Report from the VR World Congress 2017

Bristol was hosting this three days congress. What a good excuse to explore the West Coast of England. Loved it! How to report from such an big event pact of keynotes, talks, debates and demos about Virtual and Augmented Reality, interactive storytelling and immersive art, architecture visualisation and video game development, to name just a few of the field involved ? I will start with  the general trends, then some key points from the talks, to finish with what really got me hooked.

This event was a solid push from AMD. As far as I can remember, AMD had always an edge to better process 3D on his most known rival Intel. Well, it looks like they are still in the fight, but now to process VR wirelessly with their Nitero tech. And this is important because, being in a virtual environment is pretty cool, however, without any cable in our way, it will be much better.  Hololens has taken that mobility party from the start. They made quite a demo there, bringing forward the Mixed Reality concept. That being said, I am still not convinced with this small field of view and the basic interaction where you pinch things around.

Mk2 in Paris
SoReal in china

In the meantime, the big hype is around VR location-based experiences. Mk2 in Paris looks very neat, curating only high quality content and SoReal, a VR theme Park in China sounds epic. On a hardware note, I am curious to see what kind of headset the Chinese will bring on the market with their DeePoon!

Another main trend is the good old haptic feedback. They are working hard to bring the third sense into the game. We are not sure what shape it will take:  gloves, waves, arms, sensors,…but it was explore in every corner of the congress.

Most important is the effort given to produce high quality content. At this stage, only great content will bring VR to the mass.

Follows bullets points of my tweets and comments of the different talks I followed:

On Wednesday:

  • Vive and the Evolving Ecosystem of VR” with Graham Breen from HTC.
    HTC Vive – Haptic

    What’s next for Vive and his ecosystem evolution? Not much on the hardware side, a part of those haptic gloves shown there. They are focus on helping and promoting content creators with their Viveport platform and the ViveX accelerator.

  • Streaming VR/AR Content over the Web”  with Jamieson Brettle from Google. That’s where it get really exciting! AR/VR through the browser. He was telling about pretty good compression performances for cloud point 3D with Draco. For sound volumetric or spatial audio, they are using Opus with ambisonic compression.
  • “Ghost in the Shell VR – A deep Dive” with Sol Rogers from Rewind.
    He delivered a great talk about how he and his team made Ghost in the Shell. He gave no numbers and ask very nicely not to take a photo!

    That’s all I got from Ghost in the Shell
  • “The Importance of touch: Mid-air haptic feedback for VR & AR” with Tom Carter from Ultrahaptics.
    How cool is that, conducting emotions through mid air haptic feedback? Because, at the end, it is the sense of touch that makes things real.
  • Perception = Reality: Exploiting Perceptual Illusions for Design of Compelling AR & VR Interfaces” with Hrvoje Benko from Microsoft Research. Don’t try to be perfect. Use tricks and perception illusion.

Using perception illusion to extend the experience; Passive haptic; Perspective Projection Mapping;  The rubber hand effect revisited as Haptic Retargetting; Body warping and world warping are very promising technic that make you  believe you interacting with objects and that gives you this haptic feedback.

  • “Virtual Futures Track: The Ethics of VR Risks and Recommendations” with Michael Madar from University of Mainz
    • Why should we care?  Our environment influence our behaviour.
    • VR brings the illusions of place, embodiment and agency.
    • Beneficial vs manipulative in VR, tricky balance to make.
    • Are we going to create a rating system for VR experience?
    • “Users should be made aware that there is evidence that experience in VR can have a lasting influence on behaviour after leaving the virtual environment.”
    • Users should also be made aware that we do not yet know the effects of long-term immersion.”

On Thursday, I went to only one talk from the lovely blue hair Mary Kassin from Google who explained her day-to-day process. She prototypes a lot. Trial, user feedback and iteration make the most of her time. She also mentioned the Tango ready phone to play with AR.

Alright, this is all very exciting, full of ideas, however, what made the biggest impression on me was the couple of VR visualisation agencies showing off their architectural Immersive and Interactive walk-through made with Unreal engine.  With this very realistic real-time rendering, we are getting closer to eliminate the long hours of rendering time for still images for a full immersive experience in the early stage of the process.  That is happening right now!