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Monday, August 31, 2015

VRLA Summer Expo, So Early In The Game

The highlight of the expo was seeing Pen Ward, creator of Adventure Time trying out VR Arcade's latest 3D drawing game in a sensor forest. "I entered into VR Cade, by VR's just a free, open space, virtual reality experience where you can move around au naturel, " Pen told me after he stepped out of drawing a monster and casting a fire spell. Really watching anyone with any VR device on them, cutting of their senses from world, gets some getting used to.
Pen Ward in VR

Lasers jutted out above me head, the room was dark like an old style arcade. You couldn't tell if it was day or night. At the beginning the expo seemed like a new type of arcade experience with many people debating around me if a VR arcade would be built in the next few years. The arcade setting become more of a demo reel of what can be than what there actually is.

VRLA Summer Expo, like the technology it's showing is so new it's a developer and fiancee market. There's little to nothing finished, everything was a demo or a starting point. It was all a big demonstration leaving us with more questions of when a real video game will come out or what will the technology be used for.

Google gave away free vr viewers. Google Cardboard is a simple piece of cardboard with some magnetic mesh, plastic magnifying plastic and a rubber band. By placing one's smartphone in in they have a VR viewer. This simple device caught the attention of many who waiting in line to grab one.

Something so simple, works simply well. I enjoyed watching the Kaiju Fury VR Trailer and sharing the device at a meeting for an upcoming LA film festival I'm a part of. Everyone was impressed by Japanese monsters fighting from the streets of a city falling apart.

Bored at Google Cardboard
At the booth itself there was little fanfare other than the devices being handed out. A woman tired or bored from the expo slept in Google Cardboard's lounge area, this was on a Saturday, not that late in the evening, it might have been 2pm? How strange I thought, who comes to sold out expo to sleep?

Google Cardboard is available online and at a few major retailers like Urban Outfitters. It should be no more than $10-$15 or even less as I've told you the components of it hardly cost anything. Google doesn't directly sell it's own cardboard device.

I wished there was more demos that took advantage of the technology and showed off something as fun at the Expo. I didn't even try the Kaiju demo until at my home.

At VRLA I saw games like Vertical Slice and World War Toons, neither of which is really worthy of writing about, maybe as their still in development. World War Toons has no excuse though after being at E3 this year and with a launch expected for next year.

Matt Thompson with Two Bit Circus was showing me a Indy car demo. Soon I was racing through the streets of a undisclosed city, the wind blowing in my face thanks to their rig. The seat I was in moved in relation to my speed. Matt told me they had been showing the same rig at the Indy 500 for two years. They had switched to the easier to use Samsung Gear VR instead of the Oculus Developer Kit, though Samsung VR is still powered by Oculus. Many of the other developers had switch to that rig too.

Yet all the time I was there most people avoided the Samsung VR booth. Many of it's titles sounded lackluster and after playing many at E3 I can understand why most people avoided it.

Rebecca Barkin, was showing me "The Ring" a one-handed ring controller to be used for games and drones from the company Nod. It was just a concept as the second generation "The Backspin," a bigger and gaudier looking device was what they were now showcasing. "It has squeeze detection, sub-millimeters accuracy, it's one of the lowest latency controller out there, " Rebecca told me. They weren't selling them,  they were there  to show them off and look for more financing.

Nod was like many of the developers and startups, so early in their work that it's hard to see what they will become or what they'll have to offer in the years to come. It's so early that really everything we see is speculation or an unfinished idea.