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Using Rapid Prototyping to Develop and Sustain my Career in VR

Since April 2015 I have completed three VR projects. Each of these experiences were major technical challenges and therefore unique in their own right. However, the commonality they share is that they were each collaborations with developers that I partnered with in order to make them happen and without them these projects frankly wouldn’t have happened.

Three projects is quite the accomplishment and something I’m very proud of, but through this journey I’ve also realized that if I want to make more I need to be more involved in the process of putting them together in the game engine. This is the technical hurdle for every VR creator who wants to make their experience interactive.

Given the past success, why do I have this need? Well, I still haven’t found the right partners who want to commit all their time to developing content and building the Cinehackers brand with me. As a result, I’ve become reliant on these temporary partnerships that seem to dissolve after the project is done.

This model is hard to sustain and I do understand that to engage people for longer periods, I need to find ways to monetize the work and have been thinking a lot about how to kick start this initiative.

The idea that I’ve landed on is that I need to do more rapid prototyping, very similar to what I engaged in at The School of Machines, Making, and Make Believe this past August in Berlin. That’s how I developed The Key. I had a firm deadline and worked like hell to make it happen.

So here’s the plan, I spend one day developing the idea, one month capturing the assets, and one month putting them in the engine. The other important component is to share my process and I’m in the midst of setting up a Patreonaccount to facilitate this.

If this idea is successful and people see monetarily value in the work that I’m producing, I can then bring in more skilled people to work with me.

So here we go and I can’t wait to share what I make!

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Why It’s Hard for Me to be Cynical about the Future of VR

Small Wonders VR Exhibition at the AGO

Small Wonders VR Exhibition at the AGO

For the past couple years I’ve had the opportunity to walk people through their first VR experiences. Some of these projects were mine some were others, however based on their reactions it very hard for me to feel cynical about virtual reality. Don’t get me wrong, I think cynicism and is criticism very healthy and necessary but it sometimes hard for me to digest some of the articles that I have come across which have put a spotlight on the negative aspects of this growing medium. For example, this one from CNET that waxes poetic about how unimpressed they’ve been with the state of VR after all the hype that happened over the past year and the lack luster announcements at CES 2017.

So I ask myself, is VR a fad just like 3D TV’s? Is the cost of current VR headsets (Oculus, Vive, PSVR) too expensive for it to catch on? In contrast Samsung revealed their sales numbers last week for their Gear VR product and to date they have sold 5 million units. From a content creators perspective, these are very encouraging numbers and I can only see these t numbers getting bigger and bigger.

However, the truth is I don’t know where everything is going to go. If you read posts on Reddit, The Verge, Engadget etc. you will undoubtedly sway from one opinion to another. So what I’ve had to come to come to grips with is every ecosystem is fragile and it could grow or die at any time, which is the nature of things.

That said, I feel lucky. I feel lucky to be living at a time when there is another computing revolution and I get to experience first hand as I’m old enough and wise enough to respect and acknowledge what is happening. I also feel lucky because I’ve had the opportunity to watch people experience VR for the first time and be completely amazed by the technology. In the past six months alone I have worked at the Toronto Public Library and the AGO in positions where I’m teaching and demonstrating the tech to the general public. I’ve shown VR to people of all ages and the results are always the same. They come away inspired and in awe of what they’ve just witnessed.

VR is a fast moving technology and as a creator I want to keep moving with it. I’m currently on my third VR project and I’m loving every minute of it, even if I can’t see the sustainability yet. However, what I do know in my heart is that I will keep growing and evolving as an artist and storyteller there is nothing to be cynical about that.

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