Virtual Reality Expo showcases progress in tech world

The annual Miami VR Expo brought creators of every type to present the future of technology at the Magic City Innovation District on Saturday.

The Miami VR Expo is a grassroots organization that hosts startups and innovators who work with immersive technology, according to co-founder Michelle McKoy. Immersive technology refers to technology that puts the user in a digitally simulated world.

“I was rafting on the River Nile and I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, how can I share this experience with my friends?’ ” McKoy said about her initial interest in virtual reality.

McKoy said she and Miami VR Expo Co-Founder Adrian Allen went to a VR conference in Los Angeles, which inspired them to start a conference in Miami.

“The goal of the event is to galvanize local VR, AR, MR startups and provide resources and information to the general public.” McKoy explained, saying they want to educate people who had not been previously exposed to virtual reality.

AR is augmented reality, McKoy explained, and functions by layering content over existing information, such as what one does with Snapchat. MR, or mixed reality, includes aspects of the real world in the experience, such as physical objects or special effects.

The booths at the expo ranged from local businesses seeking to introduce new products to artists using VR headsets to show their exhibitions and film projects.

Alissa Christine, a local artist, said she uses a program called Tilt Brush to create virtual art.

“There’s so many possibilities, because you can explore other dimensions that you can’t in a physical space,” Christine said about creating art with this new medium. “With 3D you have all kinds of abilities to move and walk around the space and go on journeys. I enjoy creating journeys for people to explore.”

According to Joe Souza, sales manager at iFLY Indoor Skydiving, VR is a way to gain recurring customers.

Souza said the majority of customers who visit his indoor skydiving facility think of it as a one-time experience.

“Our challenge is to keep people coming back, because they still see our activity as a bucket-list check-off,” Souza said. About a year ago iFLY introduced a VR headset to simulate skydiving in different locations.

“You can come back one day and do Dubai, the next week you can come back and do Hawaii,” Souza said.

Mario Vallejo, the founder of an app that allows you to view images and video in 360-degree view called Boxapp, says his startup had a good reception at the Expo.

“We want to bring this sort of technology to people that is currently a bit expensive and sort of inaccessible to the beginner or industries unfamiliar with it. I think people like that we’re trying to bring it to them.” Vallejo said.

Vallejo believes VR will have an impact on the world. “That is, I think, one of the most exciting things. I think all of us here have a slightly different but very similar idea of where VR is going in the future. “

Miami VR Expo Co-Founders Michelle McKoy and Adrian Allen stand among guests participating in a virtual reality workshop on Saturday morning. Photo by Beatriz De La Portilla.

Sandra Koo tried a digital menu application that displayed 3D models of the food at the Anonymous Media LLC booth. Koo also experienced virtual real estate, an app that allows the user to view a digital rendition of a property before it is built.

Koo said she is hopeful that Miami will be a much bigger player in the VR world.

“I feel so happy for Miami to have our own VR conferences,” Koo said.

She said she was familiar with the VR scenes in China, New York and LA, and said the conference really puts Miami on the map in the VR world.

“Miami has a lot of contemporary art, and VR fits into that category,” Koo said.  It’s the future of new entertainment and new media.”


Beatriz is a broadcast media major at Florida International University and is the managing editor for Caplin News. She aspires to become a documentarian.