Diego González-Zúñiga: “Getting people to experience and create VR content is challenging”

August 15, 2018

IT Arena 2018 is bound to gather some of the most aspiring global changemakers! Since the event is kicking off in just a month, there’s no time to waste to introduce you to some of this year’s speakers. This time, we have talked to Diego González-Zúñiga, Developer Advocate at Samsung UK. Diego’s main endeavor is to bridge tech and other fields like fashion, arts, tourism, and archaeology to bring VR to people that never saw themselves as technologists/VR creators. Read more about Diego’s experience, the future of mobile web, and the major challenges VR industry is now facing.



How did you become the Developer Advocate at Samsung? What’s the Developer Advocate’s role?

A Developer Advocate is someone that engages with the developer community to teach, learn, collaborate and help them with projects. As a Developer Advocate for Samsung Internet, I am focused on spreading the word about web technologies. In my case, I focus particularly on topics related to Immersive Web technologies. I started working as a Developer Advocate (or devrel as it’s commonly referred to) after finishing a PhD in Informatics in Barcelona, advocacy was an interesting option since it mixed a bit of everything else I had done in the past. From teaching to coding to presenting.

To me, the concept of development is as is wide in range, from the more traditional programmers to other professionals that want to incorporate a specific technology from their area of expertise. I’ve always been very interested in applying technology in the wild to enhance a specific use case.

What is the future of mobile web?

Since my crystal ball is not really working right now, I will just have to throw some thoughts in the basket. I think we will start seeing trends where the mobile web is going to be powering more and more experiences that will scale through different devices and work offline. Progressive enhancement and Progressive Web Apps are likely to be commoditized and with innovative web APIs and the upcoming 5G implementation in the horizon, web experiences will be transformed into real multiple concurrent device experiences. APIs like Web Share, Presentation API, the increasing connectivity with IoT devices and BLE (bluetooth low energy) point to a direction where mobile web will be mobile, not because of the device it is being experienced in, but due to it moving between different devices with you.



How did the focus of your career shift to VR?

It all started with my PhD, where I was doing some research on Stereoscopic User Interfaces, back in the day when 3D displays were cool. Then, during the final months of my studies, I had an internship with Samsung Research UK working on creating a VR UI for some case scenarios. It was all quite ad hoc, using three.js, some hand positional trackers and based on web technology. The result was very interesting from a GUI and experience point of view, I started thinking about how I could bring some of the concepts I experimented with in my PhD to VR UIs. A year later I joined Samsung as an employee; working for the Internet browser team, and with the work that was being done for the WebVR specification, I decided to focus my efforts on promoting adoption and spreading the word about WebVR.

In general, Web or not, I find VR to be a fascinating way of expression that enables new ways of telling a story that was not easy to achieve before and exploring the UX of this new medium is something that keeps me close to the field.

What are the major challenges VR industry is now facing?

Getting people to experience and create VR content. That’s why I believe WebXR can help make a difference in the adoption of immersive technologies. Everything from consumer grade 360° cameras to frameworks and platforms that make it a breeze to create/host content is important to foster VR and encourage adoption.

Platforms like WebXR can turn devices with a modern browser into a device capable of displaying immersive interactive content. What we are lacking now is content, all sorts of good and bad content, to explore ideas, art, and creative uses of the medium in a way that adapts to everyone.

How VR helps to bridge tech and other fields (art, fashion, tourism)? And why do you think it’s important?

Virtual and Augmented Reality convey new ways of expressing a message. This is particularly true when you want to explore an idea that is spatial in nature. For either artistic, creative or scientific reasons, having a new axis on which to position elements, and more importantly, be surrounded by them, makes Immersive technologies key for many scenarios. These scenarios spawn across many different areas where space can be literal, like tourism, architecture, archaeology, metaphorical, like art and fashion and even a combination of both, where even hyper-stereo and hypo-stereoscopic effects can be used to express different points of view to the audience.

In the end, XR technologies are one more tool at disposal of storytellers. Whether that story is to sell a product or to evoke emotions, the sense of presence can be a very powerful driver.

What are Samsung’s biggest projects when it comes to VR? Can you unveil any of the upcoming VR features?

I think unofficially Samsung’s biggest project when it comes to VR is being an enabler. That’s why they create products like headsets and contribute to the creation of standards. Nothing to unveil right now I’m afraid.

Your bio says you enjoy video games 🙂 What’s your favorite VR game?

I really enjoy Beat Saber. It’s the combination of catchy music with lightsabers that I can’t get enough from. Its replay value is huge, and it’s even fun to watch. I think its simplicity is what makes it work so well. It’s also got a very natural learning curve, that I have seen people get used to in seconds. No complicated button setups to remember, no figuring out locomotion, just pure rhythmic fun.

Having said that, I was quite pleasantly surprised by tie-in experiences like Batman: Arkham VR, because of how well they got the feel of the franchise in the VR experience. While moving with teleportation to set spaces is annoying, the storytelling here got me immersed to a point where I wanted to continue exploring and solving the mystery at hand.

Can you give us a little preview of your talk at IT Arena?

We will see how we can use familiar web development technologies to create immersive experiences. Once we see this, I’m hoping to start an inception-like thought where every attendee can start experimenting on how they can use this in their own projects. Once you realize you can start putting spatial elements in your websites, it makes you change the way you think about design.

More information about Diego González-Zúñiga.