Virtual Reality for Autism Special Report: Research and Experiences

One of the wonderful aspects of virtual reality is the ability to experience presence through immersive story telling. In other words, to feel like you are actually there in your virtual environment and very much part of the story that is unfolding around you. This allows for creative imaginations to run wild and dream up some wonderful never before experienced scenarios. But what if we could use this technology to help understand reality more? What if we could help more of us appreciate how some people actually live on a day to day basis? A tool to transport us into how things that we consider to be basic everyday tasks but for others they may be challenging uncomfortable experiences. In a world where compassion and empathy seems to be a rare trait, how can we help ignite caring for other humans in a more profound way? Well, lets take an in-depth look at how virtual reality helps with this by shining a spotlight on VR for Autism.

I don’t have anybody in my immediate family who has been diagnosed with Autism but have many friends who have children who have been. I’m not an expert and actually, I don’t really know too much about it. From what I understand, old school stereotypes are not something that should be relied on. In fact, there seems to be a spectrum but individuals can have more or less of some conditions/symptoms than others. So there is a no one shoe that fits all. But what if you only know the stereotype symptoms? How full on do you know them? Do you really know them if you have never experienced them for yourself? Many symptoms of Autism are subject to perception and unless you are an individual with the condition then how can you possibly fully understand what it looks and feels like from an individual perspective? How can you then take an overview guesstimate of that and then dig beneath the layers to understand how those symptoms can flare up during certain triggers or how they impact going about your day to day responsibilities? The truth is that we can’t, really, not truly understand. We could raise our awareness by watching documentaries, listening to lectures, speaking with our friends and family with the condition but there’s still a gap between knowing the theory and experiencing it.

Autistic children using virtual reality. Source: edweek.org

That’s where virtual reality comes in. In this special edition blog I will take you through virtual reality Autism experiences, Autism VR apps, virtual reality research papers, Autism VR articles and more. I have taken a great deal of time to compile this information for you in the hope that it helps somebody out there in one way or another. Supporting the immersive industry and encouraging more humanitarian projects within the sector is something that I am personally passionate about. I have spend many years working on virtual reality for dementia with my company Pivotal Reality and I know how time consuming research can be. I published an article for the Springer Biomedical Series last year about VR Dementia use cases and the cost to buy that book shocked me. So much so that I wouldn’t even buy a copy for my family. Yes, I am aware that as a founder of a company, society may frown upon that opinion but I am remaining true to myself and my roots. I’m not in the business of ripping people off! I never have and I never will. That’s not me. I am therefore creating this blog so that this information is out there for free. If you have found this to be useful then perhaps you might like to sign up to my monthly newsletter or follow this blog to show your support but there’s no pressure to do that.

Autism VR Simulators

According to the National Autistic Society 99% of people in the UK have heard of Autism but only 16% of autistic people feel the public truly understands it.

Taken from The National Autistic Society

As I’ve already alluded to, the most powerful way to help people understand what Autism is like is through VR apps and experiences that are designed to put the user in the shoes of someone who has the condition. One of my all time favourite real world examples of this is a VR app called iSenseVR developed by Friendly Access, Glasgow School of Art and Crag3D. Their VR app is focused on allowing people who have Autism to prepare for a visit to Aberdeen International Airport in Scotland using gradual scenarios and exposure therapy with a view to reduce anxiety for attending the airport in real life. Its such a beautiful concept and allows the user to build up on the amount of stress & anxiety triggers that they are exposed to such as a hand dryer in the toilets, a broken cup at the cafe, security check process and waiting at the boarding gate. In addition to the virtual reality exposure therapy they then have the opportunity to try it out in the real world! Aberdeen International Airport was recreated exactly as is in real life so users who did have the chance to experience the VR app had the benefit of already knowing the layout of the building. They tested their work with a small group and published their findings here. In summary, they saw an enthusiasm amongst the participants who were actively engaged with the experience. However, there is further research to be carried out. This I imagine is due to the rigid location of users because they would need to test both the virtual experience as well as attend Aberdeen International Airport too so that the results can be conclusive. Plus you need to have a large group of participants, all of which would ideally have been diagnosed with Autism too. Not an easy task and something to consider yourself if you plan to design and implement a VR experience that is reliant on a real world location too. It’s very niche but I love it. I think it’s extremely heartwarming that Glynn Morris CEO of Family Access went ahead and created this app with the support of Dr Matt Poyade from Glasgow School of Art and Crag3D. How meaningful will it be for families within the area or those needing to travel to Aberdeen International Airport to have this amazing accessibility tool at the ready for them?!

