We interviewed Antony Vitillo, also known as SkarredGhost, one of the prominent characters in the Italian panorama in the field of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).
We asked him to tell us about his work and how he started, as well as his participation in the “Alone Together” project, a world premiere, a concert that took place completely in virtual reality, held by Jean-Michel Jarre, on the 21st. June during the Music Festival 2020.
(Find the interview in Italian HERE)
Antony has been working in virtual reality since 2014; his site
http://skarredghost.com is a reference point for both abroad and for Italy.
To listen to the interview podcast, this is the direct link:
ANTONY VITILLO INTERVIEW – ENGLISH PODCAST
I work with virtual and augmented reality technologies since 2014, when I co-founded Immotionar, a startup that aimed at adding full body of the user inside the virtual world. In my startup journey I learnt a lot about this technologies, both on a development side (so, developing applications in Unity for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, etc…) and on a business side (management of a VR product, analysis of the evolution of the VR market, etc…).
My company got some awards and press coverage, but at last it shut-down. So, now I’m offering what I’ve learnt in this long journey to companies and people who may need it.
Connecting with people has always been a passion, so for my company I’ve been blogger, social media manager and PR.
Since august 2016 I’ve also my own blog The Ghost Howls, where I talk about virtual reality, augmented reality and startup life.
This personal space is making me connect with many interesting people inside the VR ecosystem.
My previous experiences regards what I’ve studied at the university: I’m an engineer of the Politechnic of Turin and I’ve always loved development of any kind of applications, in particular the ones focused on computer vision and computer graphics. (Antony Vitillo)
INTERVIEW – Cecilia Lascialfari vs Antony Vitillo
Cecilia Lascialfari: Hi Antony, can you tell us who you are, how long you have been working in the new technologies sector and how did you get to where you are now?
Antony Vitillo: Hi Cecilia, good morning everyone, I’m Antony Vitillo.
Some of you will know me as “SkarredGhost”, I deal with Virtual Reality for six years now. I fell in love with it in 2014, trying an “Oculus DK2”, the Demo Tuscany… I almost felt like throwing up, but I fell in love with it anyway.
“What I do?” But… what I’m saying “I haven’t the faintest idea”, whatever I’m doing… Officially I’m both a blogger and a virtual reality consultant. I got to do what I’m doing now, simply with passion, trying to throw myself into every project where there could be virtual reality, using this passion of mine and also the blog, to meet many new people, who then have me presented so many opportunities. So, I happen to speak at important conferences and also do interesting projects.
C.L.: Your name in the field of consultancy on new technologies is known both in Italy and abroad. Can you explain to us what AR VR XR is, from the point of view of an expert who addresses an audience of non-experts?
A.V.: Very interesting question and also very difficult to answer in a short time, it would take an entire event to discuss it, but practically, augmented and virtual reality, allow people to see a reality that is not there, synthesized by a computer, which can be combined with real elements.
Let’s take an example. “The Matrix” is the classic example of virtual reality, that is, I start … in that case there was a whole system, invented by enemy machines, which you attach to your body, and I see myself in a world that does not exist.
In addition to the dystopian way of “The Matrix”, you can imagine that you put on a helmet, and you are in the tropics, compared to the boredom of the office, and the place where you are, it has no relation to the place where you are currently. So it’s a teleport, in a digital world.
Augmented reality (AR), on the other hand, is the union of reality and the virtual.
Technically, we should talk about mixed reality. Augmented reality is a type of mixed reality, but I don’t want to complicate this too much…
So let’s take an example: augmented reality is “Pokémon Go”.
When you take Pokémon, you see the real world around you, plus the Pokémon, which obviously doesn’t really exist, is a virtual element added there.
So you have the reality which is the normal one, augmented by virtual elements.
Another example… “Top Gun”, the action movie, about planes, the viewfinder that targets planes. There is no reality, you see a video, which is that of the enemy aircraft, and in addition of the virtual elements, which in this case is the viewfinder. They tell you where the enemy elements are, etc. etc. These are augmented reality and virtual reality.
C.L.: With the Corona Virus, Italy also realized that technology could save the situation. Which VR platforms for online conferences would you recommend to those who have never used one and why? And which headsets would you recommend buying?
A.V.: I’ll start with the second part of the question, “Which headsets?”.
Right now, if you are a “home user”, I recommend Oculus Quest, which for 400 euros gives you most of the value, gives you interesting content, it can work wirelessly, Stand-Alone mode, it can work like a computer, it’s the best you can find.
If you are a business, the speech it becomes much more complicated, maybe we will face it a second time.
Speaking instead of platforms for virtual events, it depends on what you have to do, because there are so many.
One that I use a lot is VRChat, because it has many users, it also allows you to customize what you want to do in the event, it allows you to have interactions, so it has its own custom AR/VR, it’s very interesting from this point of view.
Many people also use Engage, which is great for workshops, or AltSpace VR which is great for organizing stand-up comedies, for example, and doing community around events.
C.L.: You participate as a speaker in international events such as the AWE which took place recently, this year completely online and you are very inclined towards abroad. Do you think that Italy is ready to integrate these new technologies and bring experts like you into “Virtual Educators” schools and how long do you think it will still take?
A.V.: Personally, I’m not very confident on the Italian market, we are not very reactive with respect to the United States and China, which are very fast with new technologies. I remember that in 2015 we went around talking about Virtual Reality, to IT companies and they didn’t even know what we were talking about… Now, something is moving.
So, I absolutely see a positive trend… There are people interested, communities are forming, but we are still behind. In my opinion at least a year, if not something more than the United States.
We are certainly doing something, I’m seeing interest from industries, especially now that there is Covid, I’m seeing a lot of interest in virtual events and ecommerce initiatives, for education… it took us many years to get to the IWBs, before arriving to VR, in my opinion it will take quite a while…
C.L.: And now let’s move on to the concert of Jean Michel Jarre in virtual reality. On Sunday tuentifirst 21 June Jean Michel Jarre and his avatar performed a world premiere, a virtual reality live that celebrated the tuentituenti 2020 music festival. You participated in the project that took the name of “Alone Together” which took place simultaneously, in real time, on digital platforms both in 2D and 3D. Can you tell us the background of this whole project?
A.V.: Here we would probably need more a film than a quick answer.
I tell the story because it is interesting.
A person I work with, Louis Cacciuttolo, di VRrOOm, has reached an agreement with the French Ministry of Culture, to create a virtual reality concert for the Music Festival. Too bad, that this thing happened, three weeks before the concert date.
So we had to run like crazy, to find the artist we didn’t have, and organize an entire concert, innovative, graphically “cool”, inside VRChat. We made a lot of mistakes, but in the end we made it.
What I learned… I learned that things are not done in three weeks, you have to do them with more time, to be able to design them you need a Project Manager who manages the project well…
I also learned that these tools, like VRChat, are very beautiful, but they are also very crude… which have ruined the experience of the concert for some people, plus there is also the problem of the Trolls, to have to manage… often you can’t, especially in VRChat, in public worlds, you can’t… I can block them in order not to see them anymore, but they can’t be thrown out generically from any world…
We have also learned to manage these situations, because we must knowing how to adapt to these bugs and not giving up, and also being able to work, let’s say “very quickly”, because those who work in virtual reality are often required. We also saw that the people who were able to participate in the VIP version of the concert, the one with Jean-Michel Jarre present in the hall, “LOVED” it.
So there is crazy potential in virtual reality events.