Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oculus Connect 2014 - Cherish the Splinters

I find myself with an idle hour, delayed in LAX right after Oculus Connect, and so I'm writing down some post conference thoughts.

For all of the talk about how we're all at year 0 of a new medium, the conference was surprisingly polished... which was kind of a disappointment.  The promise of VR is way beyond where we're at and our experience with making for the medium is so immature; I like the moments when I can see the exposed nail heads and splintered wood.  Luckily, Palmer is always a delightful reminder of how young we still are - awkward, nerdy commentary and all (it was also appropriate that the conference doubled as his 22nd birthday celebration).  I love the fact that he remains a spokesman for the future we all want and I continue to hope he remains our champion as VR grows beyond these humble, nerdy roots.

I also attended the latter half of The Virtual Reality Society's Proto Awards, an unaffiliated award show rewarding VR content creators that took place just across the street from Connect at The Roosevelt Hotel.  It had high production value, was well organized, good audio visual presentation, a celebrity host, and was in the heart of Hollywood.

This was both cool and concerning.   Cool because it celebrates that VR can be an art form as well as a platform for next level gaming.  Concerned because it felt blind to where we are and how small we are as a group.  With most nominations being "very cool demo" and not fully developed experiences, I felt that as a community we hadn't earned this kind of recognition.  I worry we're so excited about VR's potential that we may rush to declare victory.  I came away thinking how well we as a culture know how to put on award shows, and how naive we are to making good VR content.

One of the valid concerns in the media is that VR is over-hyped.  Any one who sees the recent prototype is in danger of treating it as a religious experience.  And zealots can be a turn off.  To be honest, I'm not that concerned.  Seeing the type of talent at Oculus and the make-up of the attendees reaffirmed my faith that if so many bright, interesting people have drunk deeply, this has legs... even if the Rift is supposed to be a "seated" experience.