Notes from 3Dcamp Dublin (Virtual & Augmented Reality) & Irish VR meetup, February 2018

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Another year, another visit to 3Dcamp! Following on from my previous attendance at 3Dcamp in January 2017 (notes are here from that event), I luckily spotted a follow-on event organised by the same team in Feburary 2018. Below is my notes on the event, including some brief videos, etc. For the official event lists, see here (make sure to select 'VIEW DETAILS' at the top of the screen to see the now-finished event details, including a full list of companies demoing kit).

 

For anyone interested in my own thoughts and impressions, skip to the very end.... and before I go any further, if anyone wants to see a quick snapshot of what sort of devices were on show, below is a small video of demos I recorded at the event

 

Overview of 3Dcamp events

  • Attendance at event hosted by 3Dcamp Dublin
  • Organisers are  Gleb Lebedev, Nikki Lannen, James Corbett
  • The events normally include some presentations by companies, however focus of this event was purely on demos, demos and more demos.
  • A discussion group also in operation, hosted by VR Community Ireland – discussing everything and anything to do with VR, AR, 3D, storytelling, psychology, design, limitations, etc.
  • Annual conference/expo on 10th May 2018 in Dublin, www.innovatereality.com
  • A full list of the demos on the night can be found on the original event page here, including company names.

 

 

Talks / Speakers

 

How to survive in VR/AR industry

Speaker: Nikki Lannen, CEO, Warducks

 

  • Up to now, all talks have been on projects, technical, or product focused. Nothing has discussed commercial aspects so some insights on that aspect.
  • Nikki is ex-Facebook (founding member of their games group). Founded her company, Warducks in 2013, pivoted to VR development in 2015. Produced three games[1] of their own (reaching number two on the Playstation VR charts, 2nd to Minecraft) as well as producing white label and contract as well as three games.

 

  • Growth of VR: 2016: €1.6 billion, 2017: €2.2 bill, 2018: €4.5billion.
  • Trends: Mobile VR is down as desktop price points have come down. PlayStation has done very well from graph displayed. Oculus Go (€200 pricepoint) and HTC Vive kit may flip this trend back again as don’t need to connect to computer or console to work, fully independent headsets. In short, the race is not decided yet! With price cuts, demand is also increasing. 

 

  • To survive: get on every platform. Multiple revenue streams. Arcade licensing. Contract work helps develop experience. Talk to Enterprise Ireland. Private investors and VC options also. 
  • Expect lots of pivots so make sure a good team for video, audio, development, etc. 

 

  • Advertising in VR/AR: Doesn’t see advertisement or in-app working as takes people out of the experience. The platforms are also pushing people away from it. There is the odd experiment with a virtual ad or even a ‘digital coke can on the street’. Oculus and Sony didn’t want ads initially, same as Facebook not having ads for first seven years (so that may change!). 
  • Warducks currently have an AR app in development.

 

 

Virtual Reality in a corporate environment - immersive 360 sales star

Speakers: Celine Mullins (business psychologist) of MD Adaptas Training, producer Camile Donegan and John Mulreid, FBD Learning and Development Manager.

Training using immersive Training for people before joining call centre floor. 

 

  • FBD - problems and challenges. 33 offices nationwide, 900 employees nationwide, over half are millennials. 
  • Current issue: comprehensive induction programme however when employees go on sales floor, problems occur (stats and customer feedback). Narrowed down to a confidence issue - had the knowledge but hard to piece knowledge together. Previously brought staff back in and helped to re-skill, re-build. Now a leaner business so using VR and other solutions.
  • Authenticity was key. Customer repore, considered a soft skill, is also key. As part of project, converted a meeting room into audio studio. Recorded a 16-min sales call (average length of call for FBD) with FBD staff playing roles of staff and customers, rehearsed and recorded ‘call’. Used a 16-rig GoPro setup on the actual sales floor. Zoom recorders all around the floor and mixed into the footage – they wanted noise of real room - noisy colleagues, etc. Interestingly, they tied stereoscopic first, but too intense and went to monoscopic first. 
  • Return on investment: reports already from some staff that feel like ‘expert staff’ straight away. Beginner sellers. 
  • Also observing that very good for reinforcement learning. 

 

 

 

 

Immersion in VR

Speaker: Nóirín Curran, researcher, Logitech

Nóirín kindly circulated her slides after the event - find them here.

  • Logitech not just a keyboard/mouse company, they have a VR/MR focus also. (Based in Cork, Ireland)
  • They have a VR app: virtual mapping of hands onto virtual keyboard. The Logitech Bridge.  Being demoed at Cork VR events.
  • Noirin’s background is research into Immersion. Gave a story that, from the 5th century, immersion has been used - used items to distract so wouldn’t have to eat for a day.[2]

 

  • Immersion is a subjective experience. State of “intense involvement in a setting”. Adopt a character’s attributes.
  • “Setting”: the demands of the setting become the attention and focus.
  • “Presence” is the experience of being in one place or environment while physically situated in another. Involvement and immersion are necessary for this. 

