Writing about virtual reality, for me, is really just an excuse to hang out with artists. My paternal grandfather was a commercial artist and landscape painter, and some of my most treasured early memories are of sitting on his lap with a big pad of paper in front of us, drawing pictures together. I loved that moment when a collection of lines magically turned into a dog, a house, a little person. If he were a young man today, I suspect my grandfather would be enchanted with Tilt Brush and Paint Lab. Continue reading “Virtual reality is art. Treat it accordingly.”
Seattlevr.us has a nifty new calendar to help the community keep track of all the demos, workshops, conferences, meetups, hackathons, and myriad other events going on all over town and beyond. Trond Nilsen, one of the intrepid brains behind Seattlevr.us, announced this change yesterday via Facebook and is encouraging anyone with questions or feedback to message him there. You can also use the Seattlevr contact … Continue reading Check Out the New Seattle VR Events Calendar
What if we built a model of Donald Trump’s border wall in virtual reality? Hold on, hold on, hear me out on this. I started thinking about a VR wall after I watched this reality check of a clip from John Oliver: It occurred to me that Google Earth VR would be the perfect place to erect an imaginary wall. One could simply define the … Continue reading A Virtual Border Wall
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has pledged to fight Donald Trump’s immigration ban. This could be a get-out-your-popcorn clash between two business leaders who couldn’t be more dissimilar, a battle of the billionaires, if you will. If you just followed that last link, it’s okay if you want to take a moment or two to get your bearings on reality. Good luck. I worked at Amazon … Continue reading Don’t Mess with Bezos
A couple weeks ago I had lunch with a local VR leader of Indian heritage. We ate burgers and fries and talked about his future plans, which from my vantage point look full of promise. He’s a brilliant and personable guy, one of those people who you brighten’s my mood just by his presence. At one point this friend said that he was considering leaving … Continue reading Immigration Makes Us Strong
Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking to a group of students at AIE, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, based in a warren of classrooms and skinny hallways upstairs at Seattle Center’s Armory. I had been asked to share my thoughts on VR to people who understand a lot more than me about how to actually create VR experiences. Students at AIE spend two years … Continue reading A Visit to AIE
Several months ago I started hanging out with video game designers. The more I got to know this fascinating tribe, the more self-conscious I became about my own lack of gaming knowledge. I realized I was coming across as pretty uninformed, with my points of reference stuck resolutely in the mid nineties–Myst, The Sims, Civilization. I knew that if I was going to work in virtual reality I at least needed to be conversant in some of the gaming conventions that were being ported over from the world of consoles and RPGs. I threw myself at the mercy of my social network and asked if anyone would take pity on a poor book nerd such as myself, lend me their console, and suggest a couple games. I expressed particularly interest in open world, explorable sandbox games.
Members of the local VR community were characteristically generous, and pretty soon I found myself with an XBox One, two XBox 360s, and lots of games. I felt a bit like Christopher Plummer’s character in the Mike Mills film Beginners, discovering house music at age seventy. It’s both humbling and exciting to explore a whole body of knowledge that you’ve otherwise ignored.
I was intimidated by the complexity of console games. The vaguely amorphous controller with its multiple buttons and two joysticks always looked unfathomably complicated and I couldn’t imagine ever mastering it. As I loaded up the first of what would prove to be a series of deep gaming experiences, Red Dead Redemption, I felt as though the reprogramming of my brain had begun. Continue reading “What I’ve Learned from Playing Video Games”
I’m ecstatic to announce that Dr. Evie Powell is going to start sharing my desk at CoMotion Labs. I first met Evie ages ago (last March) at Indies Workshop in SoDo. Her snowball fight game was one of my first experiences in VR and it remains one of the most fun. Evie made a huge impression on me when I met her the first time. … Continue reading Dr. Evie Powell Coming to CoMotion Labs
Damn, was I ever hit by the nasty flu bug that seems to be making its way through Seattle this week. I’ve always found the worst part of getting sick is the accompanying feeling of uselessness. What the hell did I even get done these past couple days? While I wasn’t aching and sleeping I was reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. I recently got … Continue reading Reality Distortion
Every morning, sometimes before I even roll out of bed, I check my email for my Indeed.com VR jobs alert. They come time-stamped around 6am, with subject lines like “4 new virtual reality jobs in Seattle, WA.” Here are a few of the listings I’ve seen recently:
I’ve been paying attention to VR job listings since March of last year. At that time I discovered that a startup in Fremont called Pixvana was hiring software engineers. I suspected that in time, companies like Pixvana would start hiring for more non-technology related positions. At some point these companies would need marketers and other creative minds to communicate their technology to the world.
I still think that’s going to happen, but most of the VR job listings I see are still related to coding, engineering, UX, and testing. Chris Hegstrom, who recently worked on HBO’s Westworld VR experience, characterized the state of VR jobs in Seattle with a handy metaphor, saying, “If 2016 was the year of opening all the VR presents on Christmas morning, 2017 is the year of rolling up our sleeves and assembling the content. We spent last year looking at the marketing image on the box & imagining what it will be like once completed but there was more conjecture than actual building. This year is all about opening up the box, scanning the instruction manual & hoping we have the correct tools & batteries (& we don’t have to steal them from the emergency flashlight!) Because of this, we’ll see more jobs around content creation and VR production design opposed to research and experimentation.”
I hope Chris is right. And I’ll be curious to see where these content and production jobs come from, whether from the startup community or from the big players.