Groundbreaking VR Videos, Demos, and Keynotes

These groundbreaking VR videos, demos, and keynotes extend from the beginning of the modern VR revolution up until today. Are they insightful visions? Or dreams of a fantasy-like future? Your call. Some are a mix of both – revealing new tech developments while simultaneously promising won’t be delivered.  Many are product demos from major players such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Intel. Others are talks and presentations at VR and AR conferences.

We’ve used some of these VR videos in our workshops and presentations, but new developments in Augmented and Virtual Reality have quickly dated many of them. Some projects have already been shelved (e.g., Intel’s Project Alloy, sadly). But with the rollercoaster tech ride we’re on, they could reappear in the future. Regardless of their status today, they are all are signposts on our journey to a virtual future.

The most recent VR videos are at the top, with the older ones following. We’ll add more product demos and presentations as they are released. We hope this list will have some value as a historical overview.

Please let us know if you have recommendations on other videos that should be included here.

AR, Mixed Reality, and VR Videos

Unreal Engine 5 Revealed – A Next-gen Demo of Graphics in the Future

Epic Games says its new graphics engine is a “quantum leap” that will arrive in 2021. The demo is stunning, with cinematic quality visuals running on a PlayStation 5. Strictly speaking, this trailer has nothing to do with VR, but what shows up on your screen next year may well be in your HMD a few years later. Epic admittedly cut a few corners here, running the demo at 30 frames-per-second. But they promise that developers will be able to achieve the same quality at higher framerates.

For now, just enjoy nine minutes of breathtaking graphics.


When the Virtual is Real -The Varjo VR Headset and Volvo’s Design Work

If you’re going to drive while wearing a VR headset (and right now, you shouldn’t), the Varjo HMD is the one to wear. Varjo is a technology startup from Finland that creates expensive high-end virtual Reality and mixed reality headsets. We tried them out at Augmented World Expo 2019, and they’ll be at the Unite Copenhagen conference in September 2019.

The visual quality? As photo-realistic as you could expect.

But here’s the remarkable part in the video below. Volvo Cars now using the cutting-edge HMDs in their development work. It’s the first time you’ll see someone in a nonautonomous vehicle driving while wearing a mixed reality HMD.


Magic Leap Shows Off

So the Magic Leap One finally arrived (how long was that wait?), and while it’s a developer’s HMD, it came with a couple of fascinating experiences consumers would love. Most impressive was the collaboration between Sigur Rós and Magic Leap Studios to visualize the DNA of the innovative group’s sound. The result was Tónandi, an audio-visual experience that shows the potential of Magic Leap and Mixed Reality.


Ushering in a New Era of Windows Mixed Reality – October 2017

This is Alex Kipman’s 35-minute talk and demo at a Windows Mixed Reality event in San Francisco on October 3rd. The event marked the introduction of the Samsung Odyssey HMD – one of five Windows VR headsets to be released in fall 2017.

Is this the birth of consumer VR? A new era of a spatial operating system? You decide. Kipman did wear the Samsung VR headset for most of the demo. As always, Microsoft gets credit for some serious live demos. And unlike the old days of Bill Gates getting owned by the Blue Screen of Death in the Windows 98 debut, they usually work.


“On Worlds and Visitors” – Jessica Brillhart at the Sonar+D Conference, Barcelona – June 2017

In this talk, Jessica Brillhart, the Principal FIlmmaker at Google, questions the role of the filmmaker in the rapidly changing Virtual Reality space. Traditional concepts that we have relied upon – editing, storytelling, and acting – no longer make sense in an emerging media that incorporates agency, presence. In conversation with Jeremy Boxer, Brillhart takes us through her experiments, both what’s worked and the failures “to better understand what VR wants from creators.”


F8 Keynote – Mark Zuckerberg’s Keynote at the Facebook Developer Conference – April 2017

Here’s part of Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote at the 2017 Developer conference with its focus on AR, VR, and AI. This is the one where he announces that the camera is the first platform for augmented reality. Given the challenges in developing a decent pair of AR Glasses, he’s not far off. In another year, Apple and Google will follow his lead on this. For more on the conference, you can read our summary of the F8 2017.

Intel Demos the First Walk-around VR Video Experience – January 2017

At CES 2017, Intel showed off what they termed volumetric video. Instead of the usual 360° video where you’re stationary and only turn your head around in an immersive scene, you can now look around objects. Of course, this comes with a caveat which you might want to share with your IT department – the video runs at 3 GB per frame. Intel also pulled off another demo of Project Alloy at CES 2017 this year.


Social VR is Coming – Facebook’s Demo at the OC3 Conference – October 2016 

The Oculus Connect conference provided us with a glimpse of Facebook’s research in Social VR. The Social VR Testbed was introduced at the Spring 2016 F8 event, but six months is a world of difference. The latest avatars now have hand gestures, and some basic facial expressions have been incorporated into the experience. See our thoughts on OC3 and Social VR at Facebook’s Social VR at OC3 is Amazing.  


