Atlanta Virtual Reality Studios Simulate Worldwide Splash

tWIIzAr - ImgurEveryone from 7-year-old gamers to President Obama is eager to slide the latest virtual reality wearables over their heads and enter into an abstract escapade (like saving precious kittens from falling to their impending death).

For many, the compelling aspects of VR goes well beyond button mashers and their deep-rooted love for the game – the health industry can use VR for diagnosis and treatment, military personnel can train soldiers, and space exploration can travel to uncharted territory by virtually controlling robots (and that’s just to name a few).

So, it’s no surprise that VR is evolving at hyper speed. Revenue from products is projected to grow from $90 million to $5.2 billion by 2018, over the last 2 years $3.5 billion in venture capital investments have been made, and active VR users are forecasted to reach $171 million by 2018. Yet behind all this excitement is the possibility that if our high VR expectations aren’t met we’ll be sent spiraling down the proverbial chute into letdown land (after all those years of restless anticipation). That being said, with Oculus Rift headsets shipping out and HTC’s announcement to launch a $100 million VR accelerator, at least the buzz about 2016 being the year of the virtual reality boom is right on target.

While it’s all well and good that the industry on the international scale is off to a strong start, we were really dying to know if Atlanta’s own VR sphere is more than just an optical illusion. So, we caught up with four local VR leaders who weigh in on what they do and why they think ATL is set to make a substantial simulation splash.


trick-3dTRICK 3D | VR Animation-Acts & 3D Demiurges

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TRICK 3D’s primary focus is on VR and 3D animation, how are you defining that VR space here in Atlanta?

“As we all know, live action TV and movies are booming here in Atlanta, but both animated and VR content is, at present, largely dominated by a few select west coast studios,” said Chad Eikhoff, founder of TRICK 3D. “That said, Atlanta’s in a prime position, and TRICK 3D with it, to showcase our CG animation and VR capabilities, and compete internationally. Given that we’ve spent the past 10 years creating commercially successful films, virtual worlds and characters, TRICK 3D is in a prime position to trail-blaze some amazing VR content and experiences.”

Why do you think VR is growing in the Atlanta-area, and how do you hope to help define that space/market?

“VR is a new ecosystem that is flush with opportunities both technically and creatively that will allow us to entertain, engage customers and solve real problems. TRICK 3D is in the business of generating VR content and brand experiences, but we also leverage VR to address very practical business and sales problems (i.e. Floorplan Revolution, which uses VR to address the crazy reality that most new-build home buying decisions are being made with nothing more than a black and white line drawing of a floor plan).”

“I love Atlanta’s business, tech, and creative communities because we’re inherently focused on innovating, and VR is a new, fertile ground to do just that – innovate and build new experiences and solutions that scale.”

furious-unionFurious Union | Studio Studs with a Love for the Game

How did you get started in the VR gaming space and why did you decide to take that dive?

“We both have experience in TV, Web and Mobile but with Furious Union we wanted the studio to focus exclusively on virtual reality,” said Rob Shepps, owner of Furious Union. “So we started out testing a lot of experiential concepts but we kept coming back to the idea of making a game. Ultimately we decided to make Mega SpaceHole, which is a virtual arcade game we just released in February for the Samsung VR, and the response has been great. We are getting great reviews and a lot of positive feedback from the community so it’s very encouraging as we start porting to other VR platforms.”

“Because Virtual Reality is such an untested platform people are holding back and waiting to see, ‘Is this going to be a real thing, can we make real money doing this?’ But once you try it, there is no going back. We knew right out the gate that we wanted to get in early even if we had to wait it out for the industry to mature. We have been working on several non-gaming projects in VR as well, and have worked hard to get out in front, plant our flag, and say, ‘We get it, we know it, you can trust us.’”

How has the Atlanta community supported your dive into VR ? Are there areas you’d like to see further developed to improve the VR industry in the city?

“Everybody is rallying around us and rooting us on which has been a great experience. Getting to show VR to people for the first time is an amazing experience. Atlanta has a great network of individuals all sharing what they are learning in the space, which has been a valuable resource. Unfortunately, VR is not something you can explain, it has to be experienced to truly understand how groundbreaking it really is. If anything I think helping to get people access to VR would be a big step in the right direction.”

atlvrATLvr | ATL VR Meetup Pioneers with a Serving of Social Good

How is ATLvr using virtual reality to transform the lives of the communities like the elderly population? Are there additional ways you hope to implement VR in the future?

“We worked with The Alchemy Sky Foundation, a wonderful music therapy non-profit, to bring the technology into the retired veteran community at the Atlanta VA Hospital,” said Annie Eaton, CEO & co-founder of ATLvr. “We witnessed something like never before with their reaction to virtual reality. Many who were bound to wheelchairs and some who could not even leave their beds were brought to tears with just a simple experience of choir music in 360. We will continue to focus on the amazing things that VR technology can accomplish and this is definitely an area we’d like to continue exploring.”

How has the community supported you thus far and what areas need improvement for further growth?

“We’ve already seen companies in the past two years increase their focus on VR technology, which is great for us and all others working in the space. We try to focus on the VR community by giving an outlet to developers to network and showcase any projects they have completed, as well as demo any that are still in the works. The only thing that continually needs improvement on in the Atlanta area is awareness and education on the technology. Many people have preconceptions that this medium is only good for gaming, or it’s only usable by a younger audience, which is simply not the case.”

f45-group-normalFoundry 45VR Boosters of Brands

What are some projects or applications that you’ve recently worked on and/or have in the pipeline?

“For companies like AT&T, we’ve created VR experiences that help them make a splash at trade shows and crush their lead generation goals,” said Dave Beck, managing partner at Foundry 45. “On the tourism front, we’re helping Carnival promote one of their new cruise lines by virtually transporting prospective cruisers to the Dominican Republic. For Georgia Tech, we’ve created an immersive recruiting VR experience that gives student athletes a virtual tour of the campus and a taste of what it’s like to be in the middle of thousands of fans storming the field after a big win. And, we’ve done real estate-focused experiences for groups like the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) where prospective tenants can view a space they’re looking to lease without having to physically travel across the country or around the world to see it.”

“In addition to creating experiences like those, we also provide a platform called VR Forge that allows other VR content creators like agencies, production houses, photographers, and videographers to create their own VR apps without needing to be experienced developers. So, think of it as Squarespace or Weebly for VR.”

Why do you think VR is growing in the Atlanta-area, and how do you hope to help define that space/market?

“There are some outstanding Atlanta-based companies and individuals currently working in VR, and every day the talent pool gets deeper. Foundry 45 is specifically focused on creating VR experiences and tools for businesses, and Atlanta is a great place to do that. In addition to all the major brands that are either headquartered here or that have a large regional office in the area, we also have a strong digital marketing ecosystem with lots of successful agencies and production houses. When you factor in resources like GT, GSU, and SCAD, we have all the technical and creative resources we need to power VR growth.”

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