Reality Virtually hack event at MIT last weekend (VRATMIT)


This past weekend at MIT, was an extended weekend-long hackathon centered around Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality (i.e. VR/AR/MR) called: "Reality Virtually". The event consisted of Friday Workshops followed by two days of hacking to transform the future of immersive technologies.

Although I was away for the event on Saturday and Sunday hacking, I did manage to make it to expo of the work completed during Saturday and Sunday by young, enterprising students and professionals. This was held at the MIT Media Lab's 6th floor which was transformed into various locates for startup incubators.

Visiting the Media Lab is always fun because it encompasses a lot of what I am passionate about; which is the interaction of art, technology and science. More specifically, I like to work where physical and digital experiences met. Normally this involves tangible elements as well as touchable physical ones.

At the expo, there were approximately 20 or so projects which embodied the work of the hackers over the weekend. Most the projects were software driven by the VR hardware. One notable exception was Superbright. The small Superbright team had created a custom hardware component; an interactive controller "map" controller which allowed users to interact virtually with objects through physical haptic feedback, combined with navigation through accelerometer and other sensory input within the hardware map controller.

I spent a hour or so playing with the various VR headset technologies and getting a feel for what the hardware can provide these days. I was impressed by the responsiveness, but some of the graphics provided on the headsets felt sadly underwhelming at this point in time. This may be because I tend to work on such high resolution screens on a daily basis.

Some notables in attendance where some companies as well. Microsoft, Intel, Autodesk, and the locally grown Affectiva company who specialize in emotion tracking through their vision and response metrics technologies. These companies were touting their wares in both software and hardware. I have been following Affectiva's work for a while, and I noted that they have an upcoming Developer's event scheduled for November.

I'm not entirely sure who won the hackathon prize from the VRATMIT event, but my particular favorites where Superbright's idea, as well as Moleculvr; who did an educational VR experience for Science classes involving an virtual periodic table of elements and interactions to perform scientific experiments based on selections.

I thought it was particularly interesting to note the CMU based Art && Code's event: "Weird Reality" was taking place around the same time as this MIT based event. I'm not sure if that was planned or coincidental. I did manage to see some tweets and Facebook posts about it, but sadly I was unable to attend due to timing and other commitments. Hopefully they will have recorded sessions, or materials placed online at a future date, similar to past Art && Code events I have attended.

During the MIT event, I managed to post some impromptu photos from my mobile, which I plan to post on my flickr account.

One thing that struck me is that you really need a large, nice display to really show off your content that is being experienced virtually. Even if the experience does not exactly match what a player in a VR simulation is experiencing.

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