Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival Focus on Spaces to Showcase VR Films

When VRFocus was in South Korea, they managed to visit the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival which took place from the 11-21st of July 2018. Nina Salomons sat down with Jongmin Kim the curator of the Bifan VR village. He discussed the VR cinema scene in South Korea, how he’s trying to stimulate competition and inspire filmmakers to make virtual reality (VR) films. This year’s focus was on South Korea’s first VR cinema where visitors could either watch the film on a 2D conventional screen or put on a Samsung Odyssey headset and watch a series of films together.


Q: Tell me who you are and what you do here.

A: Hello my name is Jongmin Kim and I curate the VR village in Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

Q: Is this the first year that VR is at the film festival?

A: No, this is our third year. We started two years ago and started to curate the VR village then.

Q:  Are there any South Korean VR 360 films that are premiering at the VR village?

A: Yes.

Q: How many?

A: This year twenty-six Korean films are being shown at the VR village with only two or three of them not premiering at this festival.

Q: Wow, that’s amazing. Congratulations. What’s the general response from the film goers and the public who experience VR?

A: First of all there are many people who are interested in this new medium of virtual reality. Even some people who are interested in traditional filmmaking find this interesting. VR is a medium that puts emphasis on experiences and after experiencing VR, many people start to become interested in it. They come up with some new ideas and unique concepts.

Q: How do you decide to curate your VR films? Do you go to other film festivals to then showcase them here?

A: Currently I am only working in Busan and the reason why I started it was because the Busan International Film Festival has some links with VR, as it’s a fantastical film festival. This kind of film festival has an interest in new kind of meda like VR.

Q: With regards to curation, Venice, SXSW or Sundance do you bring them here if you see they’re successful?

A: Yes.

Q: Are there any specific headsets that you are putting into the VR village? Do you have partnerships with HMD manufacturers?

A: So I think it’s not just content that’s leading the innovation in VR. I also think that the headsets play a huge part in it. Every year I try to invite new types of VR headsets to the VR village. This year we had the Odyssey headset provided by Samsung. Even though there are leading VR headsets like Oculus vive and HTC Vive, I think new technology and new VR headsets can stimulate the competition which will boost this industry overall. So that’s why I try to invite companies to showcase their new technology and VR headsets.

In the VR Theatre you can choose to watch the film with or without a VR headset.

Q: Is there an app where people can click the VR village and watch all the content online? Is there online curation of VR films?

A: One of the reasons we can’t do online curation is because there is no online platform for VR right now in Korea. This year several telephone companies are creating online VR platforms and I expect by the end of this year that there will be a way to curate VR online.

Q: I saw some children putting on some VR headsets, also some grandparents which I thought was fantastic – I usually never see that. Are there age restrictions or safety concerns when there are people of different ages experiencing potentially quite intense content like horror films for example?

A: Eventhough VR is designed for horror and thriller, our film festival isn’t a genre film festival. It’s family friendly. I tried to invite films which can be watched by the whole family, so we are now separating the content according to age restrictions with some focusing on education or documentary content for children. I wondered how the future generation would react to this new media, so I tried to bring some educational content for them to experience.

Q: Is all of this content 360 films or also interactive animation in VR experiences as well?

A: There are many types of content being developed this year, but our main focus this year was on the VR theatre. This is because this year many VR theatres will be opening, so I wanted to put an emphasis on the VR theatre. I did however still invite some interactive content here.

Q: A lot of festivals that have a VR section, also have awards. Like ‘best interactive experience’, is this something you’re looking into as well?

A: We aren’t considering adding a competition, because in Korea VR is focused on gaming and not cinema. So we think we need some infrastructure and people should be introduced to VR cinema more before we can introduce competition. We also hope that filmmakers will be inspired by the VR cinema here, and then they can make their own VR films. Overall I think the infrastructure should be made first and more people should get used to VR cinema before we can introduce any competitions. So we are waiting for the producers and creators in Korea to become more active and make VR content before we start competitions.

Q: We go to a lot of festivals and see a lot of films. Are there criteria that have to be met in order to be shown or accepted?

A: There are no clear criteria, I just go around the world for one year and if I see a film which is inspiring in my personal opinion, then I choose it. It’s a rather personal process right now because there is no competition so there can’t be strict or clear criteria for the curation.

Q: With foreign films coming in, is language a big problem or barrier when it comes to watching films and experiences?

A: Yes language can be a barrier because we don’t add subtitles to the VR films. We think VR is different from 2D cinema so if we put subtitles it can break the concentration and ruin the media’s essence in terms of VR. So since we think it’s different from conventional cinema we still have to think of a way to break the language barrier.


Q: Are there anymore extravagant plans for next year?

A: This year we focus on people’s experience of this area. So we focused on how people can actually experience the space. This year we weren’t  one hundred percent successful. So next year we will focus on the experience itself regarding the space and place. We think people shouldn’t just wear a VR headset, but also experience the whole thing when they step into the VR village itself. So for example this year was very hot, so we’re thinking of creating a huge plastic igloo where it’s very cool inside and adding a machine to make artificial snow inside so when people step into it they feel like winter and are experiencing the space.