Another example of a VR app that helps you to understand what it may be like living as someone who has Autism is The Autism Simulator created by Autismity. In this virtual reality experience you are exposed to how visuals and sounds can be distorted for those living with Autism. It appears to be an extreme experience and I’m not confident that I would recommend trying this out to anybody who has epilepsy. Having said that, it looks pretty powerful and definitely an experience that you will not forget in a hurry. I believe once you’ve tried it, you’ll always remember what it felt like to be in those shoes and would hope that understanding and compassion for autism will stay with you for life!

Available from the Oculus Store

Sadly, I struggled to find many more examples of virtual reality applications to share with you. Other than Evenness Sensory Space which is available from Oculus Store, Steam & Viveport but it is geared more towards senses in general. Then there’s also Jam Studio available on Steam & Viveport. Jam Studio is quite expensive but that’s because it includes other medtech experiences too. I’m not sure if you are able to buy the Autistic experience/chapter as a standalone purchase.

Autism 360° Videos (VR Simulators)

Don’t be disheartened as there are a number of 360° videos that you can view in VR. Easily the most accessible method of enjoying an app for purpose like these ones. You can access them via ANY VR headset through the browser or YouTube VR app from the various VR stores. Or you can use a smartphone, VR viewer (e.g. a specific smartphone VR Headset or even cardboard VR Glasses would do the job) and view the 360° from YouTube. You should know that the quality of VR experience using Smartphones is such a basic level of what is available on today’s VR market. You should also be warned that VR sickness using these smartphone options is pretty high.)

Although the ultimate VR experience should be photo-realistic virtual reality graphics to allow for the most ‘believable’ experience, I do think there is still a place for 360° videos in the industry, regardless of their quality. How else are we going to experiment and explore new mediums to help society appreciate all members of our community? Nobody wants to put their foot in it, nobody wants to be rude, nobody wants to say/do anything offensive by mistake and nobody wants that awkwardness of not knowing what to say or do when faced with the unknown. Knowledge is power but experiencing is human. So even if it’s a big challenge to help us experience real world scenarios, I have massive respect for those who push the boundaries forward and at least try new things to help us improve as human beings. So 360° videos has earned their place in this Virtual Reality for Autism Special Report: Research and Experiences!

The National Autistic Society produced a 360° video called Too Much Information to help show what Autism can be like too. Warning: this video contains flashing lights, bright colours and sudden loud sounds. Their website states that they have helped over 56 million people experience “first hand” what Autism can be like. So don’t underestimate the power of 360° video, it would be interesting to see the numbers of those who have tried the virtual reality applications at the start of this report for a comparison. But I think it would be safe to say that 360° video is still the most accessible method to reach a larger audience. When you are working on something that ultimately is helping society as well as giving a voice to those with invisible disabilities then it should not be ignored.

Caution: Flashing lights, bright colours, loud and sudden noises. I would also add that it can be a difficult watch especially if watched via a virtual reality headset.

The Counselling Directory have uploaded a lovely video of some reactions to this experience which I think you may also like to see from a research perspective. In fact, we all would benefit from viewing. It would be lovely to be mindful of accessibility and understanding when we are creating new products or services or even for every day interactions that we may come across.

User reactions to The National Autistic Society’s Too Much Information VR Autism experience. Source: Counselling Directory via YouTube

The BBC made Creating a Positive Environment project (CAPE) to raise awareness of the struggles that people with neurodivergent conditions (Autism, ADHD, Asperger’s etc) have to overcome within a workplace environment. Caution: this video also shows flashing and strobe lighting.

The Guardian created The Party: A Virtual Experience of Autism. A 360° video where you follow the story of 16 year old Layla who has been recently diagnosed with Autism. Layla’s is attending a family birthday party and this film immerses us in what that looks and feels like from her perspective. It’s a lovely story and beautifully made. The Guardian had input from various Autism experts & foundations to ensure their effects were reflected accurately too. You can also access this experience via Oculus Video app from the Oculus Store.

More VR Autism Use Cases

Now that we have taken some time to look at both virtual reality and 360° videos that act as Autism Simulators, let’s move on to see how else VR is being used for Autism in other meaningful ways. Virtual Reality is a compelling medium for training solutions because of its simulation ability, storytelling delivery and emotional connectivity all whilst trainees are directly immersed within that virtual experience without distraction. It’s no surprise that virtual reality users report that they are more likely to remember content from within a virtual reality learning space than they would from more traditional teaching methods.

