Wow! I’m just back from an excellent adventure out on the front lines at Silicon Valley VR Expo (SVVR), and there were an impressive number of “take-aways” besides the swag!


First, there was a very nice series of back-to-back keynotes by Tony Parisi (Unity Technologies), Nonny de la Peña (Emblematic Group), Rikard Steiber (HTC), and Kent Bye (Voices of VR). These are already posted, so you can check them out for yourself.

Beyond that, here are a few other “notes” from the event.

There were a couple of well attended presentations on virtual worlds, now being re-branded as “social VR,” that are “coming soon.” Philip Rosedale’s overview of High Fidelity was particularly compelling.

Scaling VR to 100 and Beyond (Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity)
An Introduction to Sansar (Bjorn Laurin, Linden Lab)

Of course, for those of us that have been around awhile, these platforms aren’t exactly out of the blue, but there appeared to be a surprising number of people in the audience who weren’t aware that things like AltspaceVR and VRChat are the new kids on the block. Talk about déjà vu! It felt just like 2006 all over again. Things are bound to get “interesting” when these old gorillas finally come out and descend upon the VR world in the “near future.”  Here’s a nice article for homework if you are among those that aren’t already familiar with the players in the space. Social VR: Who Is Going to Get It Right First? (Alice Bonasio, Upload VR)

There were a couple of excellent panels about standards that established that both authors and consumers “might” be able to look forward to platform independent tools and content, eventually, but there is still a long road ahead.

WebVR Panel
Moderator: Damon Hernandez (Samsung), Panelists: Amber Roy (Oculus), Tony Parisi (Unity), Hugh Seaton (Aquinas Training), Michael Blix (Samsung)
Khronos OpenXR Panel
Moderator: Kaye Mason (Google) – David Frerichs, Christopher Peri (Samsung), Yuval Boger (Sensics)

Over the course of the event it also became fairly clear that XR has emerged as the much needed general moniker to encompass the AR/MR/VR continuum.

On the horizon…
There were a couple of presentations about potential authoring platforms beyond the current “go-tos” of Unity and Unreal. These aren’t going to be something that takes the VR world by storm this year, but they definitely worth watching in the longer term!

State of Aframe and WebVR: Joining Your Virtual World in Aframe with Multi-User Experiences (Rabimba Karanjai, Mozilla)
Forging a New VRX (Rafael Brown, Digital Myths)

Overall, it was an enlightening experience!

There was one odd thing, though. Why were these little guys climbing my hotel wall?


A short while ago a colleague sent this link to a story about some fun things related to Virtual Reality going on down in New York. Virtual reality is taking over NYC (Tim Donnelly, New York Post)

It had been awhile since the last New York VR Blitz back in June 2016, so it’s been time to consider another one for awhile now. The monthly NY VR Meetups were serving as a prime suspect for an excuse, and then a really cool event from the NY VR AR Association scheduled on back-to-back evenings with a NY VR Meetup came along. Bingo, time to grab an Acela! Here’s a blow-by-blow account of the adventure and some “take aways” at the end…

Wednesday, February 15, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Virtual Reality for Producers: How to Create and Deliver for the New Content Frontier
NY VR AR Association” and NYU Data Future Lab
137 Varick St, New York (The Bowery)

This first stop on the NY VR tour was hosted by Kris Kolo, NYC Chapter President & Global Executive Director, NY VR AR Association” and moderated by Chris Pfaff PGA New Media Council member and CEO Tech Media.

Paul Cheung, Director of Interactive for the Associated Press shared “lessons learned” about filming in 360° under normal journalistic conditions. The insights he shared were valuable, and among them was the useful tidbit that if you happen to already have the right phone, then a Samsung 360° camera is a better investment than a Ricoh Theta.

Alissa Crevier, Global Head of Partnerships for Littlstar gave a great explanation of their platform and trends in the content delivery end of the industry. Then Christian Egeler, Director of VR/AR product development, Verizon’s Envrmnt provided a nice hint as to what to watch for from them (an authoring and delivery system).

Finally, the panel discussion at the end included an insightful suggestion that the VR industry needs to adopt the concept of “responsive design” from web design and apply it to VR content delivery so that developers and consumers don’t have to navigate the current morass of development and delivery options. So true!

Thursday, February 16, 10 – 11:00 AM

Samsung’s 837 Store
837 Washington St. (At 13th Street)

Thursday started out with a visit to Samsung’s store that was one of the spots mentioned in the New York Post article that had helped to inspire this New York adventure. Here’s a promotional video and a few articles about the store to give you a sense of what’s there.

Samsung’s new flagship NYC building isn’t a retail store at all (Chris Welch, The Verge)
Samsung’s 837 mixes technology and delicacies (Jennifer Gould Keil, New York Post)

Here are my own snaps of the experience.

