SIGGRAPH showcases jaw-dropping VR research and experiences

by Ian Hamilton • August 6th, 2015

SIGGRAPH next week in Los Angeles is gathering some of the best VR experiences in the world along with some previously unknown projects and research, much of which will be showcased in a new “VR Village” area of the conference.

We’ve already gone in-depth with the “Holojam” project by New York University that is likely to be one of the most jaw-dropping experiences at the conference, featuring four people using untethered Gear VR headsets that are fully positionally tracked in a large room for a shared and collaborative VR experience. Here’s a guide to some of the other research and experiences that will be presented at the conference. This list isn’t a complete run-down of everything that will be at SIGGRAPH. (If you know something cool that will be there send me an e-mail, ian at ianhamilton dot net.)

Researchers detail key technology advances

USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, which helped give Oculus founder Palmer Luckey his start, has been performing a number of experiments to figure out how to bring more compelling virtual objects into the space closest to a person in VR. Mark Bolas and his team at USC have figured out how stop motion artists might be able to quickly create models that can be dropped into a traditional toolset like Unity to create virtual objects that can be examined up close. And if that’s not enough, they are showing redirected walking techniques that might give people the impression they are exploring a larger space than what is actually available.

Check it out here:

Motion capture specialists from a Switzerland-based foundation called Artanim will be presenting their “Real Virtuality” multi-user immersive platform that recreates the interior of a pharaoh’s tomb.

Check it out here:

Imagine holding up your phone and using it to capture your face from different angles, then popping the phone into your Gear VR headset so your newly-captured avatar could be accurately represented as you socialize with friends and family in VR. That seems possible after looking at a technical paper from the Computer Graphics and Geometry Lab in Switzerland which shows an impressive facial animation software pipeline.

Check it out here:

Sony also teamed up with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab for a collaborative VR test using Morpheus and the PlayStation Move controllers. The test uses a simulation of a robot “to accomplish challenging and entertaining real-world tasks.”


Stanford researchers will explain their efforts to create a new kind of head-mounted VR display that uses light fields to more accurately represent what your eyes see in the real world. It’s the same problem Magic Leap is trying to solve, but Stanford is “using a very different solution.”

“If you have a five-hour (robotic) surgery, you really want to try to minimize the eye strain that you put on the surgeon and create as natural and comfortable a viewing experience as possible,” assistant professor Gordon Wetzstein said in a Stanford news release.

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Impression Pi raised $302,000 on Kickstarter in May this year for a mobile VR headset with gesture input, position tracking and augmented reality overlays. Now uSens Inc., the startup behind the project, will be presenting their progress on Impression Pi as part of SIGGRAPH. An update to the Kickstarter project shows a video with a person in a museum looking at a Terracotta Warrior. The person dons a VR headset with a passthrough augmented view of the room. Now there’s a dial that can be turned to show what the warrior looked like when it was first unearthed. The dial can be turned again to fade out the real world and show an environment representing the period when the warrior was built.

Check it out here:

Directors and VR startups showcase breadth of VR conc109-e1015-publicimagethumbnailtent

DreamWorks will show DragonFlight VR, a Rift experience that allows people to become Hiccup riding Toothless the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Fresh from a $10 million investment by HTC, WEVR is planning to show several experiences at SIGGRAPH. The Virtual Brainload was produced for Adult Swim as a mind-melting experience while TheBlu is shown as a core demo of the HTC Vive, but what is The Apartment by The Line? The Apartment is a place in New York “to discover and purchase some of our favoirte things” curated in a space designed to look like a brightly-lit home. Venice-based WEVR is making a “fully immersive interactive shopping trip” of the space that allows “users to shop in the Apartment in SoHo alongside the curators.”


VR developer Innerspace is showing several experiences too, with the newest being The D.M.Z: Memories Of A No Man’s Land. c109-e974-publicimagethumbnailIt is a documentary experience about Korea’s demilitarized zone. The Cave is “a wintertime journey through prehistoric France to see ancient elk and mammoths, and explore the origins of storytelling itself” while the The Fifth Sleep is an “interactive feature film” billed as Inception meets Fantastic Voyage, though what will be shown is likely similar to the wraparound video trailer shown inside the Gear VR. There’s also Playhead, an interactive music game.

Startup Emblematic Group is showing its powerful Project Syria experience that shows the large number of children in Syrian refugee camps as well as Kiya, an experience created in partnership with Al Jazeera America.c109-e985-publicimagethumbnail

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