Training

There was a terrible incident happened in 2016 when a man with Autism had been shot at 3 times by a US Police Officer after mistaking a silver toy truck he was holding as a weapon. The shots missed the Autistic man but his caretaker was wounded. Experts have said that some people with Autism may not know how to react to a police encounter with some looking away or not doing what they have been asked to do. This may be perceived as being defiant or resistant to the demands of the police.

After hearing about this, The Children’s Hospitals for Autism Research wanted to help kids and adults with Autism understand what it would be like to have a sudden encounter with the police. By even exposing them to the words that are commonly used or how the presence of the virtual experience would feel would all go towards preparing the user for a real world encounter, should that ever happen. The app was created by a company called Floreo and they have published a whole load of different VR Autism Research papers on their website. Here’s the related related research publication for this particular VR experience. The following clip was taken from a 6abc.com broadcast:

There’s another VR police for Autism experience made by Axon that uses 360° video as a virtual reality Autism police training experience to help people to understand more about people with Autism, how they can behave, interact and with the goal to raise awareness with their police forces whilst keeping innocent citizens safe.

Video from apnews.com

Research

You have to remember that virtual reality for Autism is such a niche area and it can be challenging to move the needle because the medium is relatively new compared to traditional methods. However, despite that, there is a vast amount of research, articles and video evidence of how impactful virtual reality is for people with Autism. Let’s show you some highlights below.

Therapeutic

Watch the WIONews video below to see for yourself the impact using virtual reality experiences has on children with strong to severe Autism. In summary, the observations are that the children are engaged with their virtual experiences. We hear from both parent and professional practitioner perspectives and conclude that this technology is absolutely making a difference to these children.

Lets go back to Floreo for another one of their cracking videos that show you an observers perspective of what VR is capable of doing in terms of engagement, language improvement, calmness, behavioural and so much more. All from a 5 minute or so virtual reality app experience. That’s it. (For quickness, jump to 4 mins 21 secs)

Freethink video of Floreo VR for Autism (Play from 4 mins 21 secs to jump to example of results)

You would be forgiven after reading this Virtual Reality for Autism Special Report to think that in order to strike any meaningful impact you must have a bespoke customised VR application. Not true 🙂 I came across a lovely YouTube video by Justin & Nick that shows you otherwise. We watch as Nolan tries VR for the first time through a variety of consumer applications like Job Simulator, Google Tiltbrush, Space Pirate Trainer etc. Nolan’s reactions are endearing and shows that although a little awkward, the use of controllers is also possible for him so perhaps others with Autism too. I know from my research that elderly people and those living with dementia struggle with the controllers too so I tend to focus on that user pain point more than most people. The conclusion is that consumer virtual reality is also an option here too. And like Nolan says at the end of this video, you should “Try it”.

Source: YouTube Channel, Justin & Nick – My Autistic Brother Nolan Tried HTC Vive

Useful Research Papers

VR Used to Teach Driving Lessons to People with Autism

VR Training for Public Speaking for People with Autism

Autism and Virtual Reality Headsets

Effectiveness of Virtual Reality for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Evidence-Based Systematic Review

Did I miss anything?

Thanks for reading this far! If you know about any virtual reality applications or experiences that are geared towards Autism then please get in touch to let me know. If you are working on something within this area then I would love to hear from you and learn more.

I am passionate about the virtual reality industry and want to concentrate my efforts on shining a light on those pioneers who are investing their time to help shape the landscape. Let me help you reach the eyes and ears of those who are hungry to learn about you. Have a virtual reality related product and want to advertise here? Get in touch.

What topic do you want a deep dive on next? I will be working on further blog posts but tell me what you are curious to learn more about and I will add your needs to my list.

Don’t forget to follow this blog to read more interesting use cases of virtual reality!

Take care & keep healthy
Suzanne

Suzanne Showcasing VR latest product review video – Kiwi Design 5 in 1 VR Face Cover Set for Oculus Quest

Everything You Need To Know About Oculus For 2020

Beat Games joined Oculus Studios this week and it got me thinking about what this could mean for the VR industry. The mighty makers of Beat Saber have been a beacon of light for so many indie developers within the community. One cannot help but see the cloud of uncertainty emerge around what this move could mean for the Platinum selling game and the virtual reality eco-system in general.

To be worried or not to be worried?

