DIY Virtual Reality: A 3D Scan of CIC’s Monthly Boston VR Meetup

That’s me, sitting in a CIC Boston conference room and posing deer-eyed for the… DPI-8 3D scanner. Fresh from a meeting with Michael Kaplan of NVIDIA, Jimmy Giliberti of WorldViz, and Chris Ahern from DotProduct, Chris fleshed out our virtual discussion by scanning our nook and rendering it into a virtual space on his NVIDIA-powered, WorldViz-enabled, handheld Android touchscreen in less than 90 seconds.

In anticipation of Boston Virtual Reality’s next monthly meetup at CIC Cambridge on June 29th, event organizer Jeff Bail connected me across time zones with these engaging presenters to discuss new developments in the realm of virtual reality and what future applications of VR they’re most excited to be a part of.

Tell us about your company and your background in VR. What do you do?

Michael K. – I’ve been in the visual graphics world for 20 years, starting off in broadcast and post-production and making my way to business development for enterprise VR. Nvidia started in 1993 and has since become the world leader in visual computing. We provide visual computing platforms for almost every industry, including gaming, manufacturing, medical entertainment, and even aerospace. Did you know that virtual reality needs seven times the amount of graphics computing than gaming does? We provide those GPUs. We’re also really focusing on how deep learning intersects with VR.

Chris A. – I come from a marketing background, and found Boston to be a great fit to focus on marketing for the tech world. DotProduct has been around for four years and shipping products for three years, and is headquartered just down the street from CIC Boston. We take off-the-shelf sensor technology to bringing rapid 3D data capture to the market.

Jimmy G. – WorldViz started in 2002, budding from our CEO’s doctoral work in neuroscience, specifically how the brain processes VR data when dealing with phobias and PTSD. WorldViz is one of the few, early companies to make VR work in the enterprise market, collaborating on product design with large companies and producing a full stack of VR solutions.

What recent development in the VR world are you most excited about? Does it help us normal, un-digitized folk improve our lives? Or is it just really fun?

Michael – From an NVIDIA perspective, we’re excited to be able to bring the technology to the table to focus on pristine shading and rendering for VR, and keeping frame rates high to avoid the oft-referenced nausea factor.  We’ll be showing Iray VR, part of our VR Works software stack that makes the experience as photo-realistic as possible, a quality which is also super important for the architecture and manufacturing world. VR has a huge impact on healthcare as well – I’ve been inside someone’s brain, examining the best way to operate on a cancerous tumor.

Chris – DotProduct’s focus is on the widespread realm of decision-making, and pairing DotProduct and WorldViz’s technologies enables us to provide a quick virtual experience to make accurate decisions. We’re excited that providing a lightweight, hand-held solution makes it easy to share immersive, beautiful experiences, or can help with training in dangerous scenarios. Industry-wise, it’s a matter of bringing VR down to scale and showing that those who may not expect that they need VR capabilities actually do need it.

Jimmy – DotProduct also really helps out with communication between the as-planned and as-built, in which someone on the ground can scan and report a misplaced pipe or tube, resulting in greater financial savings for the construction industry. What we’re excited about is projection-based VR, which allows for eight or nine people to experience the same virtual space from different angles. Again, this is especially important for one-on-one training, in which both the teacher and the student can walk through situations meant to desensitize or sensitize the student in preparation for real life situations.

What hurdles do you foresee in the future of VR?

Michael – Right now, I think that the cost to entry from the consumer standpoint is too high, and resolution, speed and latency still needs to be better across the board for it to be totally adopted. Feedback (hapticdevices) and physical resistance also needs to improve for the experience to be as real as possible (our PhysX for VR is helping make this better). Technology is getting better all the time, so the timing of when to invest in this type of technology is also an important decision to be made.

Chris – My impression is pretty similar, though the cost for consumers to purchase VR is going down. The hardware requirements can also be a challenge, especially with the amount of power needed for VR applications.

Jimmy G – My impression is actually, “Wow, it’s that cheap now?” Coming from the enterprise side, it’s actually much more affordable than it was before. It’s also a different set of folks coming to the table whose first impressions determine whether VR is a hit or not. We’re dependent on the next wave of VR applications to set the bar high, as they’ll have a big effect on the industry.

What are you looking forward to at the upcoming Boston VR meetup on June 29?

Michael – I always love educating people to what’s possible, and giving NVIDIA kudos now and then. I’m also excited to be part of a crowd that knows VR – I’ve been to VR meetups at CIC, and I know that room fills up!

Chris – I’m looking forward to showing DotProduct’s partnership with WorldViz. A few years ago, we would talk of the day in which we could bring VR right into your headsets. Now we can speak to the same people and with this software, show how we’ve brought handheld scanning to VR.

Jimmy – As a West Coast person, I’m excited to learn about the needs of the Boston VR community. I also love the fact that this particular demo will be scanning a person, then allowing him or her to walk around him/herself. It’s one of the freakiest things, but it’s kind of fun.

Have a VR fun fact?

Michael – I’ve climbed Mt. Everest! I was in someone’s brain! Just three days ago, I was on the Starship Enterprise and saved a crew from a ship that was being destroyed.

Chris – A lot of people have walked around my apartment, virtually.

Jimmy – I’m still amazed at the worlds that I get to go enjoy. There’s a bit of escapism, and I love to travel. VR is the ultimate travel machine, and it could be a time machine too. I look at it as basically stepping into the Tardis.  

Meet Michael, Chris and Jimmy at the Boston VR Meetup on June 29th in the Venture Cafe, on the 5th Floor of One Broadway in Kendall Square, from 6:00pm – 9:30pm. 

From CIC Boston Cambridge