Innovation

Social VR, space VR, and 360 cameras: SVVR's opening keynote

The day one keynote at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality conference included camera satellites and VR calls in Slack.

Image: Erin Carson/TechRepublic

The Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference and Expo kicked off Thursday in San Jose, California with a six-part keynote featuring various figures in the industry covering everything from social VR, 360 cameras, to VR in space.

First up was Ben Lang, executive editor of Road to VR, an online publication covering virtual reality. He talked about the idea that, while many think the release of VR headsets are the end of the road, this is really the beginning of a long trajectory for the technology. He hit a few areas the industry should be focusing on:

1. Social VR: "VR is only isolating if we design it that way," Lang said.

2. Virtual goods: Hardcore gamers might already be accustomed to purchasing virtual goods inside games, but there are many out there who would never buy a hat, for example, for an avatar. There's more of a difference between the avatar and oneself. But, in VR, the lines are more blurred. They wouldn't be customizing a character, they'd be customizing themselves.

3. Player expression: People act differently in VR than they do in traditional gaming. They crouch, they duck, they get frantic.

4. Multimodal experiences: Lang said few people are taking advantage of the differences between room scale, seated, and the in between. Experiences could include all of those.

5. VR is not a subset of other media: Going forward, VR is not a type of film or gaming, but rather, film and games are a subset of VR.

After Lang came Eric Romo from Altspace VR, which is a social VR application. He set up a premise that when VR reaches the masses, the most common use will be communication.

"It can be easy to get distracted by the science fiction vision," Romo said. The challenge these days is creating value right now. He unveiled VR Call for Slack, the popular enterprise messaging tool.

After Romo came Zvi Greenstein from NVIDIA , makers of graphics cards, etc. Greenstein mostly talked about NVIDIA products and the company's relationship with the VR community.

Also on the hardware side was Stuart English from Nokia. He talked about Nokia's $60,000, professional-grade 360 camera, the OZO.

"VR is important because it has a greater sense of believability than any other medium we've invented yet," he said. Having professional tools means not giving the viewer any clues that what they're seeing isn't real.

After English came Ryan Holmes, from Space VR, accompanied by an astronaut. He announced they'd received $1.5 million dollars in funding to launch the first camera satellite into space in 2017. It will hitch a ride with a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station and orbit the earth taking 360 footage.

And last came Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, who now leads High Fidelity, a shared virtual reality application that just announced a beta of its Sandbox experience. He believes there is strong potential for VR beyond simply gaming and social media.

"VR is going to be disrupted in the way that the internet and smartphone were," he said.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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