#EmoJam VR Hack Winners!

We’ve just wrapped up a weekend of VR hacking with #EmoJam in San Francisco! We had a fantastic speaker line-up, and really interesting conversations all weekend long. We would like to thank our main sponsor, ARVR Academy, for supporting us, and Microsoft Reactor in SF for hosting us!

 

 

 

 

Thanks to them, our hackers were well-fed and focused all weekend.

Also a very special thanks to Microsoft & Microsoft Startups for helping us coordinate, especially Steve Seow, Anthony Kelani, Tom Butcher and Jim Brisimitzis. Couldn’t have done it without you guys!

Speaker Panel and Talks

We had a fantastic discussion on the best practices for creating emotional experiences, believable characters and immersive environments. The topics ranged from user agency, physicality, interaction/responsiveness, all the way to immersive audio and tailored music. Amy LaMeyer (@amylameyer) of EnteringVR.net was asking thought-provoking questions and driving the discussion like a pro.

From left to right: Amy LaMeyer (EnteringVR.net), Jesse Damiani (Galatea/VRScout), Angela Field (Expressive.AI), Lucas Rizzotto (Where Thoughts Go) and Ryan Groves (Melodrive)

Evaluating Engagement

Blair Kaneshiro of Stanford University gave a fascinating talk on “Reliability of Audience Responses as a Measure of Engagement“. In it, she revealed that in order to gauge engagement, researchers will correlate multiple viewers’ EEG (electroencephalogram) responses to the same content. It turns out that when people’s brains are reacting in the same way, it generally means that the content they are consuming at that moment is engaging. It also seemed that our hackers were super engaged, because we actually went over time with our subsequent Q & A!

Microsoft Mixed Reality: Tom Butcher

We were honored to have the Principal Engineering Manager of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality team, a 20+ year Microsoft veteran, Tom Butcher, fly down from Seattle to discuss the emotional impact of building new technology. Tom took us through his vast experience and gave a blueprint for how to align your core values with the products you build and how to ‘create without fear’. It was a great segue into the kickoff of our Hackathon, and let us take a step back and remember why were all there – to create!

#EmoJam Hackathon

Awards

We had two awarded challenges for #EmoJam – an Oculus Go sponsored by Melodrive for the Most Immersive hack, and an XBox One X sponsored by Microsoft (and coordinated by Tom Butcher) for the Most Emotional hack. We had an amazing demo session, which, as it turns out, takes a lot longer for VR demos. Our judges generally tried each one, as time permitted.

Judges

Judging the competition was our own Ryan Groves from Melodrive, and our panel moderator and good friend Amy LaMeyer of EnteringVR.net.

The Winners!

Without further ado, allow me to present our Hackathon winners:

Most Emotional Hack

For the Most Emotional challenge, the winner was…. Team Nirvana! Here’s a short description of what they were trying to do:

Team Nirvana was building a VR environment for dealing with emotional pain. In their experience, the user would be transported to a natural setting, as a 3D environment. Music and interaction would be used to allow the person to focus and to control the mood of the environment. There was one main object that served as the interaction. In the first scene, for example, the setting was a beach and the interactive object was a beach ball. Any time the user touches the interactive object, the music will change by adding or removing instrument layers.

The team envisioned this to be used as a setting for VR therapy. A user could be put into a serene setting when they need to be calmed, or even transport themselves to the scene of a traumatic memory. Their vision was that therapists could control the scene and influence the mood of their subjects, and have a platform to do so.

Here’s a video of their demo!

Most Immersive Hack

The Most Immersive award was earned by team “Try Harder!”. Here’s a short description of their experience

In this experience, the user is placed on a mountainside, with a smaller version of Mount Rushmore dead ahead. In the background is traditional folk music of some kind. The user must climb the rock face next to the faces of past Presidents. Upon reaching the top, you are standing at the base of a huge Russian cathedral, with Trump standing, arms open to welcome you. At that point the music suddenly syncs up with the visuals in a moment of revelation.

Ryan judging…

Our winning teams!

Team Nirvana (sans Jeremy)

Team Try Harder!

It was a fantastic weekend with thought-provoking and inspiring discussions, good eats, and lots of building! Stay tuned for #EmoJam 2, which will be hosted in Berlin in June!