NY Blitz

A short while ago a good friend sent me this link to a story about some fun things related to Virtual Reality going on down in New York City. Virtual reality is taking over NYC (Tim Donnelly, New York Post)

It had been awhile since the last New York VR Blitz for Digital Den, or better said, New York Daze  back in June 2016, so it’s been time to consider another one for awhile. The monthly NY VR Meetups were serving as a prime suspect for an excuse. Then a really cool event from the NY VR AR Association scheduled on back-to-back evenings with a NY VR Meetup came along. Bingo, time to grab an Acela! Here’s a blow-by-blow account of the adventure and a few “take aways” at the end…

Wednesday, February 15, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Virtual Reality for Producers: How to Create and Deliver for the New Content Frontier
NY VR AR Association and NYU Data Future Lab
137 Varick St, New York (The Bowery)

This first stop on the NY VR tour was hosted by Kris Kolo, NYC Chapter President & Global Executive Director, NY VR AR Association and moderated by Chris Pfaff PGA New Media Council member and CEO Tech Media.

Paul Cheung, Director of Interactive for the Associated Press shared “lessons learned” about filming in 360° under normal journalistic conditions. The insights he shared were valuable, and among them was the useful tidbit that if you happen to already have the right phone, then a Samsung 360° camera is a better investment than a Ricoh Theta.

Alissa Crevier, Global Head of Partnerships for Littlstar gave a great explanation of their platform and trends in the content delivery end of the industry. Then Christian Egeler, Director of VR/AR product development, Verizon’s Envrmnt provided a nice hint as to what to watch for from them (an authoring and delivery system).

Finally, the panel discussion at the end included an insightful suggestion that the VR industry needs to adopt the concept of “responsive design” from web design and apply it to VR content delivery so that developers and consumers don’t have to navigate the current morass of development and delivery options. So true!

Wednesday, February 15, 9:00 – 10:00 PM

Marc Cohn and Jackson Brown Concert
City Winery
155 Varick St, New York (The Bowery)

After the NY VR AR Association event ended, a few of us starving and thristy attendees wandered next door to City Winery for a bite to eat. Little did we know that we were stumbling into a small, intimate Marc Cohn and Jackson Brown Concert. Yes, and while we didn’t get front row seats, we definitely did get to hear and see some of the later sets while sipping some very nice wine and munching on excellent appetizers. Here’s a snippet of video of the concert that someone posted on YouTube.

Ahh, happy accidents do happen, every once in awhile!  :-)

Thursday, February 16, 10 – 11:00 AM

Samsung’s 837 Store
837 Washington St. (At 13th Street)

Thursday started out with a visit to Samsung’s store that was one of the spots mentioned in the New York Post article that had helped to inspire this New York adventure. Here’s a promotional video and a few articles about the store to give you a sense of what’s there.

Samsung’s new flagship NYC building isn’t a retail store at all (Chris Welch, The Verge)
Samsung’s 837 mixes technology and delicacies (Jennifer Gould Keil, New York Post)

Here are some of my own snaps of the experiences.

It was an interesting excursion, but it was early in the day, not a lot was going on and there wasn’t any content that was different than what’s already available to any Gear VR owner. Most importantly, beware, Samsung’s “Gear VR 4D Chair” can deliver a mild case of whiplash that can cause a headache worse than a VR headache. Yep, ouch!

Thursday, February 16, 12:00 – 1:00 PM

Rebelle
218 Bowery, New York (The Bowery)

After traipsing around New York all morning, I was getting pretty hungry, so I stopped into the nearest restaurant to my next destination to have a quick snack. That happened to be Rebelle, and it turned out to be a very lovely restaurant with such fantastic food that is is worthy of being a destination in its own right.

2b-lunch-rebelle

Thursday, February 16, 1:00 – 3:00 PM

Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work
New Museum
235 Bowery, New York (The Bowery)

Between my VR excursions, I decided to finally get around to visiting the New Museum that I’ve been trying to get around to visiting for ages. Yes, I know, given what I’ve been up to with my NEW Computer Museum, we can all agree that it was an inexcusably long overdue visit.

The exhibit of the moment happened to be a retrospective of Raymond Pettibon’s work (Wikipedia).

2b-newmuseum-pettibon1

Here are some snaps of my favorites from the show.

