This year I’m going to Las Vegas, but not because I just want to go to Vegas. Rather, because I want to take part in the Consumer Electronics Show 2015, also known as CES. Now for me, CES has been a destination I’ve reached only in my dreams. I’ve always followed the show, watching updates from my favorite tech blogs every year, filled with envy. How did they get to go? Why can’t I go? All that has changed now.
I don’t feel that sense of jealousy or envy anymore. On the contrary, I’ve begun to feel genuinely happy when a friend or family member does well and succeeds. From that place of empathy, I’ve turned it inwards and decided to follow my own bliss. Life is too short to waste not doing the things you want. So I’m developing virtual environments and games on the Oculus Rift. And I’m going to Vegas.
I’m staying in the D, which is about 3 miles from the Las Vegas Convention Center, where CES is being held. The D is in downtown Las Vegas, which apparently is three miles from the Strip. They have several shuttles that go from downtown to the strip, but it is only a 3-mile walk (somehow Google estimates this at 1 hour, maybe there are a lot of distractions?). I plan on trying both routes to CES, walking and taking the shuttle. I don’t plan on using Uber because I’ve seen over $300 charges from people during “Surge” time, or times when Uber is in high demand and gouges their customers.
Did I mention I’ve never been to Las Vegas? I haven’t, and haven’t really had the desire to go. I don’t gamble nor do I drink much, so that part of the Las Vegas experience doesn’t appeal to me. I do love LED though, and I think there will be plenty of LED displays to see there. The D backs up to the Freemont Boulevard Experience, which is a huge domed canopy of LED lights that extends several street blocks. It is supposed to be a sight to see as it masks the sky during the night with LED video shows. It sounds fantastic.
Next to New Years Eve, CES is known as the biggest event that draws the most people into Las Vegas. CES is the place where manufacturers of hardware and developers of software exhibit and demonstrate new technologies to the world. CES is an international exposition and a conference of conferences. I got an Exhibits Plus pass, which I hope will get me in to see what I want. The all you can stand conference pass is $1,600 and out of the budget this year, but I’ll start saving for the next one.
As we fly from Charlotte, North Carolina to Las Vegas, Nevada, the wireless Internet on the plane is out. Talk about First World Problems. No sooner did they get plane Internet did it go down. I can imagine the flight attendants frantically calling, “Is there an IT guy on the plane? Anyone here in IT?” I’d love to save the day by restarting the GogoWireless device and getting it back on. If that didn’t do the trick, I’d be the first guy to start pinging out and seeing if the device has an IP address or connectivity. Geez I need to stop working more often; I’m fantasizing about new clients on an airplane!
So many fears grip my mind on the way to Las Vegas. Did I get the right show pass? There were optional add-ons to buy, but they were out of my budget this year and I’m footing the bill. Will my credentials be questioned? CES is a show for industry insiders and analysts. They did review my application and I was accepted to the show, so I must be someone important. I guess my 10 years running my IT consulting firm is good for something, but I’m apprehensive about having my cred challenged. Impostor syndrome is creeping in on my like a tickle in my throat, threatening to turn into a full-blown breakdown of mental processes.
Another fear I have is of the sicknesses going around in the US right now. Flying puts you in tight quarters with a lot of people. I couldn’t bring my essential oil diffusor, so I grabbed the Neti Pot. Hopefully the TSA didn’t pull it out of my bag as contraband. There was no item on the TSA blocked items list for a Neti Pot. I submitted it to be added. EDIT: the Neti Pot arrived safely!
This plane has the worst turbulence of any aircraft I’ve flown on. I’m almost positive the pilot was moving the plane to a higher altitude to get a better Wi-Fi signal. I really wish I could lend a hand with the Internet connection, still down by the way, just to break the monotony of the planes jet engines. The flight attendant gave me a free can of Pringles when I balked at the price. They used to serve dinner on airplanes, but I’ve never eaten on one in my lifetime. I have the whole row of seats on my side of the plane to myself. The two guys to my left, moved up to the escape hatch to have more legroom. I couldn’t be happier being able to stretch out and put my gear in the neighboring seats.
Most of my smart phone apps require an Internet connection, including the games I downloaded to play on the plane. I did download several audio books on Audible, but I can barely make out the reader over the loud jet engines
A friend of mine, Jordan Honeycutt is on his way out on Monday and will be attending CES as well. Until the flight out, I thought I was the only person from Knoxville, TN to attend. But I’m okay with that. I’m not doing this trip to hang out with people I already know; I’m here to meet new people and promote my work doing Oculus Development to companies that might be interested. I am also here to learn about new and upcoming technologies that have yet to hit the mainstream.
