Inaugural European Immersive Computing Summit Puts Italy On The Map For VR & AR

An event that put Italy on the map for immersive technology.
Italy is known for great food and design, but chances are it’s not the first place that comes to mind when you think of VR, AR, or immersive technology in general. Uqido, and its CEO Pier Mattia Avesani set out to change that perception with the 1st annual European Immersive Computing Summit (EICS).

The 2-day event was held this March in Venice, Italy, and brought together businesses and developers from across the region and around the world—offering an eclectic crop of presenters and attendees spanning the gamut of real estate, entertainment, food & beverage, and beyond.

There’s no shortage of VR/AR industry conferences these days, but how many of them showcase cobblestone alleyways en route to a centuries-old, mural-laced hotel where composer Richard Wagner spent his final days? To say Venice makes for a nice backdrop to a summit is to say Michelangelo was adequate with a chisel. Everywhere you turn, something with seemingly unfathomable historical significance catches your eye…. But this isn’t a full representation of what Italy has to offer in 2018.
Avesani started Uqido, a full service software development company with special interest in immersive tech, almost a decade ago. Since then, he’s been fighting against the perception that Italy is only a place of the past.
“We want to show that Italians are proud of our past… but are hungry to build the future as well,” Avesani said in an interview with the author. “We are as capable as any developers from anywhere in the world, usually much more competitive.”

The latter point could be attributed to Italy’s price of living–which is significantly lower relative to other global tech hubs. And Avesani also points to a growing number of young Italian developers anxious to cut to their teeth on emerging technologies. Neither Avesani nor EICS attendees are Pollyannish in their short-term expectations.
Natalie Radcliffe-Brine, marketing director of Stack Overflow, illuminated this point by sharing statistics that the number of developers in the company from the region and Europe at large were relatively low. Where others may see a detriment, Avesani sees an opportunity. He believes these numbers will change as Italy’s presence in the marketplace increases—and believes events like EICS can begin to shift perceptions around the Italian technology community.

There is much ground to cover to bring the region to the fore of the immersive tech world, but the only way to get there is to begin creating the kind of local and global connections that EICS was all about.
The event drew speakers from an extremely diverse range of backgrounds and specialties. Walking the conference halls and sitting in panels, I had the sense that an attendee who had no experience with VR/AR would gather a healthy introduction to the state of the industry in 2018, alongside a sense of the community of people behind it.

One of the presenters, Luca Prasso, shared his vision of the potential future of VR/AR. Prasso has has 30 years of experience in tech and digital media, including as a supervisor at Dreamworks during the production of Shrek. Now he works as UI/UX Prototype Engineer/Designer at Google Daydream Labs, a small rapid prototyping team tasked with looking 1-to-3 years into the future and finding aligned, innovative use cases for VR and AR. He described a process in which someone from their team would pitch a concept on a Monday, and by the following Friday a usable prototype would be in existence.
“We build stuff with shiny new things, we find clever ways to use existing things, we discover new ways to play and we deep-dive in support of partner teams,” Prasso said. “We have built over 200 prototypes in the last couple of years.”

The event also spotlit more niche-focus presentations, such as Marco Mortillaro’s discussion around directorial techniques in VR gaming. In particular, Mortillaro, lead game designer of Milan-based Forge-Reply, presented his company’s approach to creating a seamless 3rd-person player experience in their Playstation VR game Theseus–sharing insights around camera placement, avoiding motion sickness, and the “consistency of gaze” method for transitioning between scenes in VR games.
The diverse range of speakers continued after a lunch of delicious Italian cuisine and a perhaps-too-early-for-this glass of wine because…“when in Venice…” A representative from MSI spoke about the future of their hardware, and a startup developer showed off his AR app to not only help people learn how to draw, but to aid muralists and street-artists with scaling up their images in real time.

And this was the beauty of EICS. Yes, it’s an event that singlehandedly put Italy on the VR/AR map. But it was also an intimate, congenial atmosphere where business to business relationships could be formed outside the pageantry attendees often encounter at typical XR events. It was a place where industry veterans could rub shoulders with young entrepreneurs over a glass of wine in an iconic hotel, all the while listening, learning, and innovating together.
To learn more about EICS, visit the official website.

VRScout is a proud media partner of the European Immersive Computing Summit.
Image Credit: EICS & Uqido
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