Unlike traditional films we think VR is not very suitable for building stories or characters, but is more useful to build a different space and time. That’s why we’re focusing more on the building of the space and let them experience space rather than focusing on the stories.

Q: For next year it’s going to be in the same space with an igloo? Or are you guys going to move the VR village somewhere else?

A: So we’re still in the planning stages of this, and have to speak to the administration to solve problems like funding. It’s not confirmed yet.

Q: Is there a website that people can go to in order to find out more about the VR village and the film festival?

A: So we do have a website, and because there are restrictions for some people who cannot make it to the film festival in person we are actually planning a roadshow to different cities in Korea to show VR. If it’s confirmed it will all be on the website.

Q: If there’s a filmmaker out there who wants to enter their film and send it to you, how do they contact you?

A: Early next year there will be an option on the website for submissions, there is no personal way to contact myself.

To find out more about VR films keep reading VRFocus.

The VR Diversity Initiative Find Solutions For Disabilities Using Virtual Reality

Although the VR Diversity Initiative is not a hackathon, it very much felt like it during the fourth VR Diversity Initiative if you were a participant taking part in the VR Design workshop. Led by virtual reality artist Continuum, participants were put into teams of three for a day to start ‘project backpack’.

The goal for Continuum was to create three accessible backpacks. Two for individuals with scoliosis and one for a man in a wheelchair. The challenge was, could the teams do it in a single day? Can they use new technologies like 3D scanning and printing? Did team members require certain skills to pull it off?

At all started before the workshop. Continuum knew two individuals with scoliosis. Perhaps a little background knowledge on scoliosis is needed to fully understand the process as well. Scoliosis is when the spine curves to the side. The spine can also twist at the same time. This twisting can pull the ribcage out of position. Although many people have not heard of scoliosis it is not rare. 3 to 4 children per 1000 need specialist supervision (Scoliosis Association UK).

Backpack for Jess

Before the workshop took place, Continuum scanned one of the individuals called Jess. You can see images above how they scanned her and decided where to put the backplate on her back. Continuum then used virtual reality (VR) software Gravity Sketch to design the backplate in 3D. With the help of Barclays Eagle Labs, they 3D printed the plate before the workshop began. The girls who were assigned to create the backpack for Jess came from design backgrounds. Young girls who studied Design or Fashion.

Here is the step by step process used to make the custom fitted backpack, with 3D scanning and 3D printed backplate for Jess.

Using the backplate as a blueprint for the backpack, the girls decided to add straps in order to distribute the weight when Jess wore the backpack. This would make it easier to carry heavier items such as shopping. They added a small pink pouch at the front and on the shoulder straps for easy access to items such as an Oyster card, wallet and keys.

Backpack for Jo

Jo is a woman with severe scoliosis and physically attended the VR Diversity Initiative. Her team members had a background in fashion design as well as 3D printing. With Jo being a costume designer for films, all members had a huge amount of previous experiences and skills they could utilise during the workshop. With the help and guidance of occupational therapist Emma Sheppard, the team was able to find what Jo needed the most for her backpack, and the best way to design the backpack.

Jo holds up a template for her backpack. This will later be 3D printed to serve the base of her backpack.
Continuum holds a Vive headset as Jo prepares to sit down and design.

The team chose to create a small shoulder backpack, that would not rest on the lowest part of Jo’s back, which also happens to be the weakest and most painful part of her spine. They chose to create a shoulder backpack which rested on her left shoulder, which is also her strongest part of her spine. The team decided to make the backpack big enough to fit an iPad, phone and wallet, avoiding the weakest and most painful parts of Jo’s spine.

They created a blueprint for what the 3D printed backplate would have to be for Jo’s back with cardboard, tape and foam. Then used this as the blueprint for the backpack. This backplate would be 3D printed after the workshop to put into Jo’s backpack.

Trolley for Ben Harris

Ben Harris is the Funds Manager for charity organisation Sportsable, which aim to promote and advocate individuals with disabilities but also provide them with help and support for athletics and sports. When he heard about the VR Design workshop he wanted to participate immediately.

With the help of Keith Pamment, Ben worked tried to find an accessible backpack solution for Ben. They quickly realised that a backpack wasn’t quite as useful for people in wheelchairs, simply because of the chair. Instead they opted to with a trolley design, which could easily detach or attach to the wheelchair.


Using Gravity Sketch they created a prototype in VR and then proceeded to use a metal trolley, some tools and 3D printing to build a trolley that would be able to hold up to 25kg. They also made it extendable, allowing the trolley to become smaller or larger depending on what people wanted to use it for.

