21 concepts (> 80% edtech!) were received from teams hailing from the USA, Serbia, Germany, Argentina, Italy and Canada!

Interview with Dom Barnard – Co-founder at VirtualSpeech

How did you get onto the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) VR team and what made you leave to embark on the rollercoaster road of becoming a startup founder in such a nascent industry?

I was placed in the JLR VR department after finishing a two year graduate scheme at the company. It provided me with a great opportunity to learn the fundamentals of VR and understand how VR can save companies huge amounts of time and money by reducing physical prototypes and speeding up the company decision making process.

After seeing the potential and growth of the VR industry, I started creating a VR public speaking app in my spare time to help people improve their communication skills. Lots of people fear public speaking, including myself, and I though VR would be an amazing way to provide a more realistic practice environment and genuinely help people prepare. The app got some great feedback and download numbers, which is when I decided to start VirtualSpeech and work on it full time by leaving JLR.

What's your opinion about WebVR and its role in shaping the industry as a whole?

WebVR will play a huge role in viewing VR content due to its accessibility and the way it cleverly leverages the web as a scalable infrastructure. Instead of downloading an app from a store, WebVR provides the content straight from the web browser, allowing it to be easily incorporated into existing websites for a huge variety of use cases.

We love the way you approach practical content, but it must have taken a lot of hard work to get there, and in such a short time. What kind of tips can you offer fresh content creators who are just starting to work with VR?

We took the approach of releasing our product as soon as possible and I would highly recommend this to other new VR developers. The app we first released was extremely basic, with minimal features and a tiny audience. Despite this, we received encouraging feedback from the community (particularly from Reddit) which helped guide our development process. For example, we were going to spend weeks preparing and recording a stereoscopic audience for the app, only to realise that people did not deem this as important.

Are there any dangers or common pitfalls that you think developers and designers can easily fall into?

Early on I became obsessed with developing and perfecting all features within the app, features which took me days to complete only to realise afterwards that barely anyone uses all of them. I spent hours developing the code behind a stats and awards environment so that users could see their progress. However after reviewing the in-app analytics, I could see that most people were just interested in practicing in the speaking rooms and didn’t care about how long they had used the app for or how many times they had visited different rooms.

I would recommend when developing a new feature, create a basic version of it to gauge interest with the community – wait for feedback to see if it’s something you want to commit serious time to.

What kind of content are you hoping to see come out of the hackathon?

I’d love to see some practical applications and not just a series of games come out the hackathon. I can think of three areas in particular which could benefit from WebVR:
• I well-polished WebVR estate agent house viewing platform is very possible, and would work well embedded in a website.
• A holiday travel WebVR platform, where the user could travel to different beautiful parts of the world within 360 images, then perhaps there could be descriptions of the different areas and a sort of rating system.
• A virtual car dealership and driving experience where customers can sit inside virtual vehicles in 360, examine the exterior of a vehicle and even be given a 360 driving tour of the vehicle from the drivers perspective.