This past week the New York Film Academy Game Department held a Game Mentor Meetup. The special event focused on the history and development of Virtual Reality. VR pioneer and NYFA Instructor Aaron Pulkka led the discussion.
Before the presentation, high school students hoping to attend NYFA, current NYFA students, and instructors from nearly every department gathered outside of the theater. Pizza, soda, and snacks were served. Through mouthfuls of hot cheese, participants buzzed over which VR headset was worth the price tag, which game best utilized its VR feature and whether the future of VR relied on lasers or motion capture and other topics.
With full bellies and buzzing brains, the students filed into the Riverside theater. Pulkka spoke for over an hour giving first-hand knowledge of the rise of Virtual Reality. Pulkka worked on the “Aladdin’s Carpet Ride” at Walt Disney World in Florida, which first utilized VR in 1998, and many other groundbreaking projects.
He also broke down the key factors of establishing a VR world. The gamer must move in the space, but space cannot come to the gamer or they will be too disoriented to keep playing. This is known as an explicit camera. Light and sound help establish where in space the gamer is supposed to be.
Pulkka then walked the students through the different kinds of headsets. The Play Station 4 has sold three times as many VR headsets as the next leading brands, but there’s an HDMI cable limiting the player’s movements. Google Cardboard costs anywhere from $2 to $30, but you have to have an expensive smartphone and the games are limited.
A highlight of the night was Pulkka’s demonstration of the Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headset. He created a VR program in Unity and output it to the Hololens. He then walked around the room dropping giant 3D cubes on the audience.
A great lesson was the difference between VR and 360-degree videos. Pulkka says, “If you can’t interact with the world it’s not VR. 360 videos, like the ones you see on YouTube or Facebook, are not considered VR.”
After the presentation, the audience spilled into the lobby to converse about all they learned and enjoy cupcakes. A group of students was overheard excitedly chattering about their VR projects. Game students are free to explore VR in any of their Game Studio semester projects. And there is one VR class currently available documentary students with more planned in the future.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank those who participated in this exciting conversation. You can join the conversation by watching the discussion here.