As Ben showcased the trolley at the end of the day, he explained that this could be used for athletes at his charity. Particularly an individual who competed in archery, and did not have an electric wheelchair. Going onto various terrains was vital, and they proposed having different wheels available as well. Keith also explained that taking part in the VR Design workshop allowed had given him the confidence to potentially find a solution to 3D scan individuals in wheelchairs, materials and allow people in wheelchairs to custom create their own wheelchairs in future using VR and 3D printing as the tools and the means.

Now that the workshop has ended both Jo, Jess and Ben can use these backpack prototypes. Jo uses hers in her everyday life and is extremely happy. Continuum hopes to continue doing more of these workshops in collaboration with the VR Diversity Initiative and is currently looking for companies to donate leftover materials such as cloth or left-over backpacks for future events.

Watch the process and results in this video below:

Inition Lead the 360 Film Workshop at the VR Diversity Initiative

Inition are no stanger to creating and filming various 360 film content. I met with the creators after hosting a panel on social impact at the Raindance Film Festival UK. ‘Being Me: Revealing and Healing Childhood Trauma’ was shortlisted for best VR film for social impact and was a partnership between Inition and The Cornerstone Partnership. The Cornerstone Partnership wanted to create an immersive therapeutic training tool using virtual reality (VR) to help foster empathy. When the VR Diversity Initiative (VRDI) needed 360 film workshop leaders Peter Collis and Imogen Hammond stepped forward with enthusiasm.

The film conveys the effects of substance abuse and domestic violence through the mother and father.

When Inition came on board to teach the 360 film workshop leaders, they first wanted to get an idea of who the participants would be. Before the 19th of October, the participants who chose to participate in the 360 Film workshop were sent several questions before attending.

  1. What previous film-making experience do you have?
  2. What drew you to the workshop and how might VR relate to your current practice / interests?
  3. What are your expectations of the workshop & what would you like to get out of the day?

Depending on the answers from participants, Peter and Imogen tailored their workshop to meet the needs of participants. They also showcased individual case studies of VR films they had made. They allowed participants to view, On the Road to Makin Polio History and I Dream of an Empty Ward on VR headsets they had brought with. They then did a step-by-step process of mistakes they made, what they realised when shooting and how they tried to solve them. This allowed the participants to come to grips with the theory of VR filmmaking and the new cinematic language that comes with it. 


The first half of the day was focused on theory, understanding the cameras and the limitations of the current technology. A lot of focus was put on why one would use 360 filmmaking, and what was the right moment to choose this way of filmmaking compared to conventional filmmaking methods.

The second half of the day was more practical. The participants went to shoot with various 360 cameras, putting the camera in various locations and trying out various different actions around it. This hands-on method is integral to the VR Diversity Initiative, as we want all participants to go home with a rough VR prototype after attending. The participants came back at the end of the day and did a few rough cuts of the footage they had shot during the day. Participants from other workshops were also able to see what they had shot in a VR headset at the end of the day.

Some of the participants wanted to get hands-on with the camera and had no knowledge of price range of 360 cameras nor their pros or cons. Others wanted to understand the workflow and language of 360 filming, how it differed to conventional 2D filmmaking. Others wanted to see how professional 360 filmmakers approached their content. To find out more about what took place during the workshop check out the video below:

Scream and Hide in Virtual Reality Films and Videogames This Halloween

We all love a little bit of a scare, scream and adrenaline rush. Virtual reality (VR) is particularly good at making viral videos when we see our friends and family members tremble, scream or fall off chairs. Be prepared to go through those same emotions in these latest experiences in VR and augmented reality (AR).

Dark Corner Tag Along

Dark Corner Studios are releasing international exclusives for horror fans to enjoy. All four of the films are available now through the Dark Corner app which you can get on Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream headsets.

  • Tag Along – A blood-spattered haunted house story from Taiwan, director Pu-Yuan Cheng and producer Shin-Chi Chen have created a short horror experience that expands the mythology of this hit Taiwanese franchise. Get ready to enter the haunted home of the demon Mosien, if you dare…
  • Oh Deer – The first foray into VR for Swedish director Peter Pontikis, Oh Deer is a stark, minimalist POV experience. It’s an exercise in suspense and divided attention, placing the viewer in the perspective of a wounded animal as hunters close in from all sides.
  • Horomaru – An indie haunted house story from South Korea by director Jae-gyun Hong. Three young ghost hunters with plans to upload their 360 footage for viral internet views go exploring in an abandoned mansion. What they don’t realize is that the house used to host grisly sacrificial rites; “Horomaru” refers to “the ritual of sacrificing a living human to a ghost or demon.”
  • The Office – A popular horror short from the prolific European VR studio Inside360, directed by Miguel Temme. The viewer takes the POV of an office worker about to head home for the day…when suddenly mysterious things start to happen all around you.