Thursday, February 16, 4 – 5:00 PM

Jump into the Light
355A Bowery, New York (The Bowery)

This was another spot mentioned in that New York Post article that helped to inspire this trip, and it had a distinctly different vibe than Samsung 837. It is billed as “America’s First VR Cinema & PlayLab,” and it has the potential to be a more engaging experience. Here’s a short video to give you a sense of the space.

Again, it was still fairly early in the day on a Friday, not a lot was going on and there wasn’t any content that was much different than what you can already see if you happen to have your own VR lab with the same rigs. But how many people have that, right? ;-) This visit was still a more interesting experience with better demos than the Samsung 837 store, and while I didn’t get a chance to talk with any of the founders in depth, I had a lot of fun talking with their young, enthusiastic, adorable crew.

2c-intothelight-crew

Thursday, February 16, 6:00 – 9:00 PM

New York VR’s February Meetup
Microsoft Flagship Store
42nd St. @ 8th Avenue (11 Times Square, Across from Port Authority)

The final stop on the whirlwind VR themed tour of New York was NY VR’s February Meetup. There were a series of great, short talks and a ton of fun demos.

Chris Kairalla of VRBFoto also shared a 360° Photo that he took of the audience.

One of the many highlights of the evening was Dario Lavarde of HTC VIVE presenting about the recently announced VIVE Tracker. Here’s a promotional video about it, and Dario even showed a demo of authoring for the tracker in Unity 3D plus shared his slides.

Another highlight was Lex Dreitser giving demos of his Epson Moverio. That was cool!

Thursday, February 16, 10:00 …

The New Yorker Hotel
481 8th Avenue, New York (Midtown)

So, after all of this, it was time to pick a nice place to stay. Check!

Yes, that’s a bit of an understatement. Here are my snaps.

It’s no wonder Tesla chose it for his place to be an urban hermit…

…or I wonder, was he “really” that much of a hermit?

Rediscovering The New Yorker Hotel’s Underground Tunnel to Penn Station (Anthony Falco, Untapped Cities)

No matter. The New Yorker was an extremely neat place to stay!

Missed Opportunity

230 Fifth’s Roof Deck
230 5th Ave, New York (dah, Midtown :-)

One thing I really wanted to do, but didn’t get a chance, was to visit a restaurant/bar called “230 Fifth” that touts a great roof deck with igloos. Here’s a video about it.

Better yet, they have even documented the experience in 360°viewing online.
Virtual 360° Tour of 230 Fifth’s Roof Deck “Igloos”

Ah well, there’s always next time…

“Take Aways”

Here’s a run down of some ruminations from the overall VR@NY experience…

  • Samsung and Oculus need to work on their marketing of VR experiences.
  • Stay away from Samsung’s Gear VR 4D Chair!
  • VR and AR demos are more interesting to the audience if you invest in setting up a monitor to show what the viewer is seeing.
  • If you’re going to host immersive experiences, go to great lengths to get unique content not already available to consumers that already have headsets.
  • 360°video “might” be a killer app for VR because it’s easy, fast and cheap content that an average consumer can create. Better, cheap and widely available 360° cameras that can stream live video are needed, though.
  • If you have a compatible Samsung phone, get the Gear VR 360° Camera.
  • Parallel to the exhaustively covered VR Headset wars, there is a far quieter, but probably more crucial war going on among immersive content delivery platforms. The players range from brand specific options like Samsung/Oculus/GearVR stores, Sony Playstation and VivePort to the broader cross-platform, device independent content delivery services such as YouTube 360° and Facebook 360° video on the low end on up to premium content delivery platforms like Littlstar.
  • The VR and AR industry needs to adapt the concept of “responsive design” from web design and apply it to immersive content to result in something like “responsive immersive content design, authoring and delivery” so that developers and consumers don’t have to navigate the morass of options currently available. Someone needs to provide a way for publishing 360° video, WebVR and Unity 3D/Unreal authored VR/AR/MR experiences for everything ranging from desktop or mobile to low end Cardboard/View-Master/GearVR/Daydream phone based viewers all the up to Oculus and Vive headsets. In truth, a movement towards this is already in the air, and while it is certainly a bear of a challenge to tackle, it will be worth it because the most inclusive and adaptable platform(s) will win the immersive VR/AR/MR content platform battle.

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