CEO CORNER: Unity’s John Riccitiello Discusses VR/AR and Vision Summit

The Vision Summit is an inaugural two day conference, taking place in Los Angeles on Feb. 10­-11, 2016 at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood. Unity will host this first­-ever event to bring together the virtual reality community and sharing ideas across genres, roles, and skill levels.

Created as a meeting place for content producers, artists, hardware manufacturers, filmmakers, developers, and production designers, Vision connects the music, film, architecture, interactive media, and gaming industries for a comprehensive view of the virtual and augmented reality business. Attendees will hear the latest updates from leading companies, network with peers, and have access to hands-on experiences with the latest VR / AR content available.

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Unity CEO John Riccitiello wants to bring together the various aspects of virtual reality and the emerging augmented reality markets to help spur creativity and catapult these technologies forward. Riccitiello talks about these emerging spaces, and the role of the new industry conference in this exclusive interview.

Why did Unity decide to host this first Vision VR/AR Summit?

We think that the augmented reality and virtual reality world has the potential to be the biggest tech advancement since the smartphone. At the moment there aren’t enough places for content developers and people interested in the space to connect and share their ideas, particularly across platforms. While Oculus and HoloLens will likely host separate events for their individual platforms, most developers are still looking at the space and trying to figure out which piece of hardware will harness their creativity ­ Vision gives them access to all of these platforms.

Unity is the engine behind the majority of VR and AR content on the leading platforms, and has a unique perspective from which to gather this community and share knowledge across the industry. Vision is about connecting with and learning from others to create the best content. We’ll have participation from industry leaders like Oculus, Vuforia, Sony, Steam VR, Google, Nvidia, Epson, Vizuality Studio, VirZOOM, and Leap Motion, among others, so we’re hoping that the summit will spark new ideas and help expand opportunities for Unity developers to engage with VR/AR in a non-platform specific way.

How receptive have Sony, Samsung, Oculus and all the different hardware makers been to this cross-­platform format?

They have been very receptive. The reality is that VR and AR can’t succeed without great content, so we need to engage developers and give them the tools to create. Making developers manually port their content for each hardware specification is not a viable option. It would just slow down adoption at a time when it needs to be ramping up. So having a tool like Unity, that allows developers to create and publish across all the major platforms instantly, is a huge benefit for the entire industry – from hardware makers to developers and consumers – and we’re excited to see what comes from the summit.

What role do you think Vision will play in encouraging conversations across entertainment and non-­entertainment fields?

Although early VR and AR technologies have largely been led by the gaming and entertainment industries, they both have the potential to expand into other areas. However, one of the biggest challenges across all fields is figuring out the creative language for VR and AR. For example, guiding viewers to look somewhere in a VR environment might require special 3D sound, or “tripwire,” to draw your attention to the right place. I suspect developers will create many new mechanics like this to help players and viewers progress through the world of VR and AR. There will be dozens of new mechanics and approaches and the terms to describe these mechanics, which, taken together will form the new creative language of VR and AR. So a large part of the conversation at Vision will focus on the beginnings of creating a standardized language for VR/AR.

What opportunities do you see the Los Angeles backdrop for this summit having on attracting Hollywood to the conversation?

The Vision Summit is a great opportunity to bring the Hollywood community to the table and engage with them on these topics. Movie studios like Lionsgate, Warner Bros., Fox, and Disney are all either researching or investing in VR and AR. Hollywood knows it’s transformative, so they’re working through questions like how to tell a story in VR.

What role do you see enterprise opportunities playing in this summit? Whether it’s for training, collaboration, or more effective communication, we’re going to see the corporate world rapidly adopt VR and AR to increase productivity and lower costs. I think in the near future we’ll see business leaders like Google, Apple, or Microsoft build some sort of metaverse, a place where millions of players and consumers will interact together in what will feel like a real world environment. Frankly I don’t think there’s really any corner the world that’s going to remain untouched from all of this. The decade of the 2020s is going to be the one that really defines it. We’re getting there with early exploration now, and the potential is limitless.

What roles will video games play in this VR space and what role will they play at the summit?