WITHIN also has some premieres for their Fright Fest Collection with eight experiences, including five app premieres. These premieres will include:

  • The Caretaker​ – created by Jacob Wasserman, Adam Donald, and Ant Gentile of Hidden Content. This follows the mysterious occurrences at a strange hotel when a couple arrives to wait for a mechanic after their car breaks down on a cold winter night.
  • An Obituary​ – created by Jean Yoon, Kuk-seok Yang, and Jin-hee Kim. The experience charts the unsettling course of a funeral when the man attending realizes he is the sole mourner alongside the deceased’s grieving mother. Why is there nobody else in the village?
  • 11:57​ – is a first-person POV nightmare in which you are strapped to a chair in a dark cave. The experience revolves around your every move, but may leave you cowering under your bed.

Also available will be Dinner Party,​ the pilot episode of a new anthology series called, The Incident.​ Focused on actual supernatural events the first installment is based on the story of Betty and Barney Hill, an interracial couple who reported the first nationally known story of a UFO abduction in 1961.From WITHIN’s archives the Fright Fest Collection will include Greg Nicotero’s The Walking Dead, AMC’s The Terror, ​and Sergeant James. 

It’s not all about VR this season, AR app Noovie ARcade app have also been busy preparing audiences in cinema theatres with pre-show creepiness. Twenty minutes before a screening, audiences can download the Noovie ARcade app on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Then, they will be shown a slew of spooky imagery, such as a silhouette of a child on a swing, clutching a teddy bear. Strange, zombie-like creatures who move with a jerky, unnatural motion appear as ominous writing appears on a billboard, pleasing ‘Save Me!’. Alternatively you can also play AR games on the cinema screen like Cinevaders, Emoji Escape and Kernal Cannon.

The horror experience will be available at selected theatres from 6th October until 31st October, with over 20,800 movie screens taking part,  including big chains such as AMC, Cinemark, Regal Entertainment Group along with 55 regional and local cinemas and exhibitors.


If cinema or movies just aren’t immersive enough for you, and you’re looking for a little bit more interaction with your content. You can always head over to Viveport where they’re doing a 90% off massive Halloween sale. There’s a lot on offer, there’s even a ‘Free Frights’ category, you can select from various categories, with my personal favourite category “AHHH!”

KOBOLD If you’re looking for something that sits between a film and videogame you can always try Kobold. This experience is coming to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Designed as a trans-media experience. Before entering VR you watch a short film which serves as an introduction into the world and characters and tells the backstory of a missing boy and his family.

In the VR experience you play an urban explorer investigating the mysterious case of the missing boy. With your torch in hand you look to discover the secrets of an abandoned villa in the middle of a dark forest in Germany. Featuring real locations that have been scanned for authenticity, KOBOLD offers players a fully interactive universe where they can pick up clues, solve a mystery and come face to face with an ancient evil.

Continue reading VRFocus to get the latest scares.

The Fourth VR Diversity Initiative Announced for 19th October

The last VR Diversity Initiative (VRDI) held on the 31st July was a huge success, with 80% of participants rating the workshop excellent. The VRDI is a one day free event for participants from under-represented groups and has grown in popularity amongst individuals looking to learn practical 360 film, Unity and Web VR skills. 

VR Diversity Initiative
Two attendees look at existing VR applications on their mobile phone.

Plexal hosted their second VR Diversity Initiative which ensured a relaxing, open and accessible space for learning. One attendee commented: “I found the atmosphere extremely good. The people teaching extremely giving and understanding of the different levels of people. The attendants extremely willing to learn. Perfect combination to make it a pleasurable experience.”

At the July session there were three workshops, each focusing on different XR elements. Asha Easton of Haptic Media, led the 360 film workshop. Teaching some basic theory of 360 filmmaking at the beginning of the day and providing a camera for the second part for participants to go and film their own projects with. Sam Perrin, director of Virtual Vault has been a returning Unity workshop leader, and taught the Unity VR workshop on his birthday. Setting up a rough project in Unity, which the participants had to re-create on their own laptop stations and HTC Vive Headsets. Ada Rose Cannon and Jo Franchtti, both Developer advocates helped participants create a project for Web VR. The final products could all be experienced using the Oculus Headsets.

VRDI aims at trying to make VR accessible for everybody, and the July workshop had many attendees attend who wanted to learn a new skill for the future, start their own company or incorporate it into their existing business. Marc Bond, a participant who has hydrocephalus & cerebral palsy, attended with his assistance dog, Neo. He said: “I felt confident coming to this workshop because for the first time I wasn’t the only disabled attendee. There were significant disabilities here for a change, people in wheelchairs, people that had visible conditions so for me it was fantastic.”

Ben Harris VRDI
Ben Harris and his team setting a scene for their 360 film.

Ben Harris, SportsAble’s Community Fundraising Manager said, “it was the best day I’ve had in years”. After taking part in the 360 film workshop, he’s now bought four 360 film cameras and will be using them as a teaching aid to teach basketball classes to individuals with disabilities.

You can sign up to October’s workshop here. Make sure to share with friends who’ve wanted to make a 360 film or start up a new side of their business. This Initiative was supported by the Realities Centre, BlueHire, OculusThe Case Farm, Barclays Eagle Lab  and Innovate UK.