 

  • System immersion: given to you by the media used. 
  • Note: “Immersive response”, not everyone has same capacity to be immersed. 
    • Visceral immersion: action, mental
    • Group immersion: competition, cooperation
    • Vicarious immersion: characters and story. 
  • If creating something in VR, consider targeting one of above (but possible to do some of all). 

 

  • How to measure immersive experience:
  • get users in! Mix of experience levels. Avoid ‘wow’ effect. Give users a fair session. Don’t mention sickness!
  • Immersive Experience Questionnaire - INX, Quantitive measure (questionnaire) - email her for details. InGroup presence questionnaire (igroup.org)

 

 

 

Demos (some tried, some observed)

The full list of demonstrators can be found on the Event page so won’t repeat too much of the details. Below is only based on personal observations, either of actually trying the devices or watching other users getting the experience.

 

Google Tilt Brush

Google had a small group of staff in attendance (interesting in itself to see that number of attendees) and had their app, Tilt Brush, running on HTC Vive. See the video for demo. Great demo of what is possible in a virtual space – also showing the ‘challenges’: how do you draw when not on a flat page?

 

Meta2, HP Mixed Reality headset

 The Meta2

The Meta2

Niall Campion of VRAI had a range of new devices on demo, including the Meta2 Augmented Reality headset and some of the new low-price Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

The Meta2 is the concept of glasses that overlay virtual items into the ‘real world’. These glasses showed the amazing potential as well as the challenges. Note: sample video I recorded can be found above (or direct link here). The intro tutorial reminded me of seeing the early demonstration videos of how to use a mouse with a computer – it’s a completely alien experience so some ‘hand-holding’ required. Unfortunately, the demo unit was too popular so didn’t get to personally try, however it was evident that main challenge was depth when trying to manipulate virtual objects: all users seemed to be having trouble estimating distance to objects they were to grab. Not sure if it was a technical limitation of the device, difficulties with setup (it was a busy room!), or users not ‘getting’ it. One interesting problem that was replicated with every user: the headset tracking couldn’t keep up with the user moving around, objects wouldn’t stay in location correctly and ‘bounced’ around a bit (you can see it in the video I recorded as well as other demos such as this from Techcrunch).

 

HP Mixed Reality headset

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I did get to try the HP Mixed Reality (MR) headset. In this, you’re in a virtual world where you can open app and create windows, however, you also have flawless head-tracking as well as flawless hand-tracking with the remotes. Resolution still feels quite low in these devices but they do nail the proper motion tracking so a very good way of introducing virtual spaces to people. Headset was also very light, handsets are comfortable (and I personally found the way to move around the virtual space very intuitive). The idea of having multiple ‘monitors’ is very compelling although will be interesting to see in practise: how do you remember where you’ve put all the screens? Here’s a demo video, originally sourced via The Verge website and their article on "Microsoft's Mixed Reality: everything you need to know".

A nice touch was the headset screen is designed so it can be flipped up and back over your head, without having to take all the straps off your head – presumably the idea being you could spend some time working in virtual space, flip up screen to go back into real physical space without removing the headset. I can see this being useful in certain industrial settings also.

 

VR smart glove from Tyndall’s Wireless Sensor Networks group

Unfortunately, this wasn’t for actual use/demo, however just observing this in action left with a strong impression. In short, if you’ve seen Minority Report gesture based interface, this was ‘glove’ from that movie. The demo only involved showing a virtual hand on screen, however watching this ‘hand’ track flawlessly alongside the real hand was a very impressive demo – one of the missing links for true VR use?

 

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Sneaky Bears - see previous event on testing this. Brilliant concept and game, across all ages/stereotypes.
  2. I’ve probably got part of the story wrong, but the spirit is correct – immersion is something that has been used for a long period of time.

 

Lastly, my Own Thoughts

As always, I come away impressed, intrigued, and still struggling to wrap my head around how close we are to the iPhone of VR kit. I.e. that device that has real-world-quality-screens, flawless movement tracking, and those perfect apps for use in a VR world. I think we're getting close but not there just yet - the ArsTechnica review of the latest HTC units would give impression they think the same. It will be interesting to see if the forthcoming Magic Leap device is another step closer in the Augmented Reality realm.....

What IS obvious is that there is a very strong group of people building a VERY strong set of skills in this field. That there is now real-world deployments such as the FBD training system in place shows where the real benefits are. My thought leaps to so many opportunities off that demo: every other business with call centre staff (duh), public speakers (practise in front of a virtual crowd with real sounds, etc.), training teachers and tutors (practise in front of a 30 virtual pupils), and in the sporting world (taking the example of Manchester City likely being intimidated by the crowd at Anfield at their recent game, it would be possible to do some practise with a major virtual sound stage to get used to the noise and stadium element).

 

I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.