Have you been wondering what all the fuss is about Virtual Reality? If so, the Innovation Hangar is the place to go. We have a VR specialist on-hand for free demonstrations of the HTC Vive. His name is Ibrahim Kabil, and he has an extensive background in VR software. Since his 2009 graduation from University of Texas at Austin, he has been pursuing a career in interactive design and online advertisement strategy. His current employer is Brick Simple, specifically Brick VR, and acts as its West Coast representative. Since June 2015 Ibrahim has been an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Innovation Hangar (iHangar), first working on various web applications for the Hangar's programs and events, and now working in Virtual Reality design. This is in partly to finesse his own expertise in the field, and to assist the iHangar and by extension the general public.
“I'm working on designing and developing virtual and augmented reality applications for various clients in the medical and trade show industries, as well as an HTC Vive VR experience for the Innovation Hangar to educate visitors about the history of the Palace of Fine Arts and the 1915 Worlds Fair,” he said. “I got involved in virtual reality in late 2015 after experimenting with building various applications for Innovation Hangar programs and events, such as the Solar Car Project. My background is in web development and video production, and I found that virtual reality was an innovative way to unify my visual and programming talents into a single impacting medium.”
Exciting the general public about the newest and most innovating technologies, including beta (under development) technologies is core to the iHangar's mission. Virtual Reality has been around in various stages since at least 1991, when Sega released a VR headset meant for its arcade games. It really took flight as a consumer-ready product when the startup company OculusVR released its Oculus Rift headset and related hardware/software in early March 2016. Since then the medium has been adopted by other companies, such as Valve, creator of Steam (a popular PC gaming client), and Sony, which released a headset for its own PS4 gaming console in October 2016.
Ibrahim started by teaching himself 360-degree video production using a Ricoh Theta S camera and Adobe After Effects. “Once I felt comfortable working with 360 video, I taught myself how to bring interactivity and 3D elements into my VR projects. I grew up planning for a career in web development, however I have found virtual and augmented reality to be a much more focused use of my talents.”
Thus far the process has been focused and steady. A key to this success is the public testing and hands-on feedback he can receive while developing and showcasing his project. “Since VR is such a new medium, one of the most challenging aspects is designing experiences that are intuitive for people to navigate through,” he said. “I have been lucky to be able to get lots of quality feedback from the Innovation Hangar staff and visitors, which I think will ultimately factor into creating a much stronger final product.”
That final product will be a highly-interactive historical tour of the 1915 Pan-Panama Pacific Expedition, developed with Valve's VR design programs and the HTC Vive headset as his tools. His unique outlook on professional life is rooted in a variety of philosophical inclinations—such as Lao Tzu, the writer of the Tao Te Ching. “I admire his emphasis on living a simple and balanced life. I think it's when we have our feet deeply rooted in reality that we are able to create the most meaningful work for the world.”
Knowledgeable guidance from VR-industry veterans has also been critical. His main mentor has been Det Ansinn, the CEO of BrickVR. “His ability to balance his strong programming/development background with his business management skills is something I strive for as an entrepreneur.”
Overall, Ibrahim is confident about the future of Brick Simple and its VR programs. In an age where technologies continue to be innovated and finessed he sees great possibilities in virtual reality, up to and including fully-immersive simulators that can support more interaction with the virtual environment. He attributes much of his quality-of-experience to the Innovation Hangar's unique working environment: “The staff and the entrepreneurial community here are very supportive and positive, often sharing resources such as TV monitors, desks and computers, as well as business and marketing advice,” he said. “Outside of the iHangar is the historic Palace of Fine Arts, which makes outdoor walks refreshing and inspiring. It feels prestigious bringing potential clients and partners here—I always get the sense I am in the presence of magnificent ambition and artistry when walking around the building, and it makes me feel a deep desire to contribute something great as well.”
Ibrahim showcases his developing VR project on the 1915 World's Fair between 2pm-5pm every Friday. Admittance to the Innovation Hangar is free to the public.