Sign-up to the Third VR Diversity Initiative

The second VR Diversity Initiative held on the 8th of May at Plexal City in Stratford allowed participants to not only learn how to create 360 film and Unity, but mixed reality (MR) as well. Since the launch of the VR Diversity Initiative, we can now see that the majority of under-represented groups come from women with attendees making up 58% of the participants. 


Most of the participants came from a creative background, with the majority wanting to learn how to incorporate VR and AR into their work. So far, the feedback has been incredibly positive with 76% of past participants saying they now feel more confident in pursuing a career in XR. All of them have recommended the VR Diversity Initiative to anyone who wants to take their first steps towards a career in XR. The VR Diversity Initiative continues to try and create an impact in the new immersive space of VR. We had a large variety of participants, all coming from under-represented backgrounds and all wanting to learn more about VR, 360 film or Mixed Reality.

VR Diversity Initiative

The aim of having all students create a rough VR prototype whether it be a 360 film or rough working VR Unity project led to four 360 films to be made, and every member of the Unity group create their personal Unity project. Kyaw Tun Sein, one of the Unity workshop leaders says, “The impact of VRDI is huge. After just a few hours people who had never touched Unity before before developing a project with confidence.”

The event also had Mixed Reality being taught by DoubleMe, where participants were able to experience Holoportation with the Microsoft Hololens. At the end of the workshop, participants and workshop leaders discussed what they learned, and try or view each other’s projects. Some of these projects can be seen on the VR Diversity Initiative’s website.


Although this is only the third VR Diversity Initiative, success stories are already starting to come from past participants. After its success, the third VR Diversity Initiative will be held at the same location on the 31st of July 2018 at Plexal City. To sign up please click here.

Top Four Stand-out Design Flaws Encountered When Demoing VR

People are still finding their feet with what virtual reality (VR) can do. As such we continue to be in a period of experimentation, sometimes this results it great steps forward… and other times not. VRFocus‘ Video Content Producer Nina Salomons discusses design problems she’s experienced when demoing or trying out various experiences from haptics to headsets.


1. The Nose

I have a very small Asian nose, which has no bridge. With VR HMD’s like the Oculus Rift I can simply tilt my head backwards and see the world around me. For VR, this is not exactly something you want. Usually you can force your brain to ignore it, however when you’re in a bright space with a lot of light, it can be quite distracting and take you away from immersion.

Two HMD headsets where this problem does not happen is the PlayStation VR and HTC Vive Pro. In the video clip below you can see me unboxing the HTC Vive Pro and exclaiming in joy that I am unable to see the floor.

2. Long Fingernails

Haptic feedback should be for everyone, including for all genders. In general women seem to have longer fingernails and when it comes to creating haptic feedback, this can be a problem.

When trying Go Touch VR this was definitely the case. Although most individuals working in manual jobs will most likely not have long fingernails, it should be remembered when designing hardware applications for haptics by all engineers and designers of the future.

3. Shapes and Sizes

Digital out-of-home entertainment (DOE) is becoming an increasingly popular way to experience VR. I’ve personally tried out Anvio VR, The VOID, Polygon VR, Hologate VR and, as shown in the video below, Arizona Sunshine inside Optitrack. However, one-size does not fit all, and when it comes to VR this is definitely the case. Size matters, and it effects one’s ability to sometimes enjoy an experience.

In this video I talk about being too small being a problem for the backpacks and too short to throw a ball in a VR game. Sometimes being too big can also be a problem as well. In short,

4. Those Bambi Eyes

Eye-tracking in VR is the future and all future HMD’s will have them. Having tried the Tobii eye-tracking with Qualcomm though, I did encounter a problem that I wasn’t sure was specific to my ethnicity. The application kept thinking my eyes were closed whilst my colleague noted nothing of the kind when trying it. Another colleague of mine also mentioned that his long eyelashes also caused problems when trying eye-tracking before. It would be that one time you don’t want camel eyelashes.

Bonus: Voice

Although not mentioned in the video, it’s important to note that voice recognition is another interesting subject. I tried IBM’s voice recognition software and was unable to command the ship in Star Trek: Bridge Crew. The ship was just unable to recognise what I was saying.

Another time I encountered this was an experience inside the Lenovo Mirage Solo, where I had to speak to a dog in order for the experience to continue. This was in a hotel lobby and I must have been quite the sight yelling ‘hot dog’ in different ways until I finally put on a Californian Valley girl accent and it worked. The developer took down notes and confessed that he thought the A.I. software was gender biased and could have had problems picking up a female voice. Or it could have just been my accent.

For those of you watching my videos, you might recognise that I have a very strange accent that can’t be place, and it seems that A.I. also seems to have this problem.

Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream

To conclude, these various showcases I believe come from VR still being new. However, it’s also because I don’t think developers, engineers and testers are making sure that their applications, software or hardware is for everybody. Again I stress the importance of the VR Diversity Initiative here because I think diversifying the people who build and create future products should bear all types of people in mind. Whether it be their size, ethnicity or gender, all of these things have to be brought to question.

