1. Tell us about yourself Ryan:
I've been working as an interaction designer, as well as in product for the last 10 years, but over the last three I've been lucky enough to be practicing directly in the VR, AR, and mixed reality space, mostly as a part of Human, a product studio I helped co-found. Volumetric experiences like VR and AR have fascinated me since university, because I've always been curious about “What comes after 2D screens?”.
Another personal project I've been working on is perfecting and building a prototype workflow for myself to more easily streamline the path from idea, through to a product demo that I can actually pitch to a company or client. This is actually what inspired the new workshop I'll be hosting with CodeCore. Right now, VR is a very fragmented market, each headset, engine, and platform requiring small to major adjustments in development procedures. My goal with VR for Developers is to teach students the fastest and most effective way to ideate and prototype their VR projects, as well as supply enough UX and UI best practices that they are able to pitch to an investor or internally at their company for more resources.
2. VR has received a lot of hype in recent years, what's your opinion of the industry and where do you think it's headed?
VR has hit peak hype in the last 12 months, and although some investors and companies are facing a downturn, it's no coincidence that some of the most deeply funded and successful companies are throwing massive amounts of investment into the spaceâ€Š–â€Šfor instance Facebook's pledge to invest more than $3 Billion into the space within the next 10 years. The value of this technology is still very clear and present. The lucky companies will have people who “get it”, but it's then up to these individuals to champion innovation and become internal leaders. I view the shift into VR and AR as something similar to how people handled the transition to smartphones, with those outside major stacks like small businesses and software companies taking a very different approach to VR uptake.
3. Where do you think the biggest opportunities can be had for non-gaming companies looking to expand into VR are?
The short answer is that there's no profession or company that couldn't potentially use VR. But specifically: any profession where human scale is important. Think architecture, industrial design, medical training, or crisis response. I just recently saw a training tool to help medical staff practice empathy for the intake process of patients with visual stigmas. It is very easy to picture VR making an immediate impact. As one of my students reminded me the other day: When you get training in VR, you haven't learned it, you've done it.
In another five years or so I can also see VR becoming commonplace in unexpected areasâ€Š–â€Šmaybe even something as humdrum as accounting. The ability to organize information in 3D to draw better connections could revolutionize an unassuming industry like that. However, in order to have these “AHA! moments developers need to have the confidence to not only come up with an idea they think might work in VR, but be given the agency and ability to quickly prototype and test. The critical outcome for me is that VR champions are able have a couple of arguments in their belts and the skills to help justify research into this industry within the next 12 months if they want to be successful.
4. Do you think VR talent is or will be an issue?
Right now, the majority of volumetric experience developers have cut their teeth in the gaming world, and have a strong passion for that industry. Even companies looking outside gaming, at what I call practical VR, use game developers. This can be an issue because as VR moves outside of gaming, you might lose the alignment of passion and ability for certain developers. Problems that exist in games, and problems in practical software can be very far off from each other. I believe that in order to rectify issues within the VR talent pool, we need to both help gaming developers gain a software product mentality, and also help developers in the software product world gain an understanding of how 3D space changes problems.
5. What is your best advice for people starting out in VR?
Experience First. There is no substitute for just putting on a headset and seeing for yourself how a user will experience something. That's the first step.
Trial and Error, Fail Quickly. Best practices are still waiting to be discovered. Your goal as a new VR developer is to shorten the time between having an idea and finding out if it works as much as possible.
Dive In. Many people are hesitant about trying VR because they think it will take a long time to learn or are overwhelmed with the content. However, using the tools like Mozilla's A-Frame and WebVR you'll be surprised at how quickly developers can grasp concepts and begin to feel productive. Experiences within 2D spaces using front-end frameworks like Backbone and Angular are very transferable when learning about 3D.