The fundamental factor behind this uncertainty is that Oculus is now owned by Facebook. They bought Oculus for around $2 billion on 25th March 2016. Facebook has received a lot of negative press coverage for their ways of working for some time now. Their tech giant dominance means that many VR apps are non-accessible unless you log in using a Facebook account or profile. There are subtle signs of Facebook methodology if you pay close attention. For example, when you attend any live events via Oculus Venues you will be presented with data gathering/marketing probing questions that are purposely designed in a fun format. The Oculus Quest Guardian scans your real world environment so you can create your safe playing boundary. It also remembers your boundary if you play in the same space. Even if you switch the headset off and on again a while later. Just how much is recorded, kept or even used elsewhere is not known. I can appreciate why there is a nervousness associated around the Facebook Oculus brand.

My VR selfie with John Carmack during the VR Awards 2019 streaming event in AltSpace.

Change is coming.

John Carmack (Chief Technology Officer at Oculus) won Lifetime Achievement Award for VR from the VR Awards 2019 last month. He said he ‘really hasn’t been satisfied with the pace of progress we’ve been making’ with virtual reality during his acceptance speech. John is another voice of guidance within the industry and one of the key drivers who helped lift the Oculus start-up out of the starting position in the early days. The industry respects John and listen intently to his teachings. Two weeks after that speech he announced he was stepping back from being CTO of Oculus.

In August this year Nate Mitchell, the last remaining core founder of the Oculus start-up, left Oculus. The year before Brendan Iribe left. 2017 Palmer Luckey left. Jack McCauley left in 2015. The Facebook acquisition happened in 2014.

The message has been consistent over the years. Source Oculus YouTube channel

The History of the past

One way to consider the future is to review the past. I have attended historic press conferences via virtual reality but only remember a handful of bullet points worth noting. I wanted to know if Mark Zuckerberg had mentioned anything specifically on the theme of Oculus content eco-system and what it would be like for users using Oculus in the future. I researched the historic Oculus Connect (a conference for Virtual Reality Developers) and made some interesting discoveries. The most obvious is that Mark has never deviated from highlighting the importance of presence in virtual reality experiences and games. If you are new to VR, this means believing that you are in a different environment because of its believe-ability. You feel like you are really in this space/world/environment/scenery that you are seeing through your virtual reality headset. That is presence.

Facebook Horizon – changing the ‘o’ but not to the Oculus logo. Source OC6 livestream screenshot

Another theme is the eco-system. Mark has spent time each year going into details of this vision. He believes that experiences should be people centred, the apps should not resemble icons on a smartphone and instead be an open space for people to explore, connect together, build/create and play games. I believe this is the purpose behind the OC6 announced Facebook Horizon. Horizon is a new social experience that is due next year. The quality of the ‘realism’ is questionable, however, a social experience is always welcomed. The avatars look similar to those from Facebook Spaces and that sadly closed down last month. ‘Facebook‘ Horizon made me raise an eyebrow but to be honest, on reflection, it makes perfect sense. Building Social technology platforms is Facebook’s bread and butter. It’s what they do and they do it well with reportedly 2.45 billion monthly active users. It has taken Facebook a long time to reach that number and I presume this is why the Oculus goal of ‘1 billion people in virtual reality’ has no delivery date. During OC5 Mark said that for success there is a ‘threshold of 10 million users on any given platform at the same time for the ecosystem to explode’. Interesting isn’t it. You would be forgiven for thinking that you would need the pull of a platinum selling VR title to create that level of users on your platform at the same time to meet that success threshold…

The evolution of Oculus Headsets (HMDs). Source: Oculus YouTube channel

Technical evolution

Aside from the most obvious Head Mounted Display (HMD) evolution from the Original DKI – DK2 -Rift – Go – Rift S – Quest headsets. There have been other improvements along the way. The Oculus Quest was their first standalone headset and recently saw the ability to link it to a PC for a wired VR experience. Meaning the Quest became a Rift. Which is totally awesome for Quest owners and users. Next we will have the hand tracking thanks to the Oculus Quest inside out trackers. The demo from OC6 showed the ability to move individual fingers and your real world hands are your controllers. Many have said that this hand tracking is quite basic in comparison to the Leap Motion AKA UltraLeap. Still, it’s a step in the right direction. I’m particularly interested in this side of the technology too because many elderly people who are living with dementia has quite restricted hand motion therefore struggle with a controller. So, I can see practical uses for this advancement as well as the better quality of presence.

