Monday Musings: Oculus LaunchPad & Maker Faire

Blog Posts ,Events ,Random Musings ,Virtual Reality
May 23, 2016

This weekend, I had a wonderful tech-filled weekend that I loved just too much not to share! In today’s Monday Musings, I wanted to talk about my experience at Oculus Launch Pad and the SF Bay Maker Faire.

Oculus Launch Pad

On Saturday, Oculus held their first Launch Pad event, a diversity initiative aimed to help members of underrepresented communities in virtual reality network and learn more about different areas related to VR development, storytelling, game design, and game production. There was also a Q&A session with Palmer Luckey – listening to him answer questions on stage and during the networking social hour, I was incredibly motivated by his passion and drive for all things VR related, which was definitely one of the highlights of the event.

Launch Pad kicked off with a networking breakfast, followed by a welcome by Oculus team members. The first workshop of the day was a walk through of using Unity by Carl Callewaert, where we set up our machines for VR development on our shiny welcome phones (Samsung Galaxy S6s!) and walked through a lot of the components of Unity for developing 3D environments and some scripting for VR. I always love watching different Unity demos from people, because they always do things just a little bit differently and I learn a lot – like setting up movement maps, or using a particle system to add in a blink teleport effect. We made a small sheep-shearing game and I put mine into outer space with helmets. So fun!

The Unity workshop was followed by more networking over lunch, and then we dove into the storytelling portion of the day. We learned about the process that Oculus Story Studios use for creating their own stories, and tips about how to drive empathy. Yelena Ratchitsky talked about making emotional connections to viewers, using ‘Lost’ and ‘Henry’ as examples.

“Being looked at could be VR’s version of a close up” – Yelen Ratchitsky, Creative Producer/Head of Education Oculus Story Studio

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A highlight of the afternoon was listening to two talks by Bernie Yee, who works on Game Development at Oculus. Bernie talked quite a bit about the design and the production of games, complete with a hands-on activity playing 3 Musketeers and breaking down strategy and game play elements. He also encouraged us to have a solid understanding of the driving pillars and principles behind a game, and helped separate out game production components into prioritization, analysis, vision, and process.

Omer Shapira talked about design, proprioception, and technical considerations around rendering and building experiences that work well for humans. We got to do a hands-on design activity where one team member was blindfolded and describing a VR scene, two members put sticky notes to track what the designer was “seeing”, and one member sketched out the design. It worked unbelievably well, and teams walked away with a fairly well designed sketch of an environment that was prototyped in physical space. Super cool!

Overall, the event was a really fascinating head-to-toe capture of virtual reality creation, and it was awesome to see so many creators working on a variety of different projects. I’m excited that Oculus/Facebook has taken these steps to help diversify the development pool right off the bat.

All of that said, I think that there are still a lot of things to consider about the way Oculus/Facebook is working with developers right now, but that’s a post for another day. I really enjoyed my time at Launch Pad, and I think that it contained a lot of great information for new creators, but as a developer, there are still unanswered questions that I’m waiting for around the openness of the platform. Still, I applaud Oculus tremendously for this event, and look forward to seeing what comes out of the creators who participated over the coming year.

Maker Faire

This year was my first time attending Maker Faire and I had an absolute blast! There is something so amazing about being surrounded by some pretty amazing creators and having creativity just completely flow through an entire event of this magnitude. I will definitely be returning!

Some of the highlights:

  • The creepy robot that Intel made (pictured below!)
  • The entire LED section in the dark room. I’ve never been so mesmerized!
  • Drone racing!

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From left to right: Me with the Intel robot, early prototypes of Google Glass

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Drone racing, R2-D2 units, cool LED swag!

Overall? A+ weekend, would do again!

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