VRDC Speaker Q&A: Serafina Pechan on how to better demo VR experiences

Alkaline Games cofounder and designer Serafina Pechan discusses her experience with presenting VR demos and touches on some of the things VR devs should know about showcasing their work effectively.

The advent of affordable virtual reality technologies brings with it a panoply of new and interesting tools to make exciting, meaningful VR experiences. However, it also brings a host of new questions -- notably, how do you effectively show your work to someone in a public setting, if it requires putting a helmet on their head?

Co-Founder & Designer at Alkaline Games Serafina Pechan will be at VRDC 2017 to present her talk Avoiding Demo Nightmares: Did You Just Reach Down My Blouse?which will discuss how to apply best practices when giving an in-person VR/AR demo.

Attend VRDC Fall 2017 to learn about immersive games & entertainment, brand experiences, and innovative use cases across industries.

Here, Pechan discusses her experience with presenting VR demos and touches on some of the things VR devs should know about showcasing their work effectively.

Tell us about yourself and your work in VR/AR

At my core, I am an entrepreneur who wants to help drive and grow the things I love by turning them into a business.  Enter VR.  Love at first sight!  My background set me up well to pursue this. My previous 25 years as co-owner of World Fusion gave me a breadth of tech, game industry, and project experience which is the foundation for our new VR company, Alkaline Games. Eventually, we would like to build big epic games. However, we saw a more urgent need to build simpler, casual games to aid in bridging the gap between early adopters and mainstream. Our first casual VR game is in the works and called, Railer.

Without spoiling it too much, tell us what you’ll be talking about at VRDC?

Lots of time, money, blood and sweat are put toward making a VR experience, but none of that blood and sweat should be coming from your potential customer. The consumer industry in its current form is still very new. Each demo we give has the potential to keep or lose a customer, not just for your product, but for the industry as a whole. In a nutshell, I am going to talk about how to give an in-person VR demo without creating a poor personal experience that will override whatever you’re actually trying to demo.

What excites you most about VR/AR?

Does ‘everything’ narrow it down enough?  I’m just so excited about all the possibilities. I guess if I had to pick something, then of particular note is eSports and the ability to be a spectator in the game rather than on the sidelines. That is just awesome fun!

Another way for me to answer this question is to mention what doesn’t interest me in VR/AR.  I can honestly say that places I can visit in real life don’t grab my attention in VR. I want to go places I can’t go in real life yet… like Mars or Middle Earth :-)

What do you think is the biggest challenge to realizing VR/AR’s potential?

Timing.  This is not VR’s first attempt at capturing the consumer market. There are many things that need to happen relatively close together to avoid becoming a novelty or a bubble. One of many examples is matching consumer excitement with availability of content before burning through the consumer's’ attention span.  Another example is timing advancements in ease-of-use and affordability with the shift in demographics as VR approaches more mainstream.

What sort of etiquette should we consider before entering a demo in VR that would make the transition easier?

The best thing to make the transition easier is to have a documented plan or handbook for people giving demos.  I call them facilitators. Then actually practice the plan. Facilitating demos is an important skill that can and should be learned. Specific etiquette is partly dependent on the genre, venue, and hardware involved. Ideally, you have a strategy and *practiced* plan for how to demo. Conceptually, that plan should include ability to quickly assess and address hygiene issues, an individual’s VR familiarity and tolerance, the appropriate how-to’s, real world to other-world interventions, and a series of pre-defined responses to common and uncommon interpersonal scenarios. VR can create some “interesting” responses in some people. Facilitators need to be aware and prepared for them.

What are some factors that can make demoing a VR game more challenging?

One challenge for the facilitator is their need to be aware of sensory input in two worlds simultaneously. The consumer will hopefully immerse into an alternative sensory experience. The facilitator needs to be cognizant of how their real-world interventions during a demo will translate into the other world that the consumer is experiencing. The results are not always what you anticipate. As a high-level concept it is basic to understand. In actual practice, not so easy to accomplish successfully.

Another challenge is non-standard hardware and interfaces, especially with apps that are interactive, like games. At a demo when a consumer says they have experience with VR, that experience can range anywhere from trying it once at the Best Buy near Grandma’s house to a seasoned hardware designer. How to quickly and seamlessly recognize how to proceed is part of what I will be discussing in the session.

Attend VRDC Fall 2017 to learn about immersive games & entertainment, brand experiences, and innovative use cases across industries.

Gamasutra, VRDC, and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Americas

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