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The 1st official virtual reality meetup in Long Beach was hosted at California State University Long Beach on November 4th, 2014 which brought together people from all over the West Coast. LBVR’s foundation is one built on the cross-section of nearby virtual reality communities and glimpses into where the local VR revolution is headed.

VR Finds Long Beach

Currently, virtual reality has been a widespread, global movement with roots firmly planted in California. Meetups like SVVR, VRLA, and OCVR have sprung up as the demand for virtual reality has grown.

It all surfaced in San Francisco which sparked the fire of VR interest down towards the environments surrounding Los Angeles and Orange County. Then, other smaller demonstrations of developer content started to arise.

Soon gaming conferences, software-based technology events, and maker movement get-togethers began to embed bits and pieces of emerging virtual reality innovations. As the wildfire of VR engulfed the nearby surroundings, individuals from the local communities saw the need for a specific Long Beach collection of virtual reality enthusiasts; and so, the LBVR meetup was born!

See also: Virtual Reality Invades IndieCade 2014

The night started with LBVR’s organizer, Christopher Cain, giving a quick introduction with an explanation to why it was important to create this meetup. He said right off the bat that LBVR was produced to fill “the void in between LA and Orange County.” This was done in part because sometimes it is a little bit difficult to travel to Los Angeles or OC for smaller VR events due to travel times and conflicting schedules. Thus, a collaborative community within Long Beach was required.

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What makes Long Beach great for VR is the strong connections to engineering and art schools based there. As Christopher Cain stated early on, the art school on the campus practically “runs this place.” In addition, the university has an influential film department along with an electronic arts department as well. This means that there are tons of creative individuals here who are looking for an emerging industry to get their hands on.

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To get things going, a video by Nick Venden was played at the beginning of the meetup setting an artistic mood. It showed what Nick envisions the future of virtual reality will look like if people don’t watch the revolution carefully. It silently depicts a journey into what seems to be a prison with a person huddled in a decrepit, locked room with wired sensors strapped to his arms as he feverously twitches in the corner. It is reminiscent of photos  and illustrations (like this one) showing similar interactions with virtual reality headsets that have surfaced in the past.

On a lighter note, Ryan Pulliam, CMO of Specular Theory, took to the podium to speak about the wonderful projects that their company is working on. Their CEO and founder Morris May has 25+ years of hollywood visual effects experience and has been awarded two Academy Awards in his career so far (one for Happy Feet, and one for Spiderman 2). Pulliam and May met surfing one day. Later, May invited her to try out this crazy new device known as the Oculus Rift. Shortly after, Pulliam quit her job and decided to hop on the wild ride that is virtual reality.

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During her presentation, Pulliam mentions that working in the VR space can sometimes feel like “developing iPhone apps before the iPhone was released.” No one really knows what the market will turn into. Yet, the movement progresses despite a lack of consumer products (for now). It’s still a risky move at this point, but developers like those at Specular Theory push on knowing that there is an amazing chance to achieve something great in the near future.

Screenshot of the Venice Beach experience by Specular Theory
Screenshot of the Venice Beach experience by Specular Theory

The demo that Pulliam was showing off that day was a 3D stereoscopic video cut from a fun romp through Venice Beach. The footage was captured with a custom, homemade camera rig that Morris May hacked together. Details of the rig are mostly under wraps, but I have seen it in action (recently at the STEAM Carnival). The setup is something that almost anyone can make; given the right resources. The rig is portable enough to be transported anywhere, including putting it on a moving bike (which can be seen in the demo).

The Venice Beach experience by Specular Theory starts out by showing people swinging from rings as they laugh joyfully during a sunny day. The trip continues as a couple of snake wranglers appear with large boa constrictors wrapped around their arms. The creatures are so close that is feels like they’ve slithered their way right into the VR headset.

Potential upcoming film demos by Specular Theory may include a journey through a ‘Carnival of the Future’ where jugglers, musicians, and tesla coil rockstars frolic and dazzle the crowd. A Halloween Haunted House experience has also been recorded which might make its way out into the world soon.

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