It all started in early 2016 when one of my clients asked if I could shoot some live action virtual reality (VR) content and he smartly threw a carrot saying if I do manage to pull it off the job will have a huge payout. Without any knowledge I jumped headlong into researching what “Virtual Reality” is, its possibilities, future potential & how to go about capturing VR content.
The decision to explore VR and take up that project was amongst the best things in my life, I put my first love, my music career, on hold once I realised how profound VR is… VR is like a rabbit hole the deeper you dig the deeper it takes you, it converted me into a believer and i am totally convinced that under a decade from now phones and our personal laptops will converge into a single wearable device which will let us interact with content simulating all of our five senses.
The exponential rate with which technology is growing and assisting us in understand our cognitive structure, we could – give or take – be three decades away from a brain computer interface which will facilitate a full dive/BCI-VR where lines of our physical reality will not just get blurred, but Re-Imagined & Re-Designed by coders & programmers taking us closer to Transcension Hypothesis.
From the beginning I was mighty clear that I was going to be the evangeliser who will educate, build awareness and be at the forefront of Immersive Technologies here in India. Passion driven techie + R&D = Cash-burn, which is a terrible mix for a bootstrapped startup but I am still very proud of our 16 cam stereoscopic rig and a robotic dolly that we built from scratch because the existing solutions in 2016 were un-affordable and I was sure we could build a cheaper, better solution. Our 16 Cam Rig looked terrible and was cumbersome but as presumed the output was way superior to the available pro solution, but our clients insisted on playing safe and we had to rent out a Nokia Ozo from china for the shoot of the project which was for the worlds 1st Interactive Travel App.
Commissioned content gave us the money not the satisfaction though as most of the clients were apprehensive when it came to experimenting, eager to put our camera/rig to test and showcase the capabilities of my Immersive Experiential Content Studio “VR Storytellers”. I Directed/Produced India’s 1st StereoscopicVR Short, CRACKLE, along with my partner Ashley Rodrigues & Co-Director Saju Jose. CRACKLE has been showcased over 6 International film festivals so far and also won ‘Best VR Experience’ at the Miami Fear fest.
India, with 1.3 Billion people and the largest youth population in the world, is a very lucrative market opportunity and as a passionate evangeliser who is committed to build India’s AR/VR Ecosystem I knew that lack of awareness and education was a major roadblock to adoption.
In 2017 I came up with the idea of Building India’s 1st AR/VR Film Fest; organising events was not my core business but I was very lucky to bump into Manojeet Bhujabal, Pranali Daundker & Arpito Gope from NYUCT Design Labs who understood my enthusiasm, passion and was more than happy to partner and build India’s 1st AR/VR Fest together & thus was created ‘IMMERSION’ – India’s 1st VR Film Festival & Conference.
We decided to hold IMMERSION in 2018, but soon realised it wouldn’t be as easy as we thought. Though we did not come across a single person or a company who did not see merit in building an AR/VR event in India, but getting them to support something which was in a nascent stage was a task… we got used to hearing the same questions and though we had the answers, they seemed unconvinced.
‘Brilliant Idea, India needs an AR/VR Fest but don’t you think you are early into the eco-
‘Who is your main Sponsor?’
The Companies vested in Immersive Tech were playing a wait and see game but in my head I was very clear; I’d rather be early then late and nothing was going to deter me as I had committed myself in building India’s AR/VR Ecosystem with or without Sponsor/Brand/Media Support.
We shopped the Event/IP and nurtured it for over a year and a half with rejections, change of Venue & Dates, from 2018 it had to be pushed to 2019 March 1st/2nd; I connected with the who’s who from the Immersive Tech industry in search of Sponsors/Partners but were unable to convert our positive conversations into partnerships.
We were dejected as on paper the Power point presentation for Immersion was looking great, we had carved out a 5 year plan and it was more than an Event, at the core we were building India’s AR/VR Industry/Ecosystem with Capsules that could engage & address Enterprise, Academia, Startup Community ,Consumers & the Government… besides post the Main Event we had also structured smaller capsules of the event designed to engage the future of our nation by taking it to education Institutes through the year so the AR/VR buzz does not fizzle out.
It was a well packaged Platform/Event but partnerships weren’t falling through and the thought of delaying it by one more year to 2020 was painful.
But just two weeks prior to the event date we managed to onboard partners and IMMERSION – India’s 1st VR Film Festival & Conference – was held on the 1st/2nd of March at the Nehru Centre-Mumbai. It was a smashing success as the 2 Day event had 45 Speakers from India and around the Globe, Panel Discussions across Enterprise, Healthcare, Education, E-Commerce, Training, Entertainment & the Gaming Industry, Focused Workshops, Expo Space & VR Screening Zone where we were screening some of the top Local and a few Global VR Content/Experiences.
I presented the opening note followed by Chaitanya Chunduri, Google India Head of AR/VR, who delivered the 1st day Keynote. Day 2 was a little easier which started with Nathan Gaydhani’s Keynote, by the end of the day i was both flagged out and exhilarated as we had managed to convert a dream into
reality, which i had nurtured for over a year and a half.
IMMERSION was made possible by VR Storytellers & NYUCT, the 45 Speakers who extended their support, the audience who were waiting for an event like this and obviously our Partners Dell, this was the start India needed for its Immersive Tech Industry.
Every single person I connected with at the event were either building some interesting immersive product/content, eager to understand, learn more and implement it in their organisations or Institute and as excited about AR/VR as me. I wonder how and why the Tech Behemoths Vested in AR/VR/MR Industry have ignored India as a market so far: 1.35 Billion People, Largest youth Population in the world & a booming economy should ideally be on any and all Biz’s agenda as the next go to market for Immersive Tech which is poised to Change our Tomorrow.
IMMERSION was the Nudge India Needed.
Do reach out if your company is keen on exploring India’s market opportunity. See you for the 2nd Edition of Immersion which is Scheduled for February 28th/29th in 2020. The Future of AR/VR/MR is awesome & India has just got started.