If 2016 was the year Seattle embraced virtual and augmented reality, I predict that 2017 will be the year that this community integrates newcomers and diversifies its collaborations. I keep coming back to a figure that Kayla Didier and Eva Hoerth recently presented, that in 2016 the Seattle VR meetup group grew from 250 members to over 1800. I predict that this number will more than double by the end of this year. Our challenge is going to be how to retain our community spirit while experiencing explosive growth.
There are two things I’d like to emphasize this year in my reporting on Seattle’s VR/AR ecosystem. One, I’d like to profile newcomers–individuals and organizations that have made the move to Seattle to be part of what we’re creating. In 2016, Viar36o and NullSpace VR immigrated to Puget Sound, from Slovenia and Rochester, New York respectively. Last month I met an advertising professional from Nashville and a venture capital manager from Miami, both of whom expressed amazement at the vitality of our community. All of these newcomers arrive with fresh ideas and unique, global perspectives that can only strengthen our local industry. It behooves all of us to make them feel welcome and provide them resources to hit the ground running.
The second thing I’d like to pay attention to this year is how various companies and individuals are cooperating. I’m looking to celebrate instances where people are merging their distinctive skill sets and forging alliances, particularly between companies. Is there a haptics company that’s doing great work with a social VR company? A game designer working with musicians? A 360 filmmaker collaborating with an audio engineer? These are the kinds of stories I’d love to cover in the coming year.