VR Arts Launch Event in Manchester

FEBRUARY 9th, 2017

On the 9th of February, we found ourselves in Manchester, arriving just in time for a light flurry of snow welcoming us to “The North”.
We were visiting for the VR Arts Launch Event, a sort of mini-expo on VR largely focused on its potential narrative applications, so filled with filmmakers and performers alongside the usual tech fans common at VR events. VR Arts is a Future Artists organisation set up to encourage VR development in the arts in Manchester, giving artists access to the kind of technology and training they need to get into the industry. Could the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution be at the heart of the VR revolution? The buzz at the event certainly made it feel possible.

With Cooler Master involved in the organisation of the event, there were plenty of VR capable rigs around, glowing in an array of hues from space-age looking cases. We were set up in the “Steve Jobs Room”; populated by comfy looking beanbag chairs everyone was too busy to sit on, a Cooler Master PC with a cube-shaped tower and a rainbow illuminated keyboard, an antique scrolling blackboard complete with chalk graffiti, a giant wall decal of Steve Jobs watching over our every move with a critical expression, and of course, lots of curious and friendly Northerners eager to step into VR. Conscious that we were competing with a Star Wars experience, demos of the exciting Tiltbrush 3D art app and a rather well-stocked bar, we were keen to make an impression.

The VR cinema and architectural demos went down well, with people throwing around or even attempting to eat virtual popcorn and admiring the decor of the flat. The surprise of the session was the popularity of the Google Daydream headset; the approachable design and ease of use of the mobile VR add-on bucks the trend of headsets being bulky and intimidating, and was particularly appealing to those more into the artistic applications than the tech side of VR. The sheer breadth of expertise present was astonishing, with fascinating ideas for the future of the technology, including crime scene reconstruction, collaborative virtual theatre, educational games, and 360 degree sound experiences.

It was a great event, full of talent and enthusiasm, and energy that left us excited for our upcoming projects and our next visit to Manchester.