Michael Glombicki shares his thoughts on the recent SEA-VR virtual reality community event, held in Seattle last month, and ponders the future of the community scene as VR becomes a mainstream technology.

michael-glombickiMichael Glombicki is Seattle based software engineer who has worked at both Boeing and Microsoft. He also has a habit of backing any Kickstarter campaign related to VR.

800 VR enthusiasts and 40 VR companies gathered at the Meydenbauer Convention Center on Wednesday last week to attend SEA VR 2015. The conference, which is the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, caters to all facets of the VR industry.

SEA VR has grown substantially since its start last year at Seattle’s Living Computing Museum. This year conference hosts added keynote speakers, a pitch competition and a series of panels featuring speakers from both business and academia.

Bob Berry, CEO Envelop VR

During his welcome address, Envelop VR CEO Bob Berry explained that “it’s really hard to describe to people what [VR presence] means using words, you really need to experience it to believe it, and that is the purpose of this conference; to allow more people to experience these new immersive technologies.”He went on to say that the “greater Seattle area is poised to be a hotbed for virtual reality.”

The expo hall had some big names like Google, Microsoft, and AltspaceVR, but most of the booths in the hall belonged to smaller VR startups. This included startups like Shape Space VR, a company that provides artistic 360° video experiences created by Academy Award winning designer Kevin Mack.

The most notable booth in the expo hall was Epic Games’ Bullet Train demo. The demo, which uses the new Oculus Touch motion controllers, made its first public appearance outside of Oculus Connect at SEA VR.

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Grizzlywares Present at SEA VR 2015

Near the end of the event, five VR startups pitched their business plans on stage in front of venture capitalists from the Seattle area in a session called the “VR Shark Tank.” Fish Bowl VR, a company that provides crowd-sourced user testing for VR, won the competition and landed a follow-up meeting with the investors. The runner-up, Grizzlywares, also earned a follow-up meeting for their HTC Vive-based mini-golf game, Poly Putt.

SEA VR 2015 was a great opportunity to sample a lot of different VR experiences in person, but Envelop VR Vice President of Marketing and Communications Angela Gamba says the future of the event is unclear: “it will be interesting next year, as the headsets become more mass market and you might be able to try them at your local Best Buy. Will there be a need for this type of event? It’s too early to tell. It really will depend where this industry is a year from now.”

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.