Intel’s Mixed Reality through Project Alloy – August 2016

Of all the VR videos and demos we’ve seen (lost count long ago), the Intel Project Alloy video remains our favorite. The concept video at the 2016 Intel Developer Forum comes across as a Matrix-like environment bullet-time event at a party. Intel calls it Merged Reality, “a new way of experiencing physical and virtual interactions and environments across VR/AR/Mixed Realities through a suite of next-generation sensing, digitizing, and computing technologies.”

For a self-contained wireless headset with hand gesture recognition, Intel is setting a high bar. Too high, actually. The project was shelved earlier this year. Though now dated, you can read our initial reaction at Intel’s Amazing New VR Headset – Project Alloy.

As VR videos go, this is an utterly eye-opening demonstration.


Magic Leap and ILMxLab – June 2016

Is it an illusion? Vaporware? It’s been a long wait for a demo out of Magic Leap, the Mixed Reality startup in Florida. So far, the video is all we have – and some of them turned out to be faked. Critics are wondering if they’ve run into production issues. For now, you have to live the dream.

[Update: December 2017, Magic Leap’s HMD has been announced though we still have nothing more than some images.]

[Update: September 2018. We have an HMD from Magic Leap. You can check the recent observations from Outer Realm and Palmer Luckey’s somewhat brutal takedown.]


NASA JPL HoloLens Curiosity Rover – May 2016


Netflix does a VR’ video store’ for the company’s Hack Day – May 2016

Tilt Brush: Artistic Creativity in VR – May 2016 

Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with Virtual Reality. Unleash your creativity with three-dimensional brush strokes, stars, light, and even fire. Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.

Enough said. Just do it.


Facebook’s F8 Conference – Spring 2016

Ah, the early days when it seemed like there was a market without limit and no trough of disillusionment. Facebook’s (public) optimism has never waned, but the spring 2016 F8 conference seems like a different era.

Penrose Studio – Introducing Allumette – April 2016

Allumette burst on the VR scene at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016. Billed as one of the first “long-form” VR films (at around 20 minutes), there were concerns that people would not spend that much time in a VR experience. But when you follow this young girl in a story of love and sacrifice, it is utterly captivating. You find yourself in a miniature city floating in the clouds. As you move around, you realize you can “push through” the walls and watch the characters in the rooms. Multiple scenes play out simultaneously.

Based on the story of “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen, Allumette is the second production from Penrose Studio. More at Allumette: The First VR Film Masterpiece?


Virtual Reality – SteamVR featuring the HTC Vive – April 2016

A quick look at the games and experiences that come with the HTC Vive headset on the SteamVR platform.


Google Cardboard Plastic – April 1st, 2016

The Google virtual reality April Fools prank.


Alex Kipman: A futuristic vision of the age of holograms – February 2016

An incredible demo by Microsoft at TED 2016, revealing how we will work and play in the future. Wearing HoloLens, Alex Kipman brings JPL scientist Jeff Norris to the TED stage through the first instance of “Holographic Teleportation.”


Meron Gribetz: A glimpse of the future through an augmented reality headset – February 2016

What if technology could connect us more deeply with our surroundings instead of distracting us from the real world? With Meta 2, an augmented reality headset that makes it possible for users to see, grab, and move holograms just like physical objects, Meron Gribetz wanted to extend our senses through a more natural interface. Unfortunately, Meta bit the dust in early 2019, along with a few other AR companies. But it was a different time with the first demo of Meta 2 at TED 2016 featuring a Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson. Meta has resurfaced recently, so don’t count the Mixed Reality visor, or this VR video interview, out altogether.


Nonny de la Pena: The Future of News? Virtual Reality

Nonny de la Pena has been at the forefront of virtual reality developments before the era of Oculus Rift. Here she is at the TEDWomen 2015 thinking ahead on how the news will be experienced in the future. She asks: “What if you could experience a story with your entire body, not just with your mind?” It has been her mission to create VR experiences that not only impact your mind but your entire body.


3 Ways Virtual Reality Can Enhance Learning (2015)

Our own take on Virtual Reality from the early days. This is a short interview with us at the EDUCAUSE Annual conference in 2015. There was a growing interest in using VR in education, but most faculty and staff hadn’t tried it. Yes, that meant bringing Google Cardboards to workshops and prepping participants’ smartphones. But the journey – and our journey – was underway, and we’ve come a long way from these early days.


Step into Rift – Facebook’s Oculus Rift Announcement – June 2015

So we watched and waited – as there would be no Virtual Reality HMD until 2016. But it was still tantalizing, and if you had seen or used DK1 Developer’s version, you needed this.


Facebook F8 – Michael Abrash ‘Why Virtual Reality Will Matter to You’ – Spring 2015

Here’s Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist at Facebook, selling the vision of Virtual Reality back in 2015.


Palmer Luckey, Official Presentation on the Oculus Rift – January 27th, 2013

Don’t worry. We have no illusions. Virtual Reality didn’t begin with Palmer Luckey tinkering in a garage. The history goes back to 1965 with contributions from a vast number of people. But the modern consumer VR Revolution makes something of a public debut here. It’s a new beginning for immersive tech in our era.

We could go back even further, but this already feels like ancient history.