What a Start to the Year: VR Day Atlanta

What better way to start the year than by going to an all-day VR event? @VRDayATL hosted an all-day event with speakers, panelists, and demos at Georgia State University in Atlanta. It was great to be able to go to such a big event when I mostly only see events in California, Washington, or New York. Atlanta turned out to have a strong presence of VR and 360-degree video enthusiasts, producers, and developers.

@ryan_a_bell talks about tech talent in Georgia

The day was broken into speakers and panels by the subject of what, how, and why. In between the speakers, there was time to check out the demos. Lunch was served from food trucks. This was my first time eating out of one. I have to say, it was delicious!

What’s Next?

In order to see what’s next, we first need to do a recap of VR in 2016. In virtual reality, you can touch things you can’t in real life. You can experience events and feel emotions that you wouldn’t be able to in real life, either. Such as driving through Syria in a Humvee or swimming with sharks.

Many people touted that 2016 was the year for VR. While headsets were the #1 selling product on Amazon, virtual reality doesn’t yet have its own category on the site. Also, we have only just started to build up content for the platform. Just like websites of the early 2000s, content is king. Without that, the coolest headset in the world doesn’t stand a chance.

“Use VR to create additional equity around your IP” – @Ze_Bach

It’s important that we close the gap between hype and adoption so that VR doesn’t go the way of 3D (did anyone buy 3D glasses to watch their 3D TV at home?).

In order to keep driving VR in 2017, we need to focus on these three main things:

See content that drives a habit. Just like the average American looks at their phones 46 times per day, we need to make VR that sticky habit. Fortunately, many headsets utilize smartphones as the gateway to the virtual world. What will help to make VR sticky is if we start to create experiences only VR can bring to life. We should not be trying to redo 2D content into 3D. Finally, we need to create a 360-degree video habit. We should replace all cameras with 360-degree cameras. This will generate tons of content that we can use for VR experiences.

Simple, great value for the user. Start by creating short, simple content that is easily consumed by the audience. A good example of this is the New York Times 360 Daily.

Make VR social. VR needs to become social (more than two people in the experience together) to be a real driver in the market. Virtual reality will start becoming even cooler once people start really interacting with each other in it such as playing games, working, or socializing. It will become Facebook on steroids.

Panel Discussion: Immersion in VR

Next, I listened to a panel discussion about immersion in VR. The panelists were Grace Ahn, Page Anderson, and Tony Lemieux. This panel was pretty interesting because these three folks have been doing scientific VR research. I was even lucky enough to sit with Dr. Anderson during lunch! She has been using VR for cognitive-behavioral therapy for an anxiety disorder since the late 1990s.

What I thought was interesting about this panel was the effects of VR on people. For instance, Dr. Anderson found in her research that immersion changes the way people respond to outside threats. That means if you’re scared of something in real life, you can learn to control the fear safely in virtual reality so that it doesn’t affect you in those real-life moments. One of her examples was how she helped people get over their fear of flying after 9/11.

I heard some other interesting facts that I worked into my talk for IIEX Europe. Grace Ahn found in four-year-olds that you can implant false memories from VR experiences. One of the experiments she did was to have the children “swim” with a pod of orcas. She brought the children back a week later, and they talked about swimming with the orcas like it actually happened.

Of course, you can’t talk about where VR is going without mentioning the enterprise. Virtual reality is a communication tool. You can already share a virtual meeting room remotely with a colleague on the other side of the world. 2017 will show more integrations into VR from other software to make it a more viable business tool.

@Ryan_a_bell head of VRScout

It was really cool to hear from Ryan Bell, who made history streaming President Obama’s farewell speech live in a 360-degree video. He talked about the effort it took to set up the equipment, a variety of cameras, and getting on the secret service’s bad side because he wanted to get the cameras closer to President Obama.


Bell showed this slide which shows when the President of the United States used a new medium to spread their message. At the time President Roosevelt gave his speech on the TV, practically no one had TVs in their homes. Next, news castors started broadcasting on TV. From there, TV took off, and the rest is history. Will we see the same thing from 360-degree video? I think so.


We have been constrained to 2D displays with hard edges up to this point. We now have VR, which transforms that space into 3D. When it comes to content creation, we need to start thinking in 3D.

Jerry Hudson and John Rich from Moxie gave a great talk about how to make great alternate reality experiences. They concluded that it is hard to say because the pace is moving so fast. Basically, VR/AR is on a spectrum. Everything will be there in the future.

What they are doing, which I thought was interesting, was incorporating other wearables with VR. They said that “when you add other technologies to VR, you really exemplify it.” For example, they incorporated heart rate tracking from an Apple watch with a VR game that threw objects at you. As your heart rate went up, the game would throw the objects at you faster.

We can apply this type of technology in other ways, such as for marketing. You can track how people respond to a new store from their biofeedback. Not only will you have their own voiced thoughts, but you’ll see how their body is responding from a biological level.


Why are we so invested in this technology? Full disclosure, I missed this session. To me, though, we use software and technology to make our lives easier, help us do our jobs better, and generally make the world a better place. I love the creativity that people are putting into virtual reality. VR lights up a passion in people to push themselves to think in ways no one else has before. Because of this, we’re going to do extortionary things.

It’s the people that use VR that will make it the next revoultuon!


One response to “What a Start to the Year: VR Day Atlanta”

  1. […] have been experimenting with virtual reality since the late 1990’s. See this post where I listened first hand to these researchers talk about their experience with VR. We can […]


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