Vision Quest

Got VR conference fatigue? Me too. But Vision Summit is the one event you can’t miss this spring.

It’s mid-April, and I’m already burnt out on VR events. Not to take anything away from SVVR, VRLA and the other great conferences that have already happened this year — I’m just ready for a break. But Unity’s Vision Summit is right around the corner, and it’s going to be really special. Last year’s inaugural event was a huge success, and this one is looking to build on that.

Full disclosure: I work at Unity and I’ve been heavily involved in putting together the program. As our planning for Vision comes down to the wire, I am getting to the point where I can’t contain my excitement, so I thought I would share a few thoughts about what’s in store at the beginning of May.

Insight, Inspiration, Innovation

Unity CEO John Riccitiello at Vision 2016

At the Vision 2016 keynote, our CEO John Riccitiello shared his thoughts, based on more than twenty years of helping establish the video games business, on how our burgeoning industry can continue its breathtaking pace of growth but at the same time be built to last. Famously citing the “Gap of Disappointment” — the space between expected and actual industry adoption of new technology — he admonished us to not let our enthusiasm get ahead of the reality… and somehow managed not be a buzzkill delivering that message. Expect more wisdom like this from JR to kick off the proceedings, and business insights from investors and decision makers.

Beyond JR, the keynote lineup couldn’t be more eclectic. Evolutionary biology will be sharing the stage with the Super Bowl, space exploration, eSports, and the reinvention of the comic book. (You know, all the food groups.) Forty-plus sessions will cover investment, business models, developer war stories, location-based entertainment, mobile, input models, rendering, game design, storytelling, web tech, video production, enterprise use cases… a gamut.

THE VOID’s Ghostbusters Dimension

Seems scattered, but there is a common thread: with so much XR happening, we wanted to highlight the stuff that inspires. As we begin to move from demos to commercial delivery, and from theoretical business models to actual ones, this is all getting very real very fast. We know XR is here to stay, and mass adoption is just a matter of time. So rather than focus on the realities of today, Vision is about looking forward without limits. While the show content is rooted in hands-on, deployed projects, we indexed heavily toward works being created by people with an eye to the future.

The last year has seen so much technical innovation in XR, with Unity in the middle of a lot of it. Arguably we’re the leading XR development platform, with two thirds of the world’s immersive content being created using our tools. In that time we’ve added support for several XR devices, and some key rendering and authoring features. So you can expect to find plenty of technical red meat at Vision from us and our key partners, including sessions on interaction design, new hardware, software SDKs, and best practices.

But Unity is at its best, as both a company and a culture, when the tech fades into the background and we let the creations speak for themselves. The entertainment content on display at Vision is breaking ground on many fronts, including interaction design, narrative technique, presence and embodiment, social interaction, and art direction. So you’ll be hearing and seeing a lot from creators using Unity to push the medium forward.

Applications, Applications, Applications

The thing that has me most excited about Vision is the breadth of applications that will be on display. XR is being used in architecture, brand marketing, car design, cinema, education, games, health care, sports, training and toys, to name a few. We’re well past the gee-whiz stage with this technology and are starting to solve real problems. As a lifelong proponent of 3D visualization, I am personally gratified; but more importantly this bodes well for the industry. Solving real problems means making money, and making money means we’ll be around for the long haul.

Now, this situation presents certain challenges to a company like Unity. As the leading XR development platform, we’d love to power all of the world’s great immersive content. But our roots are in game development, and Unity is still by and large a game development platform. Today we don’t have all the pipeline tools and back end services customers required for many non-gaming use cases. Our creators often have to rely on third-party solutions or roll their own to fill the gaps. On the other hand, we are investing heavily in this area going forward. At Vision you will see the serious advances we’ve made to enable Cinematic VR, our next vertical. And that’s just our first foray into XR beyond games.

A Shared Adventure

Though it’s grounded in today, Vision Summit is really about the future. It’s safe to say that we have no idea what this is going to look like in a few years. Which devices are going to win? Nobody knows. Is the mass consumer XR experience going to ultimately be VR, AR or MR, or a hybrid? We literally have no clue. Which will be the killer apps? We’ll only know that when we’re looking at them in the rear view mirror.

ASTEROIDS! by Baobab Studios

In some sense we don’t care about these specifics, because it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. Unity created Vision as a gathering place for the industry’s brightest and most creative to explore the potential of immersive computing. Vision isn’t a show, but a summit; not an exposition, but a shared exploration of how this new medium is changing the way we create, play, work and communicate globally.

I hope to see you there. I am really looking forward to the random conversations that are bound to happen when you put this many high energy folks in a concentrated environment. Sharing knowledge and swapping stories. Learning and inspiring. Together.