VR at Comic-Con
If you were at San Diego Comic-Con this year, one thing was guaranteed: you would have come across some sort of augmented (AR) or virtual reality (VR) experience. Sometimes, both at once!
For instance, there were a bunch of panels featuring VR and AR talks. And other times, like in the above photo, you might have come across someone shooting video with a VR rig strapped with multiple GoPros. Even late night talk show host Conan O’Brien broadcasted his show live from San Diego in full 360-degree video.
Though there were a couple that we weren’t able to get to – namely Sony’s Project Morpheus booth and a Walking Dead VR game demo set up in an RV outside of the convention center – we’ve rounded up all the neat devices we came across while at the show this year. And there were plenty.
Google Cardboard got Legendary
Google Cardboard had a strong presence at Comic-Con, especially at the Legendary Pictures booth. It was there that con-goers could pick up a Legendary-branded Cardboard – they had 50,000 to give away.
The movie studio has three VR videos available to download through its app on Android and iOS, including a first look at the new Warcraft film, called WarCraft: The Skies of Azeroth, as well as demos Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot and Beware Crimson Peak.
I had a look at the Warcraft demo, and it was pretty epic, flying on a large eagle over Azeroth. The great thing about these 360-degree viewing options is that you can keep watching the same demo over again a few times, and there will still be a chance to catch something new.
SyFy had a Cardboard, too
The sci-fi cable network was also giving out Google Cardboard, but you didn’t need to attend Comic -Con to get your hands on one.The cable network had taken over a restaurant in the Gaslight District of San Diego, and anyone dining or grabbing a drink was given a Google Cardboard.
SyFy is offering a VR look at its new show, The Expanse, which is available through The Expanse app on Android and iOS.
The video was fairly short, and on loop, and was basically a view of a ship rotating slowly in space. Of course, as you look around, it was cool to see how small the ship actually is in comparison to ‘the expanse’ of space.
TNT’s The Last Ship
TNT was also on the Comic-Con show floor, using VR to promote the latest season of its sea-faring, post-apocalyptic show, The Last Ship.
A short game was specially made for Comic-Con, which had you strap on an Oculus Rift, which placed you on a ship wherein your mission was to shoot your way through to find a vial full of blue liquid.
True to being on a ship, I was getting a bit nauseous by the end of it. It wasn’t the smoothest demo on the floor, but it was one of the only interactive VR experiences.
HTC Vive’s tour van
For another experience that was available to anyone in San Diego last week, outside the convention center, HTC had its Vive Tour Van. Inside, you could demo the developer unit of its headset and the firm’s new wireless controllers.
HTC had three demos available, one that took you underwater, another into the world of Valve’s Portal and one in which you could paint in true 3D. The demos were smooth and a lot of fun – I really didn’t want it to end.
The HTC Vive Tour Van will be going around the US and some of Europe over the next few months.
FX’s The Strain
Again situated outside of the conference halls, cable network FX had a setup for it’s new show, The Strain, on the lawn in front of the Hilton hotel.
FX was giving guests a very immersive 4D, VR vampire hunting experience, using a Samsung Gear VR headset, chairs that vibrate and wind blasts for a chilling experience.
It was an interesting way to experience VR, especially for one that wasn’t as interactive as others at the Con. It was a very unique way to promote a new show, and there was a very long line whenever we were around.
Just chillin’ in the VR Lounge
Another one that was also available outside of Comic-Con, but still ticketed, was the VR Lounge event.
Here, you could try your hand at Emblematic Group’s own VR headset and walk around a Star Trek Holodeck.
Mattel’s new AR/VR hybrid View-Master was available for demos as well, while NASA was giving simulation demos of a spacecraft it is working on right now. Each was a very different experience, and it was very cool to be able to try a real NASA simulation.
The night also included drinks, food and a chance to chat with everyone behind the tech involved.
NASA entered a different reality
Speaking of which, NASA was also on the Comic-Con show floor showcasing some of their new tech. That included a humanoid robot that’s on the International Space Station and a brand new rocket.
NASA also had an Oculus Rift set up, giving guests a VR view of Mars, using real footage that has been captured by the Curiosity rover.
It might not have been an interactive experience, but it was still very cool to basically feel like you were standing on Mars.
Mattel brought back the View-Master
In addition to the VR Lounge, Mattel was also on the show floor at Comic-Con, allowing all con-goers a chance to check out the revamped View-Master, which harks back to the designs of the retro, card-based 3D viewer.
Aimed mostly at children, the hybrid AR/VR headset uses AR technology to begin a journey, while the VR side immerses the user into a more detailed experience.
We can see how it would be a fun educational tool, being a new way to learn and experience information.
Star Wars gets augmented
While the Star Wars app can’t give you VR, it did reveal a new AR experience at Comic-Con. The newly released app allowed con-goers an exclusive unlock for the augmented reality option on the app.
About 20,000 Storm Trooper posters were being given away at the Star Wars booth. When you aim your phone at the poster through the app, it unlocks two AR characters – this above Storm Trooper and the new droid, BB-8 – who appear and move around in your phone. It’s pretty awesome to see.
You can snap photos and videos of the AR characters, and then share them on social media. More AR characters and other app surprises are to be revealed in the lead up to Star Wars 7 movie release.
Weta takes on Giant Killer Robots
Over at the Weta Workshop booth, Weta had teamed up with AR specialists Trigger to bring Comic-Con a look at Giant Killer Robots, or GKR.
GKR is a tabletop game that is also an AR game – one that you can play (using a tablet, game board and game pieces) against a friend sitting across from you, or online, against anyone around the world.
The game is still in development stages, and con-goers were able to put their name down for when beta testing begins.
The robots are designed by the same team that worked on District 9, and it was very cool seeing the robots smoking on screen after it gets damaged from a battle.
An Anomaly in AR
Comic book and graphic novel publisher Anomaly was also showcasing its AR world on the Comic-Con show floor.
Currently used as more of a supplementary medium, Anomaly uses AR as a way to give readers more insights into the world of their comics and graphic novels. For example, you could point your tablet to a spaceship on a page, and it will give you background information and other details.
A room with a 360 view
And lastly, one more for tablets (or phones), Roddenberry Studios was on the show floor with a trailer for its 360-degree short film, The White Room.
Con-goers were given the opportunity to watch the film’s trailer in 360-degrees on a tablet, so you could move the tablet up, down or anywhere around to watch what was happening. I wanted to stick around and watch the trailer a few more times, because I was sure I missed a few interesting moments.
The White Room will be available on August 3 through its app, available on Android and iOS, for $2.99 (about £1.92, AU$4.04). Included will be a making-of video as well, if you’re into that sort of thing.