Polygon VR Say They Are The Ultimate VR Experience – And They Might Just Be Right

Virtual reality (VR) is expensive. 2018 has seen a lot of price cuts for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive (and Vive Pro), PlayStation VR, as well as the release of various Windows Mixed Reality headsets and standalone headsets, VR is still too steep of a price for consumers to buy en masse. Sometimes the easiest way to enjoy VR is to simply get out of the house and try some location-based VRs. Nina Salomons, the video content creator at VRFocus, discusses her favourite digital out-of-home entertainment (DOE) VR experience and explains why it stood out for her.

Put on a VR headset, some trackers and a strap a VR laptop to your back.

I have tried several out-of-home experiences that usually use Optitrack’s sensors. From The Void, Arizona Sunshine, Kenzan Studio, Anvio VR, Hologate VR , StarTracker as well as trying out Derren Brown’s the Ghost Train at Thorpe Park and a few dozen VR experiences in Dubai’s   ‘PVRK’. I believe I’ve tried quite a few different variations of VR out-of-home experiences.

DOE experiences, as the name suggests occur in a space where players put on a VR headset and are usually given a VR backpack, some accessories that are tracked and an experience where they can play with friends. Out-of-home VR experiences excel in creating social VR experiences where more than one player is able to enjoy an experience. Although this is quite tricky to track multiple players in a space, it is possible. For some strange reason, almost all of the out-of-home VR experiences have been first-person shooters (FPS). The company usually gives you a fake gun that is then tracked in the virtual space and has special triggers or buttons that allow you to reload, change weapon and give players haptic feedback or recoil to make it more realistic.

Having tried all of these out-of-home VR experiences as well as console games for a few years, I can honestly say it’s getting more difficult to get excited about experiences unless they’re truly innovative, realistic or engaging. It wasn’t until somebody asked me what the best VR experience was I’d ever tried I had to sit down and think. It took me some time to answer the question, but I concluded that it was something I experienced in New York created by Neurogaming on their Polgyon VR platform. The incredible potential of the Polygon platform was showcased in this interview with Alex Morozov, Chief Marketing Officer of Neurogaming, but perhaps didn’t quite bring across how impressive it was.


Travelling to America a lot to cover VR at events like GDC, GTC and E3 where Silicon Valley and ex-Hollywood storytellers come to showcase their products, you would expect me to have chosen an American-based company from there for my best experience. Surprisingly it’s a Russian company that’s known for its videogame World of Tanks VR that left me speechless and excited about the future.

Unlike some out-of-home entertainment experiences, Polygon VR required a player to put on full body tracking accessories and equipment. Similar to how actors would be captured for CGI characters in films or how Ninja Theory created Hellblade:Senua’s Sacrifice. Players are asked to put on accessories that have little grey balls attached to then wrap your arm, legs, hands and feet. This creates for a truly immersive experience where like Vive trackers, you can use parts of your body to interact with your immersive space (like kicking dinosaurs in Island 359).

The experience required me to put on full body tracking accessories, a gun, and a VR headset tethered to a backpack. The experience I tried on Polygon VR was a FPS where myself and Kevin Joyce were soldiers on a mission to take down enemies. Neurogaming could also change the whole virtual world without physically moving us, or asking us to change outfits. We were suddenly inside a close quarter map of orange corridors, elevators and various guns. the experience allowed Kevin and Myself to use the full space of the warehouse and we spent over an hour roaming around the virtual worlds created for us by Neurogaming.

The importance of dying

Having tried Anvio VR’s full-body tracking and shooting zombies is the closest thing I’ve tried to Polygon VR. Both required guns, were FPS experiences, are Russian and allow for several players to be tracked in a large warehouse space. Where Polygon VR differentiated from all the other FPS out-of-home experiences, is that it allowed you to die. A blue ghost figure would appear in the virtual world to reflect where you are in the real world – helping players understand both the virtual and real world spacing without taking a headset off to avoid physically walking into the player once they died.

Not only was friendly fire on, there were various ways of dying. Falling or jumping off moving elevators, slipping from a ledge or getting shot. Unlike the other videogames, what I did mattered, and I could die in-game. It now mattered finding that health pack, it mattered listening to the footsteps of other players to avoid or find them, it matters finding cover, it matters if you die midway through a battle. Suddenly it’s like all my senses are heightened because I can now die.

This simple act of death – it drives you to care about your actions and not simply hold a gun at zombies or just stand there not caring as they overwhelm you in-game.

Sharing is caring, best enjoyed with no latency

Everybody who has been in VR for a while understands the importance of social VR. You want to be able to share experiences with friends and be there with them. What I try and drive home in the video below, and what I try and showcase in gameplay is how incredible that feeling is when you interact with somebody in VR that you’ve never met in real life. Like a meeting between two different tribes – we try and find something in common and end playing childhood games of clapping our hands as a form of easy communication (even though we have microphones and can speak to each other).

