Wes Potter Head of Digital Monarch Media

Interview #6: Virtual Reality is moving beyond your PSVR (Wes Potter)

It’s hard to deny that we have entered a world that thrives on innovations in technology. From Artificial Intelligence to Big Data insights and a variety of computer-generated graphics that will baffle your senses. The international opportunities for growth and innovation seem to multiply daily and are only limited by our collective imagination.  If Virtual Reality is not yet on your must-know list then it’s time to take notice.

For those of us that have experimented with it to improve on a product offering or those that have embraced the direct connection to your senses as a means of creating something new, one thing is clear. We are only at the beginning of harnessing VR’s ability to motivate, to simplify tasks and transport us to places unimaginable.

Speaking of creative innovators, introducing Wes Potter
Wes Potter Head of Digital Monarch Media
Wes Potter, Head of Digital Monarch Media (a subsidiary of Unity Technologies)

There are few people that understand the power of immersion to encourage creativity better than Wes Potter. With roots in the Game Industry’s mega-brand, Electronic Arts and a portfolio that includes “Need For Speed” and “James Bond: Everything Or Nothing”, Wes is among a limited number of VR leaders. His perspective of where VR has been and where the doorway of VR may lead is essential to those considering a use for this growing technology.

Currently, Head of Digital Monarch Media (a subsidiary of Unity Technologies), Wes has been at the front of Virtual Production technology using VR for the film industry. You are likely familiar with some of the work to which his team has contributed. Titles like “The Jungle Book” directed by Jon Favreau, “Ready Player One” directed by Steven Spielberg, “Blade Runner 2049” directed by Denis Villenevue and soon “Greyhound” by Tom Hanks (currently in production).

SS: So you have been working with virtual reality for a while. How did you get introduced to it?

WP: Through film production, we were using it as a means of evaluation of CG ( computer generated) locations and characters. It’s become a fairly common tool in Virtual Production now.

Virtual Cinematography (Credit: Unity.com)

SS: We’ve talked about this fascinating area before. In likely oversimplified terms, you provide a way for creative leads to interact directly with the project’s CG characters in real time. Wow, computer graphics have really grown to add value.

Opportunities in VR are expanding with imagination

SS: Most people associate virtual reality to video games. We know it’s grown to provide so much more opportunity. Share one of your favorite uses of VR. 

WP: VR has been very successful in production and engineering environments.  In the world of filmmaking it has been key to allowing artists, cinematographers, and directors the ability to plan shoots, understand graphical targets and make decisions early in the process where it is easier and cheaper to make changes.

SS:  So true. I just wrote an article about how the construction industry has picked up VR. Everything from laying out site plans in 3D space to helping identify hazards for workers. Construction is the last industry that I ever imagined would have a use for it. As the technology becomes less niche and more commonplace, let’s look to the future.  

Imagine VR in every home

SS: 10 years ago only video game enthusiasts seemed to have a home device. Today, home systems are common. Let’s look 10 years into the future. How will VR be used in the home?

WP: To be honest, every time I’ve tried to predict technology, I have fallen flat on my face. It seems that it is always the things that we didn’t think we needed that we ended up needing the most. VR may be part of that future, but I am certain that it will be in a form we have not yet realized.

SS: Fair enough. Back to today’s Virtual Reality,  I’m seeing more and more of my friends invest in VR headsets, glasses, and the newest PlayStation 4. What devices do you have at home, or wish you had?

WP: I have an older Oculus Rift, an HTC Vive, and a PSVR.  The PSVR gets the most use when hosting parties, so many people have never experienced VR and once they do the reactions are amazing, and often hilarious.

SS: Tell me about it.  I think there is a video out there of me trying VR at a conference. I was sweating, and whimpering as I was virtually suspended on a plank on the top of a skyscraper. Out of context, I bet it is very funny.

SS: What challenges could VR solve if every home had a simplified way to use VR?

WP: I think it would be interesting if we could find a way to engage more users in VR together.  A lot of the fun related to entertainment devices is being able to interact with your fellow mates. VR so far can be very isolating in that way, some online games have helped.

Imagination, passions and leading the future

SS: What would you love to see grow in this space?

WP: VR in schools. If introduced in a learning environment then the next generation will grow up with the power to change it. Right now a lot of the VR is based around dreams that Gen-X’rs had as kids or what they saw in movies 30 years ago. If we want to see the next generation of VR then we have to get the next generation to own it.

SS: What advice would you give to people that want to be a vital part of the VR industry in the next 5 years?

WP: Learning technology is important, as a designer or as a coder, and it is a noble endeavor, but your artistic self is the most useful tool you have. To be able to reach into places you fear and draw out the emotion and intent to change the world is why we create technology. We only ever build tools because we have something to solve, and as humans, it is our purpose that requires this the most.

SS: This has been amazing, Let’s finish with a little insight into you. Tell me something you really admire (doesn’t have to be VR related).

I am a big reader of philosophy, with such books as Mediations, by Marcus Aurelius and the Tao Te Ching.  I focus a lot of my actions on how they affect others and on what possibilities open if I find clarity of mind. Because of this, my entire career has centered around creating processes, tools, and ideas that can aid other creatives in their endeavors. I believe what we put out is the sum of our lives and it is important for the artful mind to be as unhindered as possible.

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.” –  Marcus Aurelius


Key Takeaways:
  1. It is important to embrace your natural talents (like your creative self) along with tangible skills.
  2. When looking to the future, innovations involve the next generation. Get them to own it.
  3. Embrace that technology will evolve in unexpected ways.
  4. There are many more applications of VR out there than you would think.
  5. There is power in the ability to design ways of making workflows easier for others.

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