Gaming is already the early adopter and market leader in the VR space, partly because there’s an army of several million Unity developers that have been making VR and AR content for years. And, while I think many of today’s game developers will take a lead in the new world of VR and AR, I am not so sure the games of today are going to make the transition. The promise of VR and AR is so great, we’re going to want entirely new experiences. Experiences that take advantage of what is unique about VR and AR. Ultimately, the hits of yesterday and today will need to be completely re-imagined to meet the demands of the viewer who wants a fully immersive experience.

What opportunities do you see VR and AR opening up for non-­traditional gaming entertainment companies?

I’ve been blown away by some of the content developed to date, and we’re still in the first innings. The hardest question with VR and AR though is not the technology – using Unity, developers can already create amazing content. What’s challenging is how the user, gamer, or consumer experiences the story and how content development takes advantage of the staggering change of perspective.

Unity enables developers to avoid investing multiple person years of research on how to build and engine for VR and AR. We make that automatic, and allow the developer to focus on creation. About half the games in the world are built on game engines and the vast majority of those are built on Unity. Yet I’ve always been amazed at the other half, where people are developing their own tech. There are some instances where that makes sense, but the majority of the time it seems to me developers would be better off to avoid spending time and effort building tools when the real focus could be better invested in creating new experiences.

What role do you feel cross-­platform development will play in these early VR and AR days?

It’s going to be very challenging for developers to pick one platform and know they’re going to get in front of all the right audiences. With Unity, developers don’t need to choose a toolset for one individual platform – they can develop and publish across all the leading platforms at once. That speeds up time to market and increases revenue opportunities, which is critical in the early development of the space. We want developers to not only create amazing content, but to be successful so they keep doing it!

Thank You!

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THE VISION SUMMIT

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LOCATION: Loews Hollywood Hotel, 1755 Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90028

DATES: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 9:00 AM – Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 5:00 PM (PST)

Expert Advisory Board

The Vision Summit has also organized an expert panel of Advisory Board members:

  • Mike Capps – former President, Epic Games
  • David Luebke – Senior Director of Research, Nvidia
  • Joe Ludwig – VR Programmer, Valve
  • Sylvio Drouin – VP Unity Labs, Unity Technologies
  • Relja Markovic – Chief Technology Officer, HoloLens and Xbox/PC studios, Microsoft
  • Richard Marks – Director, PlayStation Magic Lab, Sony Computer Entertainmentx
  • Jacki Morie – Founder and CTO, All These Worlds, Senior Scientist at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies

Vision Awards

The inaugural Vision VR/AR Awards will recognize the most innovative virtual and augmented reality projects to date across eight categories, including Best Film/Interactive Story, Best AR experience, and Artistic Achievement, among others. The Vision Awards Ceremony will take place on February 10th, 2016 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, California, and will be followed by a networking reception during which attendees will have an opportunity to ask finalists about their projects. The deadline for awards submissions is Midnight PST, December 3.

Breakout Sessions Designed for all Levels

Hosted by industry veterans and visionaries, the Summit will feature a wide range of breakout sessions covering topics such as conceptual and practical design, technology deep dives, interface design, implementation and creation of full immersion through presence. During these sessions, participants will have the opportunity to get expert advice on projects, engage with industry peers, and uncover new ideas. The partial list of breakout sessions can be found on the Vision VR/AR Summit 2016 website, and a sampling of topics is below:

  • “Augmented Creativity: Bridging the Real and Virtual Worlds to Enhance Creative Play” by Mattia Ryffel (Disney Research Zurich)
  • “Don’t Just Teleport – How to Walk Around Something That is Bigger Than Your Tracked Space” by Diego Montoya (RE’FLEKT GmbH)
  • “Enterprise-Grade AR for Operational Environments: A Postmortem” by Steve Richey (Float Mobile Learning)
  • “Escape from Antarctica: in the footsteps of Shackleton” by Scott Ashton (Lost in the Machine)
  • “Making World Sensing Games with Project Tango” by Johnny Lee (Google)

Showcase & Exhibit Hall

Attendees will have the opportunity to demo new and award winning experiences in the VR/AR Showcase, with four rooms of expertly curated content from around the globe. Across from the Showcase will be the exhibit hall where exhibitors will provide attendees more opportunities to experience an array of content on the latest hardware.

For tickets and more information about the Summit and Vision Awards, visit www.visionsummit2016.com.