You can also see how freaked out I am by Ivan walking through me, and although no gameplay footage of him walking in and out of walls is available you can clearly see the physical and immediate reaction I had to his physical actions (all of which he was doing in Russia). What really got me was that there seemed to be barely any latency. Like a baby throwing things to see a cause and effect, I found myself touching, kicking and moving at different speeds to test the ‘rules’ of this digital world. Very soon I was comfortably walking in it as if I was walking in real life.

It felt like everything was real. Everything was behaving, reacting exactly as it did in the real world, besides a few tracking issues – I believe Ivan was real. I believed he was there in real-time and even if he wasn’t in Russia – the fact that all three of us were comfortably moving in this digital world with no hiccups even when dying felt great.


The possibilities of the Polygon VR platform are endless and become even more interesting when you think about various platforms around the world connecting to each other and allowing for more than ten players to be in a virtual world together. I pitch some ideas and possibilities of what this could mean for the future of entertainment, eSports and VR.

Check out the video below to see some gameplay of us trying the Polygon VR platform and more. Stay tuned to VRFocus to hear more about the platform and immersive technology.

AVR Studio: Virtual and Augmented Reality are Changing How Million Dollar Buildings Are Designed

Virtual reality (VR) has many applications, but architecture and design are a sector where it is already revolutionising the way buildings, homes and retail stores are being designed. There are various tools such as HTC Vive’s and Immersion’s TruescaleEpic Games’ Unreal StudioLUX Walker, or Unity’s support of PiXYZ. VRFocus recently spoke to Founder and CEO of AVR Studios and IR Architect about how he started to look at VR as a solution to help provide their clients with a way of exploring their product before even building it.

AVR StudioAnybody that’s attempted to refurbish their home, buy or build a home will have looked at numerous layouts of building work, drawings and sketches of the floor plan. However no matter how thoroughly you go through them, you might still get something not quite right. When it comes to luxury homes in California, Rodriguez deals with homes that are worth $5 million USD to $200 million, and nine-out-of-ten clients aren’t quite sure what the architects, designers and construction workers are doing which can lead to delays in construction, changing of orders and series of revisions that ultimately lead to a massive amount of expenses.

Rodriguez is a licensed architect, and AVR Studio is an architect firm that does both interior design and structural engineering. The concept of bringing VR to architecture and design came to Rodriguez when he played SUPERHOT VR on his brother-in-law’s Oculus Rift. He realised that the lobby of Oculus Home was similar to an architectural environment. “I quickly realised I could use this as a tool, build it as a service for my clients and that’s kind of where the idea started,” Rodriguez says.

AVR Studio has created its own technology to enable two users to view their building project in VR with the use of an HTC Vive. With a team of around 12 members, AVR Studio has to date managed to sell three houses worth roughly over $12 million in total simply by bringing clients into the homes in VR. VRFocus has previously covered how AVR Studio is cutting down on costs by using VR, however didn’t fully go in-depth just how valuable the process of digitising a project can be to both the client and all those involved. That story came about during the meeting with Rodriguez.

“VR is now a standard in IR Architect, clients expect it.” Rodriguez says that clients, “Are embracing it and most importantly they are starting to see the benefit of it. Because we’re finding that for them it can be a cost savings of anywhere between 5% and 10% of the construction cost, which is a significant amount of money.”

Re-create your house in virtual reality and get a guided tour to make adjustments in real-time.

Constructing a luxury home isn’t a simple task

A luxury home can be 73,000 sq ft, which will often include twenty bedrooms, a pool, a garage that can hold twelve cars, and Rodriguez says that they’re essentially building an entire videogame or world to give the client the ability to view the property from all sides. AVR Studio uses all the tools architect firms use, incorporated into Unreal Engine and then additional unique coding to enable features like opening bespoke design doors.

At the moment the software supports two HTC Vive’s, allowing a client to be a ‘passenger’ as Rodriguez gives them a tour of their future property. This is done in AVR Studio’s VR room where they have a 70 inch television on the wall to showcase to everybody what is being discussed and shown. The client is asked to bring along all the important people involved in the building, designing and construction of the building, and he or she will be able to highlight various objects with colours. Should they want to change or alter material, colour or furniture that can be changed in real-time from a library. The whole experience is fully recorded as well for further discussion and reference of all those involved.

“Most architects would disagree, but you really don’t spend a lot of time looking at the architecture from the outside. You kind of walk up, you see the beautiful building and then you go inside.”

Rodriguez calls himself a ‘closet interior designer’ and believes that the magic truly happens when you start looking inside the building. He believes most architecture firms shy away from adding interior design as part of the package, because they feel as if they’re loosing control. However Rodriguez argues that it’s a collaborative process and that AVR Studio is there mostly to help support.

“Moving a wall early in the project doesn’t cost anybody anything. Moving it in the field? Super expensive,” he states, re-iterating that the conventional manner of discussing changes would be done on the field, and by that time it will have been too late already as well as extremely expensive to make an major changes.