Let’s not forget the promise that any tech improvements will be compatible across all new devices too eg Quest 2, 3, 4 etc. They really are fine tuning the machine. Most shockingly is the the next wave of input ‘where you can just think something to make it happen’. Now, this sounds pretty futuristic but CTRL-Labs (who have also been acquired by Facebook Oculus) have already developed the technology and the dev kits have been dispatched this year. This is exactly the sort of thing that quantifies as ‘shaping and improving the underlying platform’ (Mark, OC6).

Making Virtual Reality work the same way we function in the real world. Source Oculus YouTube channel

What does it all mean?

Well it means that the open Metaverse that we all dream of is going to be like the walled Truman Show set. It will appear open but in actual fact it will be restricted within Facebook’s walled garden. Am I wrong? I hope so but earlier this year Virtual Desktop was prohibited from allowing Oculus streaming services through their app. Many devs were frustrated and vocal about the number of Oculus Quest applications being rejected. Thus bringing Side Quest to life for an alternative route for content. The success criteria for Quest content was extremely high and not clearly transparent at the time. New users were frustrated at the lack of content and some even returning their new headsets because of it. Thankfully the popularity and excitement during the launch months of Quest & Rift S was more positive than negative but it is still a reminder of when the doors were closed.

A rare look at the future roadmap of Facebook Oculus. Source Oculus YouTube channel

augmented & virtual reality will be the next computing platform

We won’t expect to see a new Oculus virtual reality headset anytime soon but perhaps we will see more unfolding in augmented reality hardware next. I found the image above with the future projections splashed out that struck me as completely undervalued and forgotten about. With Oculus Quests selling out almost as fast as they are being made then it is obvious that content is king. If you have that influx of users coming in then it makes perfect sense to open up a virtual landscape to host everybody for games, socialising, events, creating, learning and utilise the power of the people to help shape what that looks like. For the people, by the people. It’s very smart. Obviously they will have taken their learnings from Facebook Spaces and other apps such as the photo share to Facebook as demonstrated during OC3 in 2017 where Mark was an avatar and his wife Prescilla was at work in the real world and called him, he answered the video call whilst in VR, took a selfie and shared it on FB. Therefore demonstrating the seamless interactivity between the Zuckerberg infrastructure. Plus demonstrating the various levels that virtual reality was at 2 years ago.

Next year is all about churning out virtual reality content for the community. Monetisation is still an area that needs to evolve in the industry but that could be about to all change too… Whilst the VR devs & community are hard at work then maybe Facebook will focus on growing the augmented reality eco-system instead. They have already opened up Spark AR for content creation in August this year and my gut tells me 2020 will be more AR driven focus because the VR side knows the brief and just needs to deliver it.

If you want to learn more about how to build then check this out or join the Design, Develop and Deploy course by Unity and Oculus (thoroughly recommended!). Don’t want to be a VR dev? No problem, other areas to train in so that you don’t miss being at the front of the wave is: VR testing, graphics, modelling, optimisation, marketing are all skills that will be required going forward. The list is endless: educating, demo’ing and advocating are important skills too.

Definitely consider this free course if you wish to ever make a VR application/experience/game

VR Awards 2019 – The Virtual Reality Event Showcase

Gratitude to the organisers, hosts & sponsors for bringing these awards to the community

The VR Awards was held in London on 11th November 2019 and I had the privilege of being there… in virtual reality thanks to AltSpaceVR! I will share my video footage with you as soon as I can.

An excited me attending a VR Awards ceremony whilst in virtual reality at AltSpace VR!

Rising VR Company of the Year

Winner: Fable Studios

Finalists: KageNova, Immotion, HOLOGATE, Maze Theory, Periscape VR, Lume, Enduvo and Atlas V

VR Education & Training of the Year

Winner: Working At Height by Vodaphone and Make Real

Finalists: Breaking Boundaries in Science by Filament Games, IsReality by Isbank, Virtual Training Ship Simulation (VTS) by Orka Informatics, Training: Replace low valtage fuses without life-threatening skills by Nanopixel & Fluvius, BODYSWAPS by Somewhere Else, Class VR by Avantis Systems, DHL: Gamification of the Cargo Loading VR Training Process by Immerse & DHL, Exoplanet Explorers 2 by Engine House VFX and Mighty Masters by MOYOSA Media

VR Healthcare of the Year

Winner: Fundamental Surgery

Finalists: GE Healthcare: Increasing training opportunities for radiographers through VR by Immerse, Oxford Medical Simulation by Oxford Medical Simulation, Augmented Baseplate Shoulder Simulation & Patient Specific Planning by Precision OS Technology, Fear of Heights (clinical acrophobia) by Oxford VR, VR for Psychosis Research and Treatment by Virtualware & King’s College London

Love that social vr events allows you to customise your event location like this! Allowing your audience to interact with your theme like this is fantastic!

