Live broadcast of a 360 degree video from a rig into a VR headset. They’ve built a camera rig with 6 GoPro:s, which was filming surrounding area. Next there was a black box stitching HD video from all 6 cameras into a spherical video in real time. This was in turn fed into Oculus Rift DK2 headset. Resulting effect was astounding - since the rig was in close proximity, you’d had a relatively authentic out-of-body experience. Relatively - because there was a tiny bit of latency and resolution issues. The idea behind this is to get real time broadcast from events like concerts.

VR is situated at the interesting cross section of things like filmmaking, games, sound and web. Everyone feels like there is a huge potential in whatever your area is, but nobody have much clue above that. Once again there was mention of a quality content. VR itself will not make bad content awesome - quite the opposite. Since you are suppose to be immersed into the content, it is content’s responsibility to be attractive enough that users would want to be immersed.

Few trends are now become distinctive for VR applications:

  • Interactive simulations. Basically, games, but with you strapped to a seat / space. You can look around, and it’ll be rendered in stereoscopic 3D.
  • Actual games with you affecting the environment
  • Films. 2D 360 degree (more often) or stereoscopic 3D (less often, more complicated). Can be very powerful with documentaries. 360 degree videos are now natively supported on YouTube.
  • Web. Content is rendered with WebGL in stereoscopic 3D. Some examples available on Mozilla VR pages.

From all of the above mentioned trends WebVR might become the most popular one. It might not be a replica of Second Life or what VR was imagined to be in sci-fi films of past century, but it will find its shape.

Next London VR meetup is announced too - it is going to be on 10th of September at Madam Tussauds.