On June 10 and 11, we welcomed the 2017 class of Oculus Launch Pad to Facebook HQ for an intensive onsite boot camp. What started as a pilot program continues to change and grow, attracting a new class of diverse content creators. It’s also seen growing interest from the VR industry, with 360˚ filmmaking heavyweights Felix & Paul Studios, award-winning indie game dev Funomena, and Unity partnering with us to support the program.
Today, I’m excited to share some highlights from last weekend’s boot camp and take a look at Launch Pad’s evolution from pilot to sustainable program.
I was actively involved in a variety of Oculus Diversity events before stepping into my current role as Diversity Program Manager, so I attended the inaugural Launch Pad Boot Camp as a volunteer. It was very inspiring to welcome so many creators of diverse backgrounds and learn how they were going to create their experiences. I wanted to get involved and help take the program to the next level.
Over the course of the program’s first year, we helped develop a sense of community among the Oculus Launch Pad members, and they gave feedback via conversations online and at industry events, as well as more formally through a poll. For example, we learned that the Launch Pad members wanted to be engaged on at least a biweekly basis. Based on that feedback, we decided to adjust the frequency of our outreach and are now hosting regular email check-ins in addition to bimonthly video conference calls where we’ll feature Oculus experts to help troubleshoot along the way.
As a pilot program, there was definitely a steep learning curve involved. We learned a ton that helped inform our steps to move forward, from providing more support to our participants and building in new ways for people to get direct feedback to clarifying timelines and providing specific details with respect to our evaluation criteria early on. What started out as a pilot program is now back for a second year, with new resources and partners behind it.
I was amazed by the enthusiasm we saw at boot camp, both from the incoming class, last year’s participants, and our speakers. We were beyond grateful to have so many of our partners participate, as well as a number of Oculus speakers. Their talks were inspiring, invigorating, and direct.
On Day 1, Funomena Founder and CEO Robin Hunicke spoke with attendees on game design and the ability to drive feeling through gameplay, while Felix & Paul Co-Founder and Creative Director Paul Raphael and Chief Content Officer Ryan Horrigan led a workshop dedicated to 360˚ filmmaking.
Participants also had the opportunity to take a deep dive on the technical side during a Day 2 session with Unity XR Developer & Evangelist Sarah Stumbo. After covering the foundations of VR development, including programming, animations, input, and 360˚ video integration, everyone left the Unity workshop with a small, playable VR game to run on Rift and Gear VR.
All 11 of our 2016 Oculus Launch Pad Scholarship recipients returned to share their stories, challenges, and best practices with the incoming group. With shipped games and experiences like Found and Starship Disco already available on the Oculus Store, I’m glad that the growing Launch Pad community can benefit from a shared pool of talent and lessons learned.
Several members of the Oculus team pitched in to lend their expertise and advice to attendees, including Head of Content Jason Rubin, Lead Counsel Debbie Rosenbaum, Policy Manager Parisa Sabeti Zagat, Executive Producer Yelena Rachitsky, Head of Mobile Development Engineering Chris Pruett, Producer Bernard Yee, Software Engineer Trevor Dasch, Mobile Developer Strategist Isabel Tewes, and Associate Producer Dorian Dargan. Special shoutout to our rockstar intern, Caitlin Tran!
Massive thanks to everyone involved in making the 2017 boot camp a success. I look forward to seeing the fruits of your labor as this year’s Launch Pad participants ramp up production on their games, VR experiences, and 360˚ films.
The creations we’ve see through Launch Pad are fresh and new, telling a breadth of stories that are highlighted and brought to life in VR. The community is incredibly vibrant and supportive in their interactions with each other, and it’s thrilling to know that we’re providing some creators with their very first funding. Giving them a seed to grow is pretty mind-blowing for me.
Last year, we were beyond pleased with the growth of our participants over the course of the program and what they brought to VR in terms of content and their unique ideas. I can’t wait to see what this new creative class brings to the table as we move forward.
Check back on the blog later this year when we’ll announce the 2017 Oculus Launch Pad Scholarship winners and share their innovative VR projects and 360˚ films.