SXSW - AR/VR Track... Banner
04 Apr 2016

...we were underwhelmed to say the least!Before I go any further, it's not SXSW that left us underwhelmed, SXSW was a fantastic experience not only personally but also from a skignz point of view. We met with many important and exciting people, providing

SXSW - AR/VR Track...

...we were underwhelmed to say the least!


Before I go any further, it's not SXSW that left us underwhelmed, SXSW was a fantastic experience not only personally but also from a skignz point of view. 

We met with many important and exciting people, providing skignz with some quite exciting opportunities going forward.


That said where the underwhelming feelings come from is that related to the AR/VR track at SXSW, the panels, the presentations and the demo area. 

As most of them were focussed for the Wednesday (Most Interactive related parties closing parties happened on the Monday) it seemed wedged between the Interactive, the Film & Music. 

Sort of an afterthought fitted in to 'pay lip service' to the these 'two areas of tech' despite them being two of the 'the' biggest areas of advance in tech.

Let's consider this in a little more detail. AR/VR may be 'the NKOTB' to the majority, yet both have been around for decades... Then you could argue, if they have been around this long, why give them any consideration at all and if so why now?

Writing this article I realise that my thoughts and questions only bring up more thoughts and questions as I seek to answer each of them. That I now believe is because of the conflicting stories across the media, hype in areas that is unsustainable, the majorities actual understanding of VR and AR and been the difference between the two, not to mention all of the 'fringe' technologies that are reported to be one or the other but are actually neither.

'Breaking down my feelings of being underwhelmed into a few key areas may help you understand where I'm coming from?'

Panel Discussions:
I attended quite a few of these focussed on AR/VR and one or two other panels where it was discussed. I seemed to get the feeling that VR 'was here now' but more focussed on Gaming, Simulation and Sex (Porn). Also most of the panels didn't really reveal anything new, discuss any real 'gritty issues' more a soapbox for individuals to wax lyrical about their own careers and companies they worked for.



Nobody really engaged the other panel members in real debate or even the audience, who's questions seemed 'very pithy' and more about how the person asking the question could get to work with the guys on the panel.

Experiences & Presentations:
Across Austin there were a number of 'VR experiences and demo lounges' all of the ones we saw and engaged with were VR focussed with, if their were any AR ones, we either didn't see them or couldn't find them amongst all the noise and activity of SXSW itself.

Demo Area:
One of the most underwhelming experiences, of SXSW. Imagine walking into a large conference room, with a 15-20 'areas/stalls/stands' (can't describe them exactly as their wasn't an exact offering) littered (best word I can use to describe the layout) around the perimeter.

Each of these 'areas' were populated with a range of people from 1-2 up to 5-10 all wearing VR headsets, small queues of people waiting for their 1-5min experience. 

I have experienced VR and all the progression/regression this has shown over the last 20 years and taking my time to engage with a few different offerings.

It's clear that the tech has improved significantly over the last 2-3 years more so in the previous 17-20 years. The content was engaging and interesting in part and the feelings of motion sickness, latency reduced and rendering/lighting being the biggest improvements that I noticed.

I think the scene before me was extremely odd because you had so many people engaging with a very 'personal/individual' experience, all in the same space, when in reality these people would be using this tech in their own home or place of work on their own. 

It's like watching a 'silent disco',where each person is listening to totally different tracks whilst dancing to them.

So If you picture the room full of people with large headsets on, walking and moving around like it's the first time they had ever wore varifocal lenses listening to a 'silent disco' then you may come close to the surreal view laid out before me.

If you couple this with the queues of people waiting for their turn on each VR Headset, the layout of each brand's demo area and lack of engagement with each other, I hope you could forgive me for being underwhelmed.

Because the VR experience is very personal and singular, the experience around that experience is for me the underwhelming part. Growing up I enjoyed going in those giant hemisphere tents that projected 'a virtual ride on a roller coaster', the small simulators at fairs and theme parks with a small number of people who sit inside an immersive experience.


Even through to my early days in VR in the late 1990's, early Noughties, using the Universities Hemi-Spherion, nothing though prepared me for the SXSW16 VR experience.

Overall approach to VR/AR:
The total lack of an AR presence! This for me was one of the biggest shocks in as much as not only was there no AR presence (other than skignz all around you - you need the skignz app to access the content) but very little was discussed around AR.

Yes, we all understand VR is the buzzword and popular theme at the moment that said 2016 seems to be developing into the year where AR is more widely discussed as VR roles out.

You will see from our other blog posts.... What skignzbrought to SXSW and demoed in UK@SXSW Great Britain House, so I won't go over that ground, or try to draw comparisons.

Suffice to say, even skignz could have done more to improve the visitors of SXSW experience, but we cannot do that alone...


And as always for further information on skignz then please visit us on the usual Social Media channels or drop us a line info@skignz.com

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