vrlalogo2VRLA (Virtual Reality Los Angeles) is the brainchild of one Cosmo Scharf, a Film Production student at the University of Southern California and a self confessed VR Evangelist. Although one of the newer meetups on the block, VRLA has made quite an impact on the VR community and even gathered industry and community members alike at it’s recent VR Mixer event at this year’s E3 Expo last month.

For VRLA’s second meet up, Cosmo managed to arrange access to the Mixed Reality Labs (MxR) where the event was held. Cosmo was kind enough to bring us up to speed on who was there and what there was to see.

Cosmo’s Impressions of VRLA #2

VRLA #2 was held this past Monday at the MxR lab, a facility dedicated to cutting-edge virtual reality research. While the MxR lab is usually closed off to the public, they opened their doors to a few hundred guests to host VRLA. Inside their building, they gave demos of Project Blue Shark, redirected walking (which creates the illusion of moving through infinite space), rapid avatar scanning, portable immersive viewers on devices like the iPad, and several others.

Exhibitors were set up outside on their parking lot while guests were waiting to go inside the MxR lab. Sixense was showing off their STEM system while Epic Games was giving demos of Couch Knights on the DK2. Control VR wowed attendees with their finger-tracking glove while KOR-FX impressed with its haptic gaming vest. Several indie games were also represented such as Classroom Aquatic, Rhea, Diplopia, and Eden River from Unello Design.

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All in all, everyone had a great time! The event would not have been possible without the support of Apogee, leaders in audio recording hardware and software. Many thanks to The Grilled Cheese Truck for providing delicious food to our hungry guests.

One of the Exhibitors was Unello Design‘s Aaron Lemke, responsible for the likes of Eden River and Lunadroid 237. Aaron shared with us pictures and his impressions. Hover over the pictures for descriptions or click for larger annotated gallery.

Aaron’s Impressions of VRLA #2

VRLA was a great experience. I had a booth so much of the time I was there demoing Eden River for people, but I did manage to sneak away and get a tour of the MxR Lab.

There were several different VR related systems set up in the lab: a large stage for high res 3d body scanning,  Blue Shark had a virtual mockup of a battleship interface, a Kinect system for scanning avatars (they were scanning people on the tour and rigging and animating them on the spot. So you would see the avatar of someone who just got scanned, on a tv screen jumping around and doing backflips), a virtual journalism environment depicting a military incident in Syria, and a demo of Redirected Walking. The only demos I tried were the last two.

The journalism experience was interesting. These types [of] experiences could do a lot for making the various military conflicts the US is involved in more tangible to the general public. The Redirected Walking demo was fantastic. Redirected Walking takes advantage of a perceptual phenomenon called change blindness RW can be used in VR to convince people they are walking in a much bigger space than they actually are. You walk into room and when you aren’t looking the game switches the placement of the door that you walked in through. For more on change blindness check out the video below:

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I also got the chance to try the Control VR system. I was very impressed. The latency on the finger tracking was very low. Calibration seemed to a be a bit of an issue as my virtual fingers didn’t quite match up with my real ones, but they assured me that the final version would work better.

Overall it was a great experience, I saw lots of familiar faces but also met many interesting new folks as well.

Huge thanks to both Cosmo Scharf and Aaron Lemke for taking the time to document their experiences. For more information on future VRLA events, head over to their homepage here. You can find more about Aaron at Unello Design’s homepage here and you can follow him on twitter here.

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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.