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The Game Developer's Conference, or GDC for short, is an annual pilgrimage of interactive developers to beautiful San Francisco. Once there, participants delve into the intricacies of how interactive products are made and distributed. GDC harbors opportunities for all, from newbies to industry veterans. Most importantly, each year the industry comes together in an effort to learn from one another and showcase the latest interactive products. This conference is a great mix of development oriented education, business development and networking opportunities.
The Idaho Virtual Reality Council was excited to make the trip to GDC with Nick Crabbs and Nathan Chandler of VYNYL, winners of the 2016 IVRC Immerse-A-Thon. There was a notable Idaho presence at GDC, including the Idaho Game Developers group who arranged a meet-up over fries at Super Burger! Gordon Roberts, creator of Puzzling Rooms VR, commented that "VR is just getting started. Eye tracking, hand tracking, haptic's and more innovations are going to push immersion for years to come. AR will be a huge market but it's still years away".
Nick Crabbs felt that "GDC was a wonderful experience to see where the industry (mostly VR) is headed. From what I can gather, most of the investment and advances are in custom hardware solutions that enhance and/or upgrade what the various VR platforms are already bringing to the table. Everyone should be getting themselves ready for an explosion of ancillary custom hardware for experiences to slam onto the market in the next 12 months. Experience makers who can keep their products hardware agnostic, or at least hardware nimble, while they are being developed may be poised to see a boom as consumers begin looking for immersive experiences to pair with their new hardware toys"

GDC 2017 was exceptional this year in its exhibition and promotion of virtual reality products. Last year was a banner year for the VR industry and GDC showcased that success with some amazing experiences from last year and previews of what's coming next. All things considered, the bar has been raised in respect to quality of content and immersion. Robo Recall from Epic Games was a crowd favorite. It was a great surprise that they announced it as a free download exclusive to the Oculus Rift (Pro Tip: it requires Touch controllers). Other great GDC content included From Other Suns by Gunfire Games and Sparc from CCP Games, especially for its great looking multiplayer potential. There was also a large effort on the part of the industry to support non-gaming content as well. Unity especially brought focus to the educational aspects of virtual reality and the benefits it can have around the world.

 

Virtual Reality technology also increased in the last year with major improvements in hardware across both mobile and PC verticals. The VR industry heavies all weighed in with some significant news. Oculus announced an impressive $200 price drop on combined purchases of the Rift Headset and Touch controllers, making their system pricing more competive against the HTC Vive. The Vive team, still riding the news of the availability of its wireless headset, announced Vive system consumer financing and $99 pricing for both its deluxe headstrap and Tracker products. These Trackers will accelerate the pace of hardware peripherals that track in virtual space.  Microsoft and LG Electronics also showcased their new HMD products. There was a lot of excitement particularly over the LG announcement as they are supporting Valve's SteamVR technology and including a wider field of view with refractive lenses, a notable improvement over current HMD products. Google and other mobile VR oriented companies also showed progress at GDC, notably with 6DOF and inside-out tracking for mobile headsets. Lastly, Nvidia also weighed in with its release of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, which makes it the fastest card the company has made to date.

To wrap it up, GDC 2017 was a fantastic experience that showed continued promise for the future of virtual reality. The IVRC took the opportunity to meet and thank its various industry partners including Unity, HTV Vive, Sony, GDC Events, Nvidia and others. Traveling to fun conferences and playing the latest in VR technology is a difficult part of our mission (smirk). However, we will continue to diligently promote virtual reality in Idaho and bring greater attention to the VR success stories we have.

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