VRLA Virtual Reality Event Mirrors The Explosive Growth Of The VR Industry


(Image Source: Anshel Sag)

Less than two years ago, Virtual Reality Los Angeles (VRLA) started out as a very small event with a hundred people according to founder Cosmo Scharf. AtVRLA’s 2016 Winter Expo on January 23rd, VRLA brought in over 3,000 attendees and 33 sponsors over the course of less than two years, representing a growth of more than 30x in under two years. What makes VRLA so special is that their event is completely independent and not run by any of the VR (virtual reality) companies like Facebook’s Oculus, HTC, Valve, or Sony. VRLA is an open event where any company can sign up to exhibit and even present; their open attitude is extremely welcoming and may be why it’s become so popular and a must-go for VR fans. VRLA has become the center of content creation and content creators; be they film makers or game developers, LA is the center for VR content creators and VRLA is their event.

At the January 2016 event, VRLA founders Cosmo Scharf and Jonnie Ross delivered keynotes giving updates on the future of VR with a fair amount of humor. Some of the most interesting points came from Cosmo. In 2015 alone VR startups had raised $384M, a mind boggling number considering where VR was only a couple years ago. He also got very extremely excited about the future of VR for 2016 with the pending launches of Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR headsets. However, Cosmo wisely cautioned that boarding passes for “The Hype Train” are incredibly inexpensive and people need to have realistic expectations for 2016; the world isn’t going to change overnight. These views align with my own writing from last year cautioning people about the very same things.


(Image Source: Anshel Sag)

However, VRLA was still a celebration of VR content and the amazing creations of all the different content creators that have already been made possible by VR. I was able to experience more things than ever before thanks to the growth of this event and VR as a whole. I rode VirZoom’s VR bike, which allows you to be a cowboy in the Wild West and lasso fugitives while pedaling and leaning to gain speed and control direction. I also managed to rock climb with Crytek’s The Climb for Facebook’s Oculus, even though I was forced to do so with an Xbox controller instead of Oculus Touch controllers (which was a disappointing experience). Unfortunately, I squandered my opportunity to see Advanced Micro Devices’s Paranormal Activity VR experience with the HTC Vive, but the line was so long that I had no chance of actually seeing it by the time I got to their booth. The company also had one of their upcoming Radeon Fury X2 graphics cards running in one of the HTC booth’s systems and was able to confirm this with HTC.

I also got a chance to try out climbing Mt. Everest at Nvidia’s booth and got to see their Lightfield Stereoscope that they showed off earlier this year at SIGGRAPH. In addition to that, I skied down a mountain with SilVR Thread who actually has their own VR content pipeline that starts with their own custom camera setups and processing pipelines and ends at whatever VR headset you like. I also got a chance to try out the Subpac tactile bass system which adds bass to VR to make you feel things happening inside VR. I took a glance at some of OTOY’s latest partner content created inside of their Octane engine which is still some of the best quality content I have seen in VR to date. Last but not least, I finally got to play Epic’s Bullet Train demo which is an Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch title that really gets the blood flowing and gives a great idea about the future of FPS games in VR.


(Image Source: Anshel Sag)

I also had a few chance encounters with other attendees of VRLA, which I found almost as valuable as the various talks and exhibitors’ booths. Those included talking with some content creators about their upcoming projects, many of whom have made the transition from just doing regular film and music videos to full-blown VR experiences. It really seems like a lot of people in Hollywood have caught the VR bug and are starting to produce some high quality content. I can’t talk about some of it yet, but it’s clear that quality is really starting to get a lot better. Thanks to events like VRLA, content creators are able to connect with the right people and show off their creations to the public and get feedback about it before they go live.


(Image Source: Anshel Sag)

Overall, VRLA has impresses me as it continues to grow. With the potentially explosive growth for VR in the coming year, it remains to be seen how big the next VRLA will be. But one thing is certain, VR will continue to grow, and VRLA will become an important event for anyone in the technology industry—not just VR.