VR Enterprise Solution of the Year

Winner: Virtualware Immersive Room by Virtualware by VIROO

Finalists: Lloyds Resilience & Vitality by Make Real & Lloyds Banking Group, MixCast VR Marketing System by Blueprint Reality, Autodesk VRED – VR Collaboration by Autodesk, Athena by Goodpatch and VR Command Center by Elara Systems

VR Social Impact Award

Winner: The 100% – Maggie’s Story by Springbok Entertainment

Finalists: Dementia Yn Fy Nwylo I / First Hand by Galactig, Anne Frank House VR by Force Field Entertainment, X-Ray Fashion by Vulcan Productions, RSA Consequences by BBDO DUBLIN, Children Do Not Play War by VILD Studio, Ghost Fleet VR by Vulcan Productions, Common Ground by East City Films, Mercy by Oculus For Good & Mercy Ships and The Right Choice – ICRC by Visualise, Don’t Panic & ICRC

Standing beside some of the most innovative immersive companies

Innovative VR Company of the Year

Winner: Emblematic Group

Finalists: Make Real, Fundamental Surgery, AmazeVR, Backlight, SpinView, Ballast Technologies and Avantis Systems.

Out of Home Entertainment of the Year

Winner: War Remains by MWM Immersive & Flight School Studio

Finalists: Ralph Breaks VR by ILMxLAB & The VOID, VRSlide by Ballast Technologies & Wiegand.Maelzer, Golem VR by DIVR, Chained: A Victorian Nightmar by MWM Immersive, Curse of the Lost Pearl: A Magic Projector Adventure by Dreamscape Immersive, FaBIOS Fantastic Fun Factory by Holocafe, Sol Raiders by Zero Latency, Arizona Sunshine LBVR by Vertigo Games & Jaywalkers Interactive, TOYLAND : CRAZY MONKEY by Ymagis & Backlight Studio, Beyond Medusa’s Gate by Ubisoft Blue Byte and HUXLEY 2 – THE ADVENTURE BEGINS by EXIT Adventures

VR Marketing of the Year

Winner: The Infrunite Slide by Oasis Pocket Adventure

Finalists: Porsche “Hall of Legends” VR Experience by UDG Ludwigsburg, Nerdindustries & Porsche, Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit 2018 Invitations by Qualcomm Technologies, S 1000 RR VR by NUMENA & BMW, Ledvizor VR-presentation spac by Proektmarketing +1 & Ledvizo, VR experience for Santos de Cartier launch by LR Studio & Cartier, Lone Echo II: Trailer Experience by Ready At Dawn and Ford ‘WheelSwap’ VR by Happy Finish, H+K Strategies & Ford

VR Film of the Year

Winner: Wolves in the Walls by Fable Studios, Third Rail Projects and Oculus Story Studio

Finalists: The Bond by Axis Studios, Crow: The Legend by Baobab Studios, Cycles by Walt Disney Animation Studios, The Great C by Secret Location, Lucid by Breaking Fourth Limited, Traveling While Black by Felix & Paul Studios, Aripi by Simpals Studio and Grenfell: Our Home by Parable, Channel 4 & 59 Productions

VR Experience of the Year

Winner: Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series – Episode 1 by ILMxLAB & Oculus Studios

Finalists: Awake by Start VR & Animal Logic, Curfew: Join The Race by REWIND & SkyVR Eleven Eleven by NBC Universal & Digital Domain, The Scream VR by Cinétévé Experience & ARTE France and Where Thoughts Go by Lucas Rizzotto

This photo will be a historic tribute one day showing us how far we have come with VR Headsets

VR Hardware of the Year

Winner: Oculus Quest by Oculus/Facebook

Finalists: Reverb VR Headset by HP, Rift S by Oculus/Facebook, Teslasuit by VR Electronics, Vive Pro Eye by HTC and XTAL 5K HMD by VRgineers 

VR Game of the Year

Winner: A Fisherman’s Tale by Innerspace VR & ARTE France

Finalists: Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs by Resolution Games, ASTRO BOT Rescue Mission by JAPAN Studio & ASOBI Team, Blood & Truth by Sony London Studio, CREED: Rise to Glory™ by Survios, Falcon Age by Outerloop Games, FREEDIVER: Triton Down by Archiact, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice VR Edition by Ninja Theory, PROZE: Enlightenment by SignSine, Shadow Point by Coatsink , Transpose by Secret Location and Vacation Simulator by Owlchemy Labs

Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner: John Carmack

Yeay! Standing beside an incredible pioneer and creator or the virtual reality movement! The outstanding, one and only John Carmack
A selfie with all of this year’s winners – sorry my big head blocked quite the section out…

Well there you have it, an amazing achievement for all nominees, finalists and winners. Congratulations everybody! It’s inspiring to see the industry growing further every year.

