Growing VR in Vermont

Courtesy of Gametheory

Did you catch the recent buzz surrounding the launch of Google Earth VR? It offers a remarkable immersive travel experience to the world’s greatest cities and architectural wonders. Blurring education and entertainment in elegant ways, its the latest of several notable Google projects that popularize the potential of virtual reality.

Vermont innovators are also feeling the VR vibe. Among the earliest adopters was Middlebury startup IrisVR. Targeting their software development skills at the architectural marketplace in 2014, these guys have built a company around a suite of products that seamlessly integrate structural modeling into VR platforms in ways that dramatically enrich the customer experience.

Since then we’ve seen a number of intriguing prospects spring up that speak to the promise of this nascent industry in the state. Here’s a short list of a few to keep your eyes on. (Know of others? Drop us a line):

  • The Vermont VR/AR Meetup is organized by health tech innovator Kip Steel with the goal of introducing developers and the curious to one another and to some of the promise of VR applications, including specialized fields like medical training.
  • The Champlain College Art Gallery is exploring the potential of a virtual reality artist residency program that will invite emerging artists to push the technology in partnership with students and faculty. The residency could launch as early as spring 2017.
  • Burlington Telecom’s OTT Test Lab is exploring ways to produce and share VR content across its gigabit network. Once developed, this program will provide hands on experience with both a 360 degree VR camera as well as the headsets needed to view content.
  • Burlington’s Big Heavy World is working hard to put together the funding and technical expertise needed to record local music using 360 degree VR technology, producing remote, immersive experiences of local music.
  • Immersive Technology Studios is geeking out on Vermont’s highest peaks, using VR technology to capture and share some of our boldest destinations and spectacular views in 360 degree splendor.

These and other examples suggest that virtual reality is here to stay, and they demonstrate that there are many emergent learning, production, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the VR space. There a tremendous amount of potential in gaming, solid modeling, the arts, film and photography, entertainment, training and education – and countless commercial applications. The Vermont Media Alliance is interested to hear how we can advance VR production and content distribution; if you have ideas, please let us know.

To learn more, check out this recent Seven Days article for Tech Jam chronicling some of the people and experiences now accessible in Burlington for the VR set.