This weekend the Shanghai and Brisbane VR meet up groups have teamed up to bring the world a free, online virtual reality mini-expo featuring presentations about VR. All of it’s hosted in the online social application VR Chat, and you’re invited! Road to VR’s VR Community Liaison, Chris Madsen investigates further.

The Shanghai VR Meetup group and Brisbane VR Club have joined forces for a back-to-back weekend of live presentations and networking utilizing the social VR platform VRChat. Beginning this weekend, those logging into VRChat from around the world during this event will be able to the speakers covering a wide range of VR topics and are encouraged to interact with the guests, many of which will be trying VR for the first time. A camera view from within virtual reality will be streamed back to the attendees in Shanghai.

Shanghai VR 4
The Shanghai VR Meetup

Ben Rudick, co-founder of social investment group Transist Impact Labs and self proclaimed “VR fanboy” informs us that this first of two events will begin Saturday March 21 at their Shanghai offices. Following the announcement, the organizers were caught off guard at how quickly the RSVP list grew to over 400 people. Rudick expressed that the response has been overwhelming stating; “I’m not sure how we are going to handle the deluge, but this is an excellent problem to have.” Rudick says the outpouring of interest in VR has him contemplating a larger event of 1,000-2,000 + people a few months from now.

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Shanghai VR 5

Christian Grewell, Associate Director of Program Management at NYU Shanghai and co-organizer of the Shanghai VR meetup agrees that there has been an explosion of interest for virtual reality throughout China. He and co-organizer Florian Brutsche, a software engineer, believe that the time is ripe to reach across boundaries and bring together the Chinese and Asia Pacific VR development and enthusiast communities with this collaborative event being an early step in that direction. In addition to supporting the meetup group, Grewell is setting up a virtual reality research lab to co-teach students how to use vr and Unity to rapidly prototype ideas and will be speaking at Unity’s 2015 conference in Beijing which attracted 15,000 participants last year.

Shanghai VR 6

Following this weekend extravaganza the focus will shift 4,500 miles south to Brisbane, Australia where the next live events will be held. Alexander “Lex” Van Cooten, co-organizer of the Brisbane Virtual Reality Club, has been hard at work growing a local community of VR enthusiasts to collaborate, share and promote individuals works.

In an effort to get virtual reality into the hands of those with limited funds, they have teamed up with a local startup company specializing in head mounted displays (HMD’s). The project utilizes an open source do-it-yourself HMD with educational materials that provide instruction on how to build a quality virtual reality device at a reasonable price point. Lex intends the kit be used in educational institutions for teaching and educating students as they explore the seemingly endless applications of virtual reality.

The 'VR Chat' virtual world that awaits attendees
The ‘VR Chat’ virtual world that awaits attendees

Recognizing the strength of collaboration, Lex set out on a mission to connect with other VR groups in the region. The Shanghai VR group was the first to respond to his outreach efforts and a shared vision of bringing communities together sealed the deal. Lex states the groups vision is to connect with all virtual reality meetups in the Asia Pacific region to form one of the largest VR support networks on the globe and believes utilizing social VR platforms is an important tool that will help make this possible. Van Cooten explains that; “With the aid of social VR platforms we can bypass miles of ocean and collaborate in the same virtual space as our cross continent neighbours simply by slipping on an HMD. Social VR today is a small step into a future world with no physical boundaries.”

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The world is invited to log in and join the event between Saturday March 21st from 2:00pm – 7:00pm Shanghai time (convert to my time)

VRChat can be downloaded here. A virtual reality headset is recommended but not required.

Shanghai Speakers and Topics include:

  • Introduction to VR (Ben Rudick)
  • Virtual Reality Hardware Revolution – Real Opportunities for Developers (Christian Grewell)
  • The Future of Meetings – Can VR replace the meeting? (Florian Brutsche)
  • The VR Industry in China, an Introduction (Chen Sheng)
  • VR and it’s applications for Life-Assisting Technology (Leigh-Anne)
  • The VR Startups in China, an Introduction (Chen Sheng 陈晟)
  • Follow me to the Astonishing VR Worlds (Fang Shun 方顺)
  • VR for industrial solutions (Zu Hou Chao 祖厚超)
  • VR Interviews (Xu Chen Liang 徐辰亮)

And next weekend, it’s the turn of the Aussies. The Brisbane event will be held Saturday March 28th at 5:00 pm Brisbane time. (convert to my time).

Speakers and Topics include:

  • Building a Virtual World in UE4 (Alex Stevens)
  • Open Source Virtual Reality (Wilf Watson)

chris-madsendChris Madsen has been eagerly exploring the developing Social VR scene. Chris graduated from the University of Utah in psychology and has worked in the mental health field for almost 20 years. Throughout his career he has been been paying close attention to how digital technology has impacted individuals, communities and society at large. Chris has also recently co-founded the Salt Lake City Virtual Reality Meetup.


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