Showcasing VR October 2019

I love October! The ever changing colours of the leaves high upon the trees or low on the ground fill me with so much joy at this time of year. A tree making the transition to its autumn colours reminds me that change occurs one leaf at a time. A timely reminder as those dark nights start to set in and when you may question if your efforts will ever start to become noticed. Well, if you can relate then I say to you, keep going!

This has been another action packed month for me but let’s start off with some fantastic news!

We’re now officially a Top Blog!

We feature in the Top 75 Virtual Reality Blogs & Websites to follow in 2019!

Can you believe it?! We’re not even last, not that last is a bad position in this case but I automatically figured that’s where we would sit. Suzanne Showcasing VR is ranked at 55th position on a list with all the major players and my role models such as Road to VR, VR Scout, VR Focus and my good pals Tony with The Ghost Howls and Tom with Virtual Perceptions! It’s such an honour to be featured alongside such high prestige, it really is. I would like to thank Anuj Agarwal for including us and for thinking so highly of us too 🙂 Make sure you go check out the full list because it is a fantastic resource for keeping up to date and hearing from so many different perspectives in and around virtual reality.

Being a Special Guest on a VR chat show!

A dream come true appearing on Steve Bambury’s #CPDinVR event as a special guest

I love Steve and everything he does for VR Education. I’ve regularly attended his events for the last few years now and learn so much from them every time I am there. His guests are always inspiring and engaging so to be part of his last show was a massive compliment to me. I featured alongside some remarkable pioneers in the industry and will share the recording on this blog as soon as it becomes available. Check this video out to give you a flavour of the epic’ness of these events: Steve speaking with the one and only Godfather of VR himself, Tom Furness

Check out Steve’s YouTube channel & subscribe to see more like this – or better yet come along to his event next month in VR []-)

Learning To Build VR Content & Experiences

I parked aside the Blender course because the Oculus & Unity course that I mentioned last month started. I’m only on Unit 3 of the Design, Develop & Deploy course, which is about 3-4 hours of the way through and my oh my… I 100% recommend this course to EVERYBODY who is interested in developing a VR app, game or experience! This course covers EVERTHING. We’re talking the pre-production, through to marketing, developing, the Oculus approval process (which is valuable insight in itself as so many developers have voiced their frustration at having work being rejected for the stores). This course is approx 23 hours long, it’ll take me longer because I’m note taking along the way. It’s in beta mode and it’s all FREE!!! You learn through pre-recorded videos but there is a community around this course on Unity that you can interact with, connect with tutors, ask questions etc. Definitely check it out, sign up and see you in class soon []-)

Completed TTA lessons & coursework

Learning Business Skills

The Transformative Technology Academy that I mentioned last month is now finished. We learned loads about how to create a successful technology for good business. It was an intense 4 weeks so I have had my head down a lot this month – if you follow me on Twitter you will have noticed a significant drop in my tweets. This was why. It was a great use of time and so much to digest. Your have virtual lessons to attend, mentor sessions, live pitch sessions then there’s the community side too with personal 1:1 meetings, sharing & learning as a group. I’d recommend this to anybody interested in starting up a company that uses tech to improve humans/society. Again it’s a free initiative which is amazing especially when you are learning about the inner workings of famous tech companies from their founders & CEO’s! Here’s the link again for good measure.

