Reality TV competitions have helped people sing to the masses, dance with stars, pitch ideas to billionaires and find love. They’ve even introduced the nation to a future president. But can they boost the young virtual reality medium?
To promote its new virtual reality platform, QualComm created the “VR Developer Challenge,” pairing game developers with YouTube stars in a competition to create the most engaging VR experience. The series, which debuted on YouTube last week, gives viewers a peek behind the scenes of what it takes to think of and execute a project within VR.
The show features three VR developers (Sam Maliszewski, Jordan Mann and E McNeill) selected by Warner Bros.-owned Machinima, which produced the series with QualComm. Each developer had a month to create a project of their choosing using QualComm’s new standalone headset, the Snapdragon 835 VR developer kit. The headset is more advanced than some of the mobile phone-enabled headsets, but—unlike the more popular headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive—is untethered.
While the developers are unknown, they’re not exactly novices. The two men and one woman all have experience developing on other platforms and with other companies such as Google and Facebook. Maliszewski won an augmented reality hackathon hosted by AT&T, while former Oculus fellow Mann has worked with everyone from Samsung to Verizon to NASA; McNeill was featured on Oculus for his VR games.
The episodes capture the developers going from concept to creation: talking about their ideas, overcoming personal obstacles, and even facing user testing. Along the way, YouTubers—Ana Brisbin (Brizzy Voices), Zach Drapala (Ghostrobo) and Kimmy Saracino—serve as both cheerleaders and sounding boards for each project; each of them already has a built-in fan base through the millions of subscribers that follow their channels, and they will give more personality for those potentially unaccustomed to being in front of a camera.
McNeill, who created a VR strategy game as part of his project for the show, said he was initially torn between focusing on creating something with mass appeal or something that appealed to him. He said content developers don’t have the responsibility or the “moral push” to help expand VR. However, he said many developers in the VR community are still looking to create the first major breakout experience. “There’s kind of the quest for the holy grail going on right now in that respect,”…