2016: The Year Seattle Embraced Virtual and Augmented Reality

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Trond Nilsen addressing the September VR Hackathon

Ed: This post was made possible by the mad compiling and organization skills of Eva Hoerth and Kayla Didier.

As we pull the curtains on 2016, we’re coming to a consensus that this was a horrible, no-good, rotten, very bad year. We lost cherished icons and elevated a reality star bigot to the office of President of the United States. Terrorism, refugee crises, Brexit, and other calamities flowed through our news feeds amid fake news concocted by Russian spies, climate change deniers, and white supremacists. And yet a bright spot appeared this year, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, with the emergence of the virtual and augmented reality industry. Continue reading

MoCap Now: Another Piece in the Cascadia Immersive Media Puzzle

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MoCap Now’s main motion capture space. Ander Bergstrom with his back to the camera, and Sixr’s Budi Mulyo, looking slightly blurry. I admit this is a pretty lousy photo. Sorry about that.

Anything could hide behind a battered warehouse door in Sodo–trapeze artists, a machine shop, a reprographics facility, an industrial bakery. Last week I pulled aside one such door on Dawson Street and found myself in a motion capture studio called MoCap Now. Continue reading

Axon VR and Balancing Secrets with Community

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This was not what I tried at Axon VR’s happy hour. I repeat: I did not try this.

Last night I attended a happy hour and demo at Axon VR, a haptics company headquartered a mini donut’s throw from Pike Place Market. They also have an engineering office in San Luis Obispo, which, incidentally, is where I once threw up in the parking lot of Hearst Castle (long story).

Before I did the demo we did a little shuffle over how much I was at liberty to write about here. I try to be as sensitive as I can about various companies’ proprietary information. So let’s just say I tried out this thing that they’re working on.

If you visit Axon VR’s website, you can get a sense of the tech they’re focused on developing. Haptics that convey pressure and temperature via such hardware as smart textiles and exoskeletons.

Of the various tech advances promised by VR visionaries, haptics seem the most difficult to execute. Though the tech I tried out at Axon’s office has a long way to go before it’s ready for the consumer market, they’ve clearly poured a lot of engineering brain power into it, and I hope they pull it off. They’re a talented crew of people working on something that could be quite transformative. Continue reading

SIXR’s Summer Cinematic VR Challenge and Hot Tub Party

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Jeff Lewis demos one of the VR experiences created over a weekend near Discovery Park. Photo by Nikola Costa.

A quickly growing cohort of artists is inventing cinematic VR in Seattle. Last weekend about fifty cinematic VR pioneers gathered at a home known as the Birdhouse near Discovery Park to create 360 VR experiences. SIXR organized the event and suggested a theme: relaxation, inner peace, leisure, and introspection. I stopped by the event for a few hours on Saturday, finding myself in a funky private home full of good books and good people sharing ideas, food, code, and laughs. Despite the theme, the scene was buzzing with activity. Continue reading

2016 Extreme Futures and Technology Forecasting Conference

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A bunch of folks geeking out about the future of technology in Redmond.

Damn, was that ever fun! I chose to spend eight hours of my Saturday with futurists, tech leaders, startup founders, renewable energy entrepreneurs, and artificial intelligence evangelists in Building 20 on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond. The conference was casual and intimate, disrupted by some minor tech problems (I can’t decide if that’s ironic or not), and intellectually invigorating. I feel like the part of my brain that’s obsessed with the future of technology just got a workout.

Presentations filled up the program. I did a short talk on the VR industry, which I plan on posting here on Monday. But first I want to mention a few of the presentations by other people that stood out to me. Continue reading