Oculus Launchpad bootcamp

By | June 14, 2017

In April I heard someone from AR/VR Collective mentioned about Oculus Launchpad. I knew nothing about it, but heard that we can get hardware and travel stiped for the bootcamp, so I applied. I had no expectation or whatsoever.. Somehow a couple weeks ago I heard the news that I got selected, yay!

As the first phase of this year’s Launchpad program, Oculus held a two full-day bootcamp at Facebook campus in Menlo Park, CA on June 10 and 11. One hundred brilliant participants with various background, ethnicity, different skin colors, and all with the common passion in Virtual Reality were gathering in this space. It was a lovely sight. I would say more than 50% of the participants were colored women, and the rest were colored men. I didn’t meet with any transgender person. But then again, I did not have the chance to talk to all 100 participants.

On the first day, the event started with breakfast and mingling among participants, followed by a short ice-breaking session to get to know each other. Robin Hunickle from Funomena came next with her inspirational talk about failing. The following talk was from Facebook’s lawyer, about law and legal matters. From then on, the participants were divided into two groups: 360 film making and games/experience. I was interested in VR experience, so I stayed to listed to Bernie Yee from Oculus Rex sharing his knowledge and experience as producer in video game and VR industry. The talk structure came in lectures as well as group exercises. We took a break in between this session to have lunch. After this track, all participants gathered in the main room again to listen to Storytelling presentation. The last talk of the day was an open Q&A session hosted by Jason Reuben. A lot of people were asking tough and good questions, ranging from upcoming tech, challenges in VR, to how to overcome unconscious bias.

At the end of day one, Oculus held a social mixer at the garden of Facebook building rooftop. If you ever watch The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary of Studio Ghibli, where they showed the garden area at Studio Ghibli rooftop, it was similar, except Facebook rooftop garden was a lot larger. Up there they set up some VR demo stations featuring Google Earth and Facebook Spaces, where participants could try them with Rift & Touch controller or on GearVR. I have tried Google Earth, and really not interested in social VR at this time since personal space is still an issue, so I spent my time grabbing snack for dinner, had a drink from the open wine bar, and get to know the others.

The second day started with breakfast and mingling, followed by the first talk by last year Launchpad participants, sharing their experience of the program and the projects they are working on. It gave us ideas what to look forward in the next few weeks as we go through this program. Chris Pruett, head of Oculus Mobile Dev Engineering gave the second talk about VR user comfort issues, design and motion controls based on his experiences.

Then, we had Unity tutorial session, which divided the attendees into two groups based on their Unity knowledge: beginner and advance. I considered myself an intermediate, so I was not sure where to go at this time. On the screen for beginner session showed the Viking tutorial, which, if had been taught in a couple Unity Roadshow workshop in Seattle. However, I noticed that Sarah Stumbo was giving the presentation, so I decided to stick around, since I like her teaching style, where she would go over and explain the scripts used in project. One of the attendee was having issue where her laptop was not powerful enough to run Unity, and since I have done this tutorial in the past, I lend her my laptop. I was also able to spend time and help an old friend getting used to Unity while catching up with her stories. I was also able to tinker with the GearVR headset, and learned how to set it up with the help of the others around my table.

After lunch and more tutorial session on 360 video, everyone gathered together and listen to the talk on VR for good, which was another Oculus program similar to Launchpad but more about creating products that promote empathy and good. The following talk was about Creating Compelling Pitch by Isabel Tewes, Developer Strategy, and Dorian Dargon, a producer. Dorian was actually one of the Launchpad participant from last year who then got hired by Facebook. During this session, there was presentation and short exercise on pitching with a partner. I have only pitched in my Game Design course a few years ago, so this workshop was really useful. I learned a lot from my partner’s feedback, especially in giving enough information and why I am the right person for this project. Promoting myself was still a hard thing to do for me.

The last talk was a journey story of one of last year’s Launchpad participant, Jewel Lim. She shared her life story and what VR and the program meant for her. Her talk was really touching and inspirational.

Overall, the bootcamp was a great inspirational and motivational experience. I got to create new bonds with other creative people, as well as renewing the bonds with some people I have met in the past. To the mentors and speakers who share their experiences, thank you. It helps to see the process and the human side of things, instead of just an end product. Also, big thank you for the organizer of this event, like Ebony. You enable us this opportunity to meet and learn from so many people. Oh, and for the free hardware too!

In the future, I will post my notes for more details of these talks. Stay in tune!