Remember the first time you tried out the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive? It may have been DK1 or DK2, but for a large majority of us, it was at a festival or conference. From the Oculus Connect Conferences, to South by Southwest, to Sundance Film Festival, many of us had our first VR experience in a very public festival setting.
Virtual reality is an expensive entry point for first-time users. Aside from the so-so experience of Google Cardboard, if you want your first truly immersive experience, the most affordable headset currently is the Samsung Gear VR. If you're not a Samsung phone carrier, you're looking at a potential $300-$400 investment. For those that have yet to experience VR, that can be a hefty sum to stomach.
The solution? Festivals, conferences and perhaps even meet-ups. Getting virtual reality in the hands of the general public is the first step toward VR hitting the consumer market in a fierce way.
The week of spring break, Treefort Music Festival hits the city of Boise, Idaho like a whirlwind. Tucked within the folds of a music festival, there are other forts to partake in: Yogafort, Foodfort, Alefort and the tech component entitled Hackfort. This year at the center of Hackfort's programming was virtual reality. Panels, Ted-talk style presentations and demos were all available for Treefort attendees to participate in.
An array of movers and shakers within the industry participated: Julie Young from Emblematic Group, Sydney Skybetter from Brown University, Matthew Fritz of Vanishing Point, Ryan Zehm of NurFACE Games and many more. These participants illustrated the vast potential of this immersive technical revolution. Young demonstrated how virtual reality is transforming and spreading immersive journalism. Skybetter explored how virtual reality is experimenting with movement and choreography technologies. Zehm was a spokesperson for individuals who want to independently produce PC & VR games.
Virtual reality is something most people only know from science fiction movies like Lawnmower Man or Minority Report. Due to the fantastical nature of the idea, you gotta experience it to understand and really get what it is capable of. At Treefort Music Fest, hundreds of people were exposed to virtual reality and were able to try amazing experiences like Orion or take home their own Google Cardboard.
Festivals like this are a fundamental building block in spreading the good news of VR and other immersive technologies. We are on the brink of something big, but it won't get ginormous until the masses get their hands on it and their heads in it.