Eleven teams competed this past weekend over the course of 36 hours in Idaho’s first Virtual Reality competition, the Idaho Virtual Reality Council (IVRC) Immerse-a-thon, beating out numbers posted by Seattle for their first year AR/VR hackathon. Teams competed at Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design hosted by the Gaming, Interactive Media & Mobile Technology (GIMM) program.
The goal of the event was to bring together individuals and companies to create virtual and augmented reality projects to enhance the AR/VR community in Idaho. Each hacker had a dedicated time to learn, build, and test ideas in a welcoming and collaborative setting using a wide array of software and VR and AR technologies such as the HTC Vive and Microsoft Hololens. At the end of the event most participants had a project to add to their portfolio, and everyone had learned new development skills that are in high demand.
The team from VYNYL, comprising seven team members, was named the Community Division Finalist with their Monster LLC experience. With Pixar’s Monsters Inc. as inspiration, the goal was to enter a bedroom as a monster and scare a child out of their room. Extra points were given for screaming loudly, requiring the team to track audio.
Student Division finalists Colby Morgan, Mikayla Jones, Daniel Quatrone, and Taylor Campbell used Unity to make an interactive nature scene filled with custom assets and sounds. This event was Campbell’s first time using Unity to develop. “You open up [Unity], and after a few small hurdles, you’re making things.”
Nathen Langford, a student in the GIMM program, added that this experience enhanced what he had learned in the classroom and provided a hands-on learning opportunity that he hopes to expand on.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” said Sean McCormick, a first year student at Boise State.
IVRC launched this summer as a way to bring together those in the Idaho tech community that are interested in virtual reality to create an environment of collaboration to help position Boise as a virtual reality hub.
Nathan Chandler, Founding Partner at VYNYL, said that events like the Immerse-A-Thon help ensure “there’s a sustainable job pool as this technology matures.”
Villusion Studios, with offices in both Idaho and Oregon, has a unique perspective on what IVRC is trying to accomplish. “In Portland right now, there are tons of VR companies, but no cohesive group holding everything together. There’s just disconnect. You guys really have a step ahead,” said Barry Zundel, CEO.
Kyle Nelson, another Boise State student, came to BSU specifically because of the GIMM program. He said he was looking into computer science at other schools, but the program here was different. As for the Immerse-A-Thon, he said it “promotes mutualism when it comes to building Boise as a virtual reality hub.”
Teams included Boise State students and community members at all stages of experience. Companies represented included FreemanXP, VYNYL, Villusion Studios, Bion Studios, Boise Codeworks, and Boise Startup Week.
Paul Meyer, GIMM student, really enjoyed his time at the event. “It was fun to see something go from concept to some sort of visualization in a short amount of time.”
When asked whether they would be back next year, participants stated an overwhelmingly, "Definitely."