on Friday, Sep. 18th

Jonnie Ross Headshot


Continuing our series of interviews with the founders of The Virtual Reality Foundation, which presents the second annual Proto Awards next week.

Previously in the series: Cosmo Scharf (founder VRLA), Adam Levin (CEO of The VRF), Jessica Ward, and John Root.

A year and a half ago Jonnie Ross had an idea: a meetup for virtual reality enthusiasts in Los Angeles. The only problem? Someone beat him to the punch.

“I discovered a post online that someone had started the meetup that I was going to start,” said Ross. “I was like, [expletive], some kid got it, and I was explaining it to a friend of mine and he was like ‘Uh, that’s my roommate.’”

The roommate in question was Cosmo Scharf, and after meeting he and Ross decided to join forces to put on the show. They found another ally in John Root (see our last interview) and the rest… well you know the next line.

The return of VR was a crisis point of sorts for Ross. He had spent the previous half decade pulling together resources to make his first movie, and then the opportunity to get involved with what looks to be the next big shift in entertainment asserted itself.

“It was a thrilling moment and a really difficult decision.” (more…)

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The Virtual Road To The Proto Awards Part III: Jessica Ward

on Wednesday, Sep. 16th

Jessica Ward Headshot

Continuing our series of interviews with the founders of The Virtual Reality Foundation, which presents the second annual Proto Awards next week.

Previously in the series: Cosmo Scharf (founder VRLA), Adam Levin (CEO of The VRF)

Don’t underestimate the social media managers of the world.

That’s a lesson that every reporter on the tech beat learns quickly. It’s easy to get distracted by the personalities of flashy developers and “rock star” CEOs, but the social media folks know where the bodies are buried. Which beefs are real and which are performance art pieces for the Twitteratti.

It’s way too easy to dismiss people with “Social Media” in their title, and that would be a grievous error. The job means seeing and hearing everything, and with that access comes perspective.

Jessica Ward is one of the founders of The Virtual Reality Foundation, which she characterizes as coming with the territory of helping the VRLA Expo off the ground. Her relationship with the event started at the first, fateful, meetup at Digital Domain in April of last year.

“It was a very small group,” said Ward, “just about a hundred people. I’d been following VR for a long time and I used to work for a company that manufactured 3D glasses, with active and passive and various technology for 3D cinema systems. So I’d been following 3D cinema and people who’d been starting to use our glasses for things other than cinema.”

Those hardware hackers led her down the VR rabbit hole. (more…)

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The Virtual Road To The Proto Awards Part I: An Interview With Cosmo Scharf

on Monday, Sep. 14th

Next week the second annual Proto Awards, which honor “trailblazers in immersive media” will be given out in Hollywood by The Virtual Reality Foundation. The VRF also produces the Virtual Reality Los Angeles Expo, and at the most recent VRLA we spoke with some of the organization’s founders about the emerging medium, the sudden prominence of the Expo, and their individual passion for all things VR.

We begin with Cosmo Scharf, the former USC-student whose post on Reddit started the ball rolling on the Meetup that would become VRLA.

The first time I spoke with Cosmo Scharf was at the first VRLA, which took place on the motion capture stage at Digital Domain, one of LA’s legendary visual effects firms. It was a brief conversation, and a few weeks later we followed it up with a formal interview.

Since that first VRLA Scharf’s life has become wrapped up completely in the exponential bloom of VR. On the Saturday morning of the most recent VRLA Expo—the event has grown by leaps and bounds in its first year and a half—we met in a room inside the LA Convention Center that had been set aside for the press. Scharf wore a VRLA branded T-shirt that made him look like the college-age volunteers who helped keep the event running smoothly, in his hand a walkie-talkie that was his link to the event’s machinery churning away behind the scenes.

A big leap from the food truck and Apple Keynote aided talks of the first event. (more…)

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Image: Microsoft

Your Face Is The Future of Computing

on Wednesday, Jan. 21st

One thing has become very clear in the last year, and it was drawn into even sharper focus today: the future of computing is going to take place right on our faces.

Whether it is in the form of virtual reality (e.g. Oculus Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus) or augmented reality (e.g. Google’s Glass) the vision of the future that has tech companies stumbling over themselves to capture the public’s imagination relies on the idea that we’ll all be wearing stuff on our faces.

The latest entrant into the Face Race: Microsoft, which showed off their Windows Holographic platform featuring the Windows HoloLens headset at its big Windows 10 event today.

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In the looming battle of AR and VR the prize is your mind.

on Thursday, Nov. 20th

Let’s talk about augmented reality versus virtual reality shall we?

For the past two years the hottest piece of hardware on the planet has been the Oculus Rift. From the Kickstarter success story to a controversial acquisition by Facebook and right up to a featured role in a recent episode of South Park, the virtual reality headset has captured the imagination of the world’s neophiles and tech geeks.

For a while there were those who wanted to craft a marketplace narrative that set up a contest between Oculus VR’s vision of immersive worlds and the augmented reality dreams of Google’s Glass. The thinking being, seemingly, that only one head mounted device is going to wind up finding broad market acceptance.

There seem to be those that instinctively prefer augmented reality to virtual reality and vice versa.

But the Glass project has, according to the conventional wisdom, imploded. In its wake Oculus appeared to be unchallenged, inevitable. You know you’re onto something when Samsung wants to jump on board. Which is exactly what they are doing this holiday season.

That makes the timing of Magic Leap’s emergence into the Technorati’s consciousness very, very interesting.


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Virtual Reality’s Future Hinges on Presence and Patience

on Tuesday, Sep. 23rd

There are two reoccurring themes in the reports out of this past weekend’s Oculus Connect developers conference in Hollywood.

