Last night, the VR/AR Association’s D.C. chapter hosted an event at La Vie in the Wharf. But its attendees were coasting along the Pyrenees Mountains and above the Great Pyramid of Gyza.
Rooftop Realities, co-hosted by Discovery and Brightline Interactive, invited guests to explore virtual reality through a collection of devices at the forefront of the consumer market.
An Oculus Go station put users in all sorts of virtual landscapes to look around and explore through a headset. A Google Earth VR app, aided by just two cameras, let me fly to anywhere in the world, turning left and right to check out the scenery. And a simple augmented reality setup showed me on screen popping a champagne bottle and spraying it – without having to pop the cork.
The room covered the spectrum of D.C.’s VR and AR adopters, from a freelance 360-degree videographer to Discovery’s Interactive Creative Director Cory Key.
Key landed Discovery in the VR scene with an Emmy-winning splash in 2013 with Skywire Live, where a 360-degree video showed the perspective of Nik Wallenda as he walked a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. He said Discovery has since garnered 190 million video views on similar content.
“VR had always been meant to be for Discovery, it just hadn’t been invented yet,” Key told the crowd. “It was almost like the industry was waiting for a big media company to jump into this.”
VRARA chapter president Tyler Gates, left, and Discovery creative director Cory Key, middle.
VR/AR Association D.C. Chapter President Tyler Gates, managing partner at Brightline, said the area is a “power center” for this type of tech for obvious reasons like military intelligence, but also for innovation beyond the scope of defense contracting. Event attendees showed that smaller D.C.-area companies are hopping on board too.
Daniel Zeballos is a principal at Illustrate My Design, or IMD. The company creates virtual renderings of building projects, allowing architects and designers to tour structures that don’t exist yet.
He said just a handful of companies are in the market, and hopes widespread adoption of VR will put more headsets in more architects’ offices.
Jon Fortuna went a different route with Ekstasis, a VR company that launched D.C.’s first virtual reality arcade, Augment Arcade. The venue is tucked into Flash Nightclub, and allows customers to try out games in between drinks or rent out for private use.
No matter the business model, virtual and augmented reality companies are looking at a market ripe for growth.
The Oculus Go device debuted this quarter. Pokemon Go maker Niantic is releasing a Harry Potter game this year, possibly leading mobile AR revenues past the $1 billion mark. As for the industry as a whole, global revenue for VR and AR will grow from $4.2 billion in 2017 to $61 billion in 2022, according to research firm Artillry.