At Versions 2016, media theorist Janet Murray said it best: “You can predict the direction of change, but you can’t predict its rate.” Now that the hype around virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality is starting to settle, we’ll turn our attention to what's working, what isn't, and the true opportunities these nascent technologies present.
Versions 2017 is Facing Reality by taking a frank look at the current pitfalls, design gaps, and technological limitations of these emerging tools, as well as how artists and technologists are persistently working to advance them in service of a dramatically new cultural form.
This year’s Versions will consider the challenges to VR’s wide-scale adoption while exploring pressing questions in its current state and future development: What experiences will these technologies offer? What new visual and sensorial languages will emerge? How will they affect our notion of what is real? How will we wield these new capabilities, and to what ends? As usual, we’ll apply our cross-disciplinary, cross-generational approach to face reality as we look forward to the next frontiers.
235 Bowery | New York NY 10002
Lunch, coffee & water will be provided for attendees
On one hand, VR, AR, and MR currently offer a wide open playing field. The story of these new tools and what they’ll mean for the future of entertainment, education, industry, and communication at large has yet to be written. But the fact remains that the barriers to entry are many: equipment, cost, and technical know-how, in addition to the standard requisites of creativity, time, and space. The means to make, distribute, and access content remain frustratingly out of reach, redrawing a digital divide that influences the kinds of stories we tell, who gets to tell them, for whom, and how. As we explore the bounds of VR, AR, and MR, how can we better democratize these new technologies? And what’s at risk of being lost if we fail to do so?
Moderator: Bijan Stephen | Culture Correspondent, Vice News Tonight
Agency, the capacity for viewers to explore a scene at their own pace and feel as though they are truly present within it, has long been a space for creative exploration in the gaming industry and, more recently, in the world of immersive theater. In considering how to translate agency into the world of VR, designers have pinpointed the gaze—how it is controlled by the author and wielded by the viewer—as an an area ripe for invention. This panel will assemble leading experts to discuss how we can best design for agency in virtual environments, what kinds of stories and formats work best, what new interfaces need to be invented, and how we might navigate the inevitable tensions that emerge between author and viewer.
Moderator: Julia Kaganskiy | Director, NEW INC
Humans are social animals and, since the beginning of time, we have been developing technologies that allow us to better communicate with our fellow humans: speech, the written word, print, photography, radio, film, television, and the internet have all fundamentally altered the way that we interact with and understand each other. The coming wave of AR, MR, and VR is poised to do the same but has been slow to deliver on the possibilities of social experiences. Some believe that social integration is crucial for these emerging technologies to truly take off (see Pokémon GO). Others see potential for these tools to help us become more collaborative, especially remotely. This panel will examine how digital reality might bring us closer together—or not.
Moderator: Jamin Warren | CEO & Founder, Kill Screen
Speakers: Brenda Laurel, Claire L. Evans
So much of the excitement around VR has been based around what we see. This makes sense, as humans are predominantly visual animals. But at what cost? Immersion and presence aren’t only expressed through our eyes but through our ears, nose, fingertips, tastes, and sense of balance as well. Sound designers, cooks, dancers, and masseuses know as much about taking us on a journey as anyone and yet we rarely consult their expertise when designing for VR and AR, much to our detriment. In this panel we will explore how our senses interact to create the illusion of physical presence. How might our senses be manipulated into creating new versions of reality? What are the risks of sensory overload or de-sensitization? How might our senses evolve with this new stimulation?
Moderator: Adi Robertson | Senior Reporter, The Verge
Simulations have a lot to teach us. From myth to fiction to magic, forms of virtual sleight-of-hand have helped us imagine the future, and interacting with simulated virtual worlds allows us to develop a deeper understanding of the complex situations and multi-faceted stories of today. We can see what life might be like from the perspective of someone with a vastly different lived experience, learn a new trade, or train for a high-stakes job, for instance. But what happens when the simulation becomes all too real? What happens if we can’t take the headset off? Or better yet, if we think we’ve taken the headset off, but we haven’t? By asking what is real, we can begin to examine what is not.
Moderator: Adrianne Jeffries | Senior Editor, The Outline
For all the enthusiasm and curiosity surrounding VR, this year the hype largely hasn’t rhymed with reality. Manufacturers, content creators, and audiences are coming to terms with the reality of VR’s limitations and struggling to move beyond them. The hardware is still a little clumsy and crude (not to mention prohibitively expensive) and there’s simply not enough compelling and creative content to coax viewers into putting on that headset. In order to move forward, we need to face reality. We need to take a long, hard look at what we’re building and why. We need to understand what’s working, what’s failing us, and what’s driving VR’s development. Is our dogged pursuit of VR motivated by capital, a desperate search for escape, or a genuine desire and need to invent a new mode of communication?
Cory Doctorow is a Los Angeles-based science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger, who also serves as the co-editor of Boing Boing. He is the author of the nonfiction business book Information Doesn't Want To Be Free; the young adult graphic novel In Real Life; young adult novels including Homeland, Pirate Cinema and Little Brother; and novels for adults like Rapture of the Nerds and Makers. He works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group.
Early Bird Registration: $500 (SOLD OUT)
Regular Access Ticket: $750
Premium Access Ticket: $1000
Student/Artist Discounted Ticket: $150 (SOLD OUT)
We are looking for volunteers for Days 1 & 2 of Versions! Volunteers will receive subsidized entry to the Conference in exchange for their services. Apply to volunteer below!
Versions workshops offer participants a chance to learn best practices from the pros, get hands-on and investigate the practical side of creating compelling experiences for VR/AR/MR. Led by industry-leading experts, they’ll explore a range of topics related to the funding, creation and distribution of VR/AR experiences, as well as hands-on technical tutorials on WebVR, 360 video and game engine environments, as well as more cutting-edge experiments like room-scale VR.
Workshops will be opened first to Versions conference pass holders, but you may also purchase a ticket to attend an individual workshop. You do not need a conference pass to attend a workshop.
231 Bowery, 2nd FL | New York, NY 10002
235 Bowery | New York, NY 10002
235 Bowery | New York, NY 10002
Kill Screen is a digital media company that wants to inspire a life well-played.
Based in Los Angeles, Kill Screen creates editorial through a website and a magazine as well as organizes events such as the groundbreaking Arcade at the Museum of Modern Art and the Kill Screen Festival which Mashable called “the TED of videogames.” The New Yorker called Kill Screen "the McSweeney's of interactive media" and TIME said the writing was so "polished that they might help convince doubters that games are worth taking seriously."
As a content strategy and development partner, Kill Screen works with brands like Intel, GE, PBS, and eBay to help them unlock the power of play.
NEW INC is the first museum-led incubator and a hotbed for cultural innovation. Extending the New Museum's mission of supporting "New Art, New Ideas," NEW INC brings together a cohort of 100 creative practitioners working across disciplines to examine and invent the future through applied art and design thinking. Virtual Reality is a major focus at NEW INC.