The tech that interests me the most right now is Virtual Reality, or VR. Specifically, the Oculus Rift, by Oculus VR, is my favorite piece of hardware right now. The Oculus Rift is a Head Mounted Display with Stereoscopic 3D effects and low-latency persistent head tracking. Now let me say that with some meaning. The Oculus Rift allows you to go inside a virtual environment. And I don’t mean play it on your TV in 3D. When you put the Oculus Rift on, your entire field of view is covered. On top of that, it also tracks where you’re looking, based on the integrated accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetometer.
It the crudest sense, the Oculus Rift is an external secondary monitor for your computer. At its most elegant, it is the Matrix; a fully realistic simulation that your brain can’t tell isn’t real. When you have the Oculus Rift on, you’re somewhere else. At first, of course it’s a bit clunky and the head mounted display weighs on your face, but that wears off after a while. After it does, you’re left with the feeling that you’re in the virtual space, the ultimate immersion, encapsulated in an application someone wrote.
Using Unity and the Oculus Rift DK2, I have already written some rudimentary simulations that I’ve been able to inject myself into. They aren’t as realistic or as immersive as some of the apps on the Oculus Share Store, but it is a start. Everywhere I go, I bring the Oculus Rift with me to show people. Everyone is equally amazed and I get new ideas for applications at every demo. I don’t work for Oculus VR, but I feel like an evangelist for the company, sharing their technology and converting people to users.
Moreover, ever person I demo the Oculus Rift with gives me a new idea for a potential application. Some of the noteworthy industries I’ve been told have commercial application are:
- Real Estate
- Military Defense
- Law Enforcement Training
- And of course Gaming
These all sound good and I’d love to talk to leaders in those industries about applications we can develop. But where I see the technology going far is in the Gaming industry. Plus it is where my interests lie and the bliss I’m following out to Las Vegas.
Virtual Reality development is a new and emerging field. Very few people are in this space, but people are frantically moving in that direction. I want 2015 to be the year of VR and I’m willing to help spread the word. As of now, Oculus VR will be up against Microsoft, Sony, Apply, Google, and others, to deliver the best VR experience for users of the technology. Fortunately, Oculus VR was recently acquired by Facebook, making the 22-year-old inventor of the Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, an instant millionaire. His interest: gaming.
So I’m following in young Luckey’s footsteps, following my bliss and doing what I want to do to have fun! My IT consulting business in Knoxville, TN is still my main focus, but maybe this is something else we could do. I won’t stop until I see if I can make a VR company work or at least do some VR projects. I think they have the potential to be very lucrative, although I’ve been doing it for fun, so the money doesn’t matter to me now. What matters is that I’m doing what I love, playing with VR, and learning how to create virtual environments and write game code.
My expectations for CES 2015 are that I’ll get to see some of the newer technologies that are about to hit the main stage. One I’m interested in is the Virtuix Omni. The Omni is a multidirectional treadmill that allows users to move in every direction, instead of just forward like a normal treadmill. This will allow for more realistic simulations and the possibility of an exercise based experience that could make the user healthier. If you’re going to game, might as well burn a few categories too, right? It also adds to the immersive nature of games like Skyrim that people enjoy.
To be immersed in a virtual world is to have your own world left behind and be present elsewhere. I am a PC gamer and have constantly been on the lookout for new technologies to improve immersion in games. Traditionally this is done with bigger monitors, better graphics, and faster computing power. However, we’ve kind of hit a wall with those directions. The games out now look really good, but they’re still flat on a television screen. VR promises to make you the character in the game, immersing your consciousness into a virtual world. That is the Holy Grail for game enthusiasts like myself, but I digress.
So as my plane judders and shudders along the route to Las Vegas from Charlotte, North Carolina, I’m filled with excitement and anticipation about getting to attend CES. Hopefully I’ll meet some elder geeks that can show me around and have a better idea about what’s going on. I’ve got their app, which shows speakers and schedules and lets you put them on a personal agenda. It will help, but I still think just walking and looking at new technology will be the most fun.
I hope to see companies I’m aware of, but I also want to see companies I don’t know. Who will be the next Oculus VR or the next Samsung? Are they at CES 2015 waiting for me? I’d love to find out, but the Wi-Fi is out on this plane and they won’t let me restart random pieces of equipment in the cockpit to try to fix it. So for now, I’ll have to be content assembling my ideas on paper and waiting to arrive at Las Vegas. Stay tuned for more updates as details arise! Or tweet me @GetMorePC if you see anything I missed or should see!