The first is disappointment that virtual reality pioneer Oculus VR didn’t announce a release date for the first commercial version of their Rift hardware. The second is that the latest prototype has achieved a level of that elusive experience known as “presence” that pretty much blows everything up until now out of the water.


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Seven Things To Know About The Future of Immersive Entertainment

on Friday, Sep. 5th



1. (of a computer display or system) generating a three-dimensional image that appears to surround the user. Source: Google.

Immersive. The word pops up in conversations about entertainment with as much frequency as “engagement.” While the definition is tied to its roots as techno-jargon in the cyberdelic 90s, its popularity comes from the fact that the meaning has grown beyond those roots.

Facebook’s acquisition of virtual reality start-up Oculus VR earlier this year put the word back in the mouths of the mainstream press, and this week Samsung announced the Gear VR head mounted display adapter for their next generation phone. Another use of the term is tied to immersive theater productions like the long-running Sleep No More in New York City.

Whether in virtual or flesh and blood reality, the singular goal of an immersive experience is to suspend disbelief so totally that the audience gets wrapped up in the world around them to the exclusion of any other.

What follows is a primer, of sorts, on what the future of immersive media will look like.


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Samsung Hits The Accelerator on the VR Age With Gear VR

on Wednesday, Sep. 3rd

A couple of weeks back I watched the vice president of content for Jaunt VR—makers of a revolutionary live action video camera for virtual reality—hint at the imminent arrival of a consumer VR device. Jaunt and New Deal Studios would be releasing a short WWII themed film made with the camera this fall, and that meant people would need to able to watch it on something, after all.

There was no way that Sony was fast-tracking Morpheus, and all signs pointed Oculus VR’s first consumer product needing until 2015 to be ready. Google has the DODOcase Cardboard kit already available, but that thing is more like a Viewmaster on steroids than a fully realized VR device.

Which left one suspect in the room: Samsung, and their rumored “Gear VR.” Today the South Korean manufacturer came clean: they will be unleashing the Gear VR, a headset adapter for the forthcoming Galaxy Note 4 phone. The kicker: the software running the Gear VR is from Oculus.


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joyce rift

Beyond Games: Using The Oculus Rift To Get Inside James Joyce’s Classic Novel

on Wednesday, Jul. 23rd

We’re always on the lookout for interesting sounding virtual reality projects, and Motherboard’s Jordan Pearson has spotted one that aims to bring part of a literary classic to life:

[An] Irish filmmaker named Eoghan Kidney is designing a virtual reality video game that uses an Oculus Rift headset to put the player in the shoes of Stephen Dedalus as he meanders through Dublin on June 16th, 1904.

The game is currently in the development and crowdfunding stage, but it already looks pretty interesting, even psychedelic. Its title, In Ulysses:Proteus, comes from the chapter of the novel that it tackles. In it, Dedalus wanders across a desolate beach, closes his eyes, and ponders the shifting nature of reality and the disconnect between his inner self and the external world.

In Ulysses:Proteus doesn’t look to be anything like a traditional video game, but more in line with the emerging “virtual experience” genre. There is merit to the idea of creating an immersive experience out of what is traditionally an internal process: metabolizing the imagery of a novel. Whether Kidney is up to the challenge, or indeed if the project will get enough funding to test out his skills, is up in the air.

Via Vice’s Motherboard

Image: In Ulysses: Proteus Fundit video

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Design Firm Carbon Promises Surprises In Store For Oculus

on Tuesday, Jul. 15th

The sheer amount of talent that has joined Oculus VR in the past year is nothing short of staggering.

Even before the company was acquired by Facebook and got access to Mark Zuckerberg’s deep pockets the virtual reality pioneers had already lured one of the most talent coders on the planet–John Carmack, the comp-sci genius behind Doom— to their team.

Recently Oculus VR announced that they were bringing the design firm Carbon, which was already working on projects for the company, in house. Carbon just so happens to be the people who designed one of the most beloved video game input devices of all time: the Xbox 360 controller, which set the standard for the current generation.

Fast Company has an article featuring Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe and Carbon’s Peter Bristol talking about how the two companies got together. Bristol, the creative director of Carbon, gives a teaser that explains why Oculus would bring a whole consumer design firm on board:

“I can’t talk specifically what we’ve been working on for those months, but the surprising stuff is how much you don’t know. From what experiences are compelling to what you might do in the Rift. It’s pretty wide open.”

There’s going to be a lot of motion in the race to get virtual reality into the hands of consumers over the next 18-months. Just what that will entail is still the subject of rampant speculation. With Carbon leading the way for Oculus in terms of product design we know this much: the consumer rift is almost certainly going to be attractive. It might even overcome the inherent oddness of strapping a screen to your face.

Image: early concept art of a consumer Oculus Rift.

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To Build The VR Education of Tomorrow One Scholar Turns To The Past

There are plenty of folks in the education technology field who are excited about virtual reality as the next great educational tool.



We’re Closer To Our Photorealistic VR Future Than You’d Think (INTERVIEW)

A look into the virtual world of tomorrow with USC researcher Paul Debevec.


Prepare Yourselves For The Personal VR Video Revolution

Virtual Reality is rapidly approaching a watershed moment.

Ralph Echemendia

Spoiler Alert: Hollywood Isn’t Taking Cyber Security Seriously (LA Film Fest)

Tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival, squeezed in between movies and red carpet events, a symposium on Cyber Security is being held at the Grammy Museum.

Gumroad Rentals H

Rent Video Straight From Social Media Via Gumroad

The people who brought the “Buy Now” button to Twitter are going all-in on film distribution.