I managed to find some time to complete a site refresh for my start-up company, Pivotal Reality. Now is the time to be brave and push myself forward and let the world know what it is I do! Then came a bit of bad luck… I broke my Samsung S7 phone! Yes I know it’s an old phone but it was the only phone I can use alongside the Samsung 360 camera as a kind of preview mode before filming. I was working on a project to film a children’s home that one of our elderly residents grew up in and wanted to see again but couldn’t visit it because of mobility restraints. Luckily I had filmed enough to complete this project for her 🙂 But I’ll be on the market for a new 360 camera so please let me know what you would suggest. I was probably long overdue an upgrade to be fair anyway because my videos were not as clear & detailed as I would have liked. I like the look of the Insta360 or perhaps the Vuze but need to do my research and budgeting to see what would be best. If you use any yourself and can tell me your thoughts on any 360 cameras then I would be so extremely grateful to hear those from you 🙂 Thank you

Raising VR Awareness

Team Meetings in VR

Team meetings in Virtual Reality have become a bit of a regular thing for me at my day job. My boss is super cool and has the patience of a Saint listening to me harp on and on and on about virtual reality… Well he’s only gone and upgraded from a Samsung Gear VR to an Oculus Quest!!! Totally skipped out the Oculus Go that he initially planned and went for it. He’s not looked back. Buuut, this means that we can explore various Social VR locations, we previously always used AltSpace VR for our meetings for accessibility eg we could both log on to that cross devices/using different branded/makes of headsets. We tried Rec Room and he beat me at basketball so I’m not that keen on going there again… ha! Kidding! We’ve started to dabble in how to create your own Rec Room spaces. I want to check out Facebook Horizon so perhaps that could be our next location. It’s worth noting that if you love VR and want to introduce it into your business but feel like there’s not really a use case yet, VR Meetings is an easy one to pilot to give it a go 🙂

VR Content I Have Tried This Month

I sadly didn’t have much time to be in VR this month at all because of all the lessons I was to attend outside of my full-time day job & family life. Not making excuses but it has been a demanding month. I only really have 2 experiences that I tried out (aside from Steve’s customise VR Chat Show) was an immersive storytelling experience called AfterLife and Stunt Runner in Rec Room.

Interactive ‘you can choose the path to follow’ story experience

Afterlife was an exciting concept and I was most psyched about the possibilities of choosing your own path/story based on decisions that you made in the experience. I knew it was going to be heart-tugging story and if you watch the video you will learn why I was nervous about it being especially raw for me to play. If you do decide to play this then make sure your headset it fully charged ahead of playing (especially if you are using an Oculus Go to avoid overheating), sit down/do not stand and for heavens sake try moving the controller around more often than I did… ha!

Had the honour to be taught how to scale Stunt Runner by a Pro []-)

I accidentally stumbled across Stunt Runner in Rec Room. This is a cross between Ninja Warrior & Total Wipeout but in virtual reality. I was just messing around with the obstacles outside and having a bit of a giggle to myself tbh but this guy was flipping all over the place. I saw that he and another went through to a door and thought sure why not. Headed in and was put in front of a starting line with these guys ready to race. I sooo wasn’t ready for this but couldn’t back out now. We were off! Running along beams, scaling rope ladders, dodging moving parts, bouncing on trampolines and occasionally falling to our doom, ok that was just me.. and it was quite frequently rather than occasionally. This one guy was like the Flash! I didn’t get it, I was running as fast as he was but was falling a lot or getting hit by the moving obstacles until I seen him do it. A sneaky wee mario like short cut route. They must’ve felt sorry for how rubbish I was or perhaps they sensed I knew, I did try to follow them but fell so perhaps they saw all that lol! We did about 4 rounds or so of different courses and then the 3 of us teamed up. DrPovertyShoes spent so long with us and showed us how to do double jumps, triple jumps, where to jump jumps. DrPoveryShoes was amazing and such a cool wee person. They managed to beat their own personal best whilst with us so I said to take a selfie, glad I did or I wouldn’t have been able to shine a light on them like this.

What’s happening in November?

Virtual Reality Day is on Saturday 23rd November so I will be sure to write a post about all the publicised events that you can join. I haven’t signed up to do anything yet but I will definitely do that. I was disappointed that there wasn’t anything irl (in real life) based in Scotland and had hoped to arrange something this year but didn’t have a lot of interest at the time of approaching folks. It would be cool to host a Social VR hopper and just bounce about the various platforms. I might do something like that and livestream it as I imagine there should be a lot of people hanging around the different venues this year! I wonder if any of the 1st time virtual reality users/owners are even aware of this day? Make sure you help spread the word this year so folks know about it.

I’ll also be checking out Facebook’s Horizon and researching some Escape Room experiences so stay tuned for videos and written content on those soon.

I’m still waiting on further news about the FeelRealSensory Mask but it should be with me to test and show you by the end of this year at the latest. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

What will virtual reality smell like I wonder?

Thanks so much for sticking with me & reading this month’s blog. I hope you found it interesting? Have great fun Trick or Treating (Guising or Galoshan in Scottish terms) this Halloween!

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