It was an interesting excursion, but it was early in the day, not a lot was going on and there wasn’t any content that was different than what’s already available to any Gear VR owner. Most importantly, beware, Samsung’s “Gear VR 4D Chair” can deliver a mild case of whiplash that can cause a headache worse than a VR headache. Yep, ouch!

Thursday, February 16, 4 – 5:00 PM

Jump into the Light
355A Bowery, New York (The Bowery)

This was a second spot mentioned in that New York Post article that helped to inspire this trip, and it had a very different vibe than the Samsung’s 837 store. It is billed as “America’s First VR Cinema & PlayLab,” and it has the potential to be a more engaging experience. Here’s a short video to give you a sense of the space.

Again, it was still fairly early in the day on a Friday, not a lot was going on and there wasn’t any content that was much different than what you can already see if you happen to have your own VR lab with the same rigs. But how many people have that, right? 😉 This visit was still a more interesting experience with better demos than the Samsung 837 store, and while I didn’t get a chance to talk with any of the founders in depth, I had a lot of fun talking with their young, enthusiastic and downright adorable crew.


Thursday, February 16, 6:00 – 9:00 PM

New York VR’s February Meetup
Microsoft Flagship Store
42nd St. @ 8th Avenue (11 Times Square, Across from Port Authority)

The final stop on the whirlwind VR tour of New York was NY VR’s February Meetup. There were a series of great, short talks and a ton of fun demos. Here are some of my photos of the event.

Chris Kairalla of VRBFoto also shared a 360° Photo that he took of the audience.

One of the many highlights of the evening was Dario Lavarde of HTC VIVE presenting about the recently announced VIVE Tracker. Here’s a promotional video about it, and Dario even showed a demo of authoring for the tracker in Unity 3D plus shared his slides.

Another highlight was Lex Dreitser giving demos of his Epson Moverio. That was cool!

“Take Aways”

Here’s a run down of some ruminations from the overall VR@NY experience…

  • Samsung and Oculus need to work on their marketing of VR experiences.
  • Stay away from Samsung’s Gear VR 4D Chair!
  • VR and AR demos are more interesting to the audience if you invest in setting up a monitor to show what the viewer is seeing.
  • If you’re going to host immersive experiences, go to great lengths to get unique content not available to consumers that already have headsets.
  • 360°video “might” be a killer app for VR because it’s easy, fast and cheap content that an average consumer can create. Better, cheap and widely available 360° cameras that can stream live video are needed, though.
  • If you have a compatible Samsung phone, get the Gear VR 360° Camera.
  • Parallel to the exhaustively covered VR Headset wars, there is a far quieter, but probably more crucial war going on among immersive content delivery platforms. The players range from brand specific options like Samsung/Oculus/GearVR stores, Sony Playstation and VivePort to the broader cross-platform, device independent content delivery services such as YouTube 360° and Facebook 360° video on the low end on up to premium content delivery platforms like Littlstar.
  • The VR and AR industry needs to adapt the concept of “responsive design” from web design and apply it to immersive content to result in something like “responsive immersive content design, authoring and delivery” so that developers and consumers don’t have to navigate the morass of options currently available. Someone needs to provide a way for publishing and viewing 360° video, WebVR and Unity 3D/Unreal authored VR/AR/MR experiences for everything ranging from desktop or mobile to low end Cardboard/View-Master/GearVR/Daydream phone based viewers all the up to Oculus and Vive headsets. In truth, a movement towards this is already in the air, and while it is certainly a bear of a challenge to tackle, it will be worth it because the most inclusive and adaptable platform(s) will win the immersive VR/AR/MR content platform battle.

IMHO, anyway 😉

So, wow, that was a mind-blowing few days! This report doesn’t even include some other fun real life (RL) adventures that slipped in along the way between the highlights above. Check out Mary Hopper’s blog post for a more complete trip report…


AR in Action was at MIT this week, and it was fantastic! John Werner served as host to a vast who’s who of tech, and the the presentations ranged from informative and entertaining to mind blowing. There were too many highlights to cover here, but a few of my favorite were Alan Kay’s explication of some issue’s with current technology, Steve Mann’s stunning taped performance, Ken Perlin’s presentation of his vision for interaction in the future, and of course, Digital Den’s friend Rus Gant’s perspective on uses of AR in museums. This is just a sample of the multitude of great talks.

There were also many interesting demos set up, and the one from Samsung Research about WebVR and Sketchfab was one the most likely to have a serious impact on directions in R & D at Digital Den.

Finally, John Werner’s presentation of Barmak Heshmat’s slides Engineering concept designs for VR’s next 15 years 2015-2030 was particularly fascinating.

John Werner also posted this fantastic video capturing the event.

arinaction highlights v1.1 from john werner on Vimeo.

Here are still more videos and highlights…

AR in Action Jan 17 & 18, 2017, pictures by Dave Rezendes from john werner on Vimeo.

Overall, it was an unusually worthwhile event, and the best part is that it was all filmed “TED Talk Style,” so the videos will be available soon. Watch for them!