Earlier this week, CoMotion Labs Associate Director Elizabeth Scallon moderated a panel of virtual reality experts at the Seattle Film + Music + Interactive Happy Hour. The Seattle Office of Film and Music organizes these monthly Happy Hours as a meetup for leaders in film, music, and interactive industries to network and connect. This month’s theme was “The Future of Virtual Reality” where Elizabeth and her panelists examined the future and current state of the VR/AR industry, the opportunities that are currently available to engage, and why creatives hold the power to revolutionize this technology and bring it to every sector of society.
In addition to the panel discussions, this month’s program also featured hands-on demos with several Seattle virtual reality startups such as a couple of the panelist’s teams, Doghead Simulations, and SIXR.
The panelists for this event included Ryan Smith of Invrse, Lacey Leavitt of Mechanical Dreams, Amy Lillard of Washington Filmworks, Andrew Luck of BANGaud.io, Julia Fryett of Pixvana, Sandy Cioffi of Fearless 360, and Ryan Boudinot. Each of the panelists come from extremely diverse areas of the virtual reality industry. With backgrounds ranging from videogames to sound to government – the variance in experience made for a richer and multifaceted conversation.
The conversation kicked off with a discussion of the current growth projections of virtual reality, namely, that the industry is projected to hit a $40 billion dollar valuation by 2020. With all burgeoning industries, there is always a little fear of whether or not this is genuine innovation or just a “fad.” The panelists all agreed that virtual reality is not just a fad and cited several examples as evidence. Amy cited the fact that there are 6 million headsets just in American homes today. Ryan Boudinot drew a parallel between older forms of technology, such as the radio and the television, recalling that, at one point, there were only 100 television sets in existence. Virtual reality is still very new, but growing at such a rapid rate, we can see titans of industry such as Facebook and Google completely altering their economies to include virtual reality. It is certainly not just a fad.
The bulk of the conversation surrounded the different ways the public, especially creatives, can get involved in virtual reality. While each of the panelists shared their views about the ubiquity of virtual reality, Sandy specifically commented that virtual reality is so much more than just sitting in a dark room, but rather, carries with it a paradigm of immersion and inclusion. As far as easy ways for the public to start experimenting with virtual reality, Lacey had a simple solution: Youtube. “It’s crazy what you can learn from 17-year old boys on Youtube,” she said. Lacey recommended any individuals interested in immersive reality should watch free tutorials on Youtube to teach them a wide range of immersive techniques. From learning how to stitch photos together to make a full 360 photograph to setting up your own HTC Vive – Youtube has all of the answers.
Finally, the panel concluded their conversation on the unanimous note that Seattle is the hub for virtual reality in the country. Ryan Boudinot commented that he has been consistently impressed with how open and welcoming the Seattle virtual reality community is. As one of the poster children for the Seattle grunge scene, Ryan commented on some direct parallels he has noticed in the experimental “we don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re going to make something new anyway,” mentality. Ultimately, the major takeaway from this amazing discussion was that if you are a creative looking to get involved in virtual reality, the time is now and Seattle is the place to be.