Learning from Past Mistakes

Customise your lighting to change the sphere and ambience.


“One of the big investors here in LA – he’s building his own house and he hired all the top designers. The drawings were completely done, permits were issued and he hired us and said, hey this is kind of cool stuff, can you just do my house before I spend you know $25 million? Can you just do it? And the cost for our services is minuscule compared to what they’re going to spend or what they’re going to save. So we did it and I’m talking lighting design, interior design, architecture, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, low voltage all the packages. 300 plus sheets. So grab all of that and put it in the VR, he walks in the house and his first comment is, why is the stair in-front of the door?

And we’re all looking at each other like, I don’t know what to say. It’s literally in every drawing. And for whatever reason he just didn’t understand it. In architecture, you know, you move the stairs. The stairs are like the heart of the house, you move the stair you’re talking huge revisions. But here’s the thing: he was going to move that stair regardless. Whether he moved it today or once all the foundations were poured. So by him getting in front of it, on a $25 million build in just revisions alone he saved a couple million bucks and delays. Not only that, he didn’t have to re-do his foundations twice, he got all of the consultants to update their drawings.

“More importantly he got to competitively bid the project before awarding the contract because once you award a contract, you’re really committed to this contractor. And if he wants to charge you a significant amount of money once the projects going, there’s not a lot you can do. But if you can negotiate that way before you award that contract, it puts you in way better position.

“So for him now. Every project that he’s developing or he’s involved with he asked that he can walk in – in VR – just so he understands what he’s getting himself into, which is pretty cool. And we have a bunch of developers that are like that.”

The next big step for VR is social VR

For creating a luxury home in VR used to take two months, however now AVR Studio are able to do it in just two and half weeks. Rodriguez also explains that they’re working together with a company in Hong Kong that have a VR hub that allow multiple computers to connect at once, enabling users to be in the same environment and communicating live without the boundaries of international travel. Rodriguez imagines that in the future a little robot will go to the actual field whilst clients put on a VR headset to save everybody time of commuting. He says that with around 30 homes a year, he spends half his time driving in the car from job site to job site.

AVR Studio currently have 35 projects to date and are seeking to expand into the commercial sector of hospitality and retail. The team are currently working with a retail client who can now fine tune a customer service experience, looking at the furniture and ambience before anybody starts swinging a hammer. However, it’s not only working on social VR and going into the commercial sector, AVR Studio are also working with a company using augmented reality (AR) for the government on building sites.

Rodriguez explains that by adding AR to VR, AVR Studio will be able to advise exactly where the beams and structural elements are going, eliminating the misinterpretations or miscommunications of drawings further cutting down costs of construction. To find out more watch the video below, and stay right here with VRFocus for all the latest from AVR Studio.

WayRay Aim to be Augmented Reality Glass Company of the Future

WayRay has had a huge amount of interest since Alibaba invested in the company last year, since then Swiss augmented reality (AR) specialist company has been looking for developers to create AR applications for cars in their True SDK Challenge in February 2018. VRFocus recently spoke with Mary Glazkova, Vice President of Communications at WayRay, about Navion and their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) solution for vehicles wanting to implement AR into their windshields. 

Navion WayRay
The Navion, WayRay’s True augmented reality solution.

After four years of R&D, WayRay has showcased two products this year. The first is the Navion, a holographic AR navigation system. Navion attaches to the dashboard of your car and shows drivers their speed, route and other trip details. The device is able to indicate real-time events such as pedestrians, potential hazards, points of interests and is completely hands-free. Navion also responds to voice commands and hand gestures.

Navion uses a holographic optical element created by WayRay; a photopolymer film that retains the properties of a periodic nanostructure after the recording process. It has a full HD camera for continuous mapping of the environment whilst simultaneously keeping track of the car’s location within it. WayRay call utilised  simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) for this technology, and also has a mobile app where you can control information from such as restaurants, gas stations or hospitals. Glazkova says that this will be released in the middle or the end of this year, as the company is releasing their first SDK soon and are hoping developers can create applications for it.

WayRay’s second solution is a larger scale product than Navion, intended for OEMs. The Chinese automotive industry have been the first to embed WayRay’s solution into their car production lines which will be seen by the end of this year. When asked why all the solutions were in Chinese vehicles, Glazkova responded that they’re faster and not as old-fashioned as Western car manufacturers who require more time.

Tech specs of WayRay’s Navion.

With the oncoming of self-driving cars, drivers will be able to be hands-free. This opens up the opportunity for all modes of transportation to become a form of entertainment. From buses and planes to cars. Having a screen that is capable of information overlay means that advertisers may already be thinking of ways of grabbing your attention, while WayRay has already devised a method of dealing with this called ‘action acts’. Advertisers in future will be able to target drivers and passengers in self-driving cars, and will have to pay in order to be featured to targeted audiences. To find out more watch the video below, and for all the latest from WayRay stay right here at VRFocus.