Richmond, VA Could Become a Mid-Atlantic Virtual Reality Hotspot

For being a relatively small capital city more known for its historical significance than its progressive culture and tech-forwardness, Richmond, Virginia has been making quite a splash over the past five years.

In 2014, Frommer's dubbed the city one of its "Top Destinations" for travel, a destination newcomer compared with dream vacation spots Rio De Janeiro, Bali, and Taiwan. Just last year Richmond was selected as one of realtor.com's "Next Top Tech Towns", noting that the city is "backed by a state tax credit that encourages early-stage investment in tech startups, and talent from schools like Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond". According to a brand-new ranking by the "drinking obsessed" folks over at VinePair, Richmond is 2018's number one beer destination in the world. Combine that with the second highest growth rate in millennial relocation in recent years and you've got a recipe for a buzz. 

Cheap cost-of-living? Check. Entrepreneurially friendly, tech-forward culture? Check. Some of the world's best beer? Check. Millennials on every corner? Check.

And while all these features lay a healthy foundation for a city's potential to develop into a VR/AR tech and content production powerhouse, there are a number of even more compelling arguments in support of Richmond's heir-apparance to the Mid-Atlantic VR throne:

  1. Richmond is home to Virginia Commonwealth University, perpetually regarded as one of the nations top collegiate Fine Arts programs. Between its top-ranked film school and innovative platforms like its Advanced Media Production Technology program, VCU's School of the Arts could grab the reigns and play a major roll in developing the thought- and production-leaders of the new frontiers of immersive cinema.
  2. VCU also boasts a nationally ranked Medical Center with both Research and Teaching faculties. If you read my first blog post on the "current reality" of Virtual Reality, you'll know that I'm a major proponent of the potential for VR to dramatically and positively impact the healthcare industry. Just as in the case of its Arts program, VCU could lever its Medical Center and the school's Research and Teaching departments to become vitally integrated in the future of healthcare technology.
  3. The state of Virginia invests heavily in promoting tourism and film production and in recent years has reaped the fruits of its labors: during Governor Terry McCauliffe's four-year administration the state saw the tourism industry grow by $2.2 billion. The same benefits that directed the production of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, AMC's TURN, and most recently Showtime's