‘Lawnmower Man’ Director Brett Leonard and Meta’s Steve Mann Keynote VRTO Conference

by Alex Davies • June 16th, 2016

Although its artistic merit as a film is debatable, there’s no denying 1992’s Lawnmower Man is an important early milestone in the public perception of VR, being one of the first films that introduced the concept of Virtual Reality to popular culture. It is fitting then, at this time of resurgence for VR, that the film’s director Brett Leonard will be one of the keynote speakers, along with the “father of wearable computing and AR”, Meta’s Chief Scientist Professor Steve Mann, at the upcoming VRTO Conference, starting in just ten days.

VRTO takes place from June 26 – 27 at the Mattamy Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens) in Toronto, Canada, a city that is fast becoming one of North America’s hubs for VR content creation and innovation, home to the Emmy-Award winning VR studio Secret Location and Sulon Technologies. Toronto was also tipped to be the “next great producer of tech startups” by Techcrunch in a recent report.

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Along with its impressive list of 36 speakers, VRTO will also feature a number of full-day training workshops in both 360-video and interactive VR content creation, a two-day WebVR workshop, and a 360-video showcase curated by FIVARS, The Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories.

VRTO’s Executive Director Keram Malicki-Sanchez said he hoped VRTO will be a little different than other VR conferences, with the focus to provide a more inside look at the production, distribution and ethical considerations of AR, VR, and MR content.

“We are at a historically significant turning point for a rapidly emerging industry that will affect, disrupt and transform virtually every aspect of our lives within the next ten years,” sais Malicki-Sanchez. The conference seeks to “examine in-depth its potential impact on the psyche and to the culture at large.”

Despite this emphasis on taking a different approach, members of the public will still be able to pay to visit the exhibit hall and spend some time with the latest in VR technology including the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

VRTO Spakers

Diverse Speaker Lineup

Even though the schedule is not finalized yet, Malicki-Sanchez was able to give me a preview of the topics of some of the panels planned for the diverse lineup of speakers from both the 360 video and interactive side of VR.

“What Makes a Good Story for 360” will be moderated by 360 Story Labs Jeff Preyra and features VR Playhouse’s Christina Heller. “Physics in Room Scale VR: Creating Modbox for the HTC Vive” will likely be a very informative session presented by the game’s creator Lee Vermeulen from Alientrap Games.

In addition, there are two keynotes planned for each day, opening with Professor Steve Mann’s proposal of a “Code of Ethics for Humanistic Augmentation,” followed by Brett Leonard’s “The Mythic Story of VR: Transformation or Control?” in the afternoon. On Monday, we’ll hear about “Hollywood’s Journey into VR” from Philip Lelyveld of the University of Southern California’s Entertainment Technology Center and the final keynote will be from Ana Serrano where she’ll talk about “Designing VR with the Past, Present, and Future in Mind.”

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Intensive Workshops and The Hacker’s Guide to the Metaverse

As well as the keynotes, panels and exhibits, there will be two full-day training workshops. The first on Sunday focuses on 360 video content creation and covers pre, principal and post-production, along with distribution and marketing. The second workshop on Monday focuses on creating interactive VR and AR content using game engines. We’re not sure if it will be a general overview, or will focus on one specific tool such as Unity.

There is one more workshop that’s being positioned by VRTO as something a little different than the two training sessions above. It’s a two-day course hosted by the enigmatically-named Alu, a “cyber artist” and “Linux mixed-reality developer,” and you’ll learn how to create your own decentralized and distributed virtual worlds using WebVR, 360 capture, JanusVR and the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). From reading the course description and watching the video above, this workshop looks very interesting and is a little more “out there” than what you’ll find at many other VR conferences.

UploadVR Readers get a Discount

VRTO runs from June 26 – 27 at the Mattamy Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Tickets range from $20 CDN for a one day pass to the exhibition hall to $250 CDN for a two-day conference pass that gives you access to all the presentations and panels. The workshops are $225 CDN each, and The Hacker’s Guide to the Metaverse is $70 CDN. If you want to go all out, there is a $525 CDN Super Pass that gives you access to everything, including workshops and the Saturday evening opening night reception party.

As a bonus, VRTO has extended to UploadVR readers a 20-percent off discount on any ticket by using code “UploadVR20.” We also have some free two-day conference passes that we’ll be giving away on Twitter, so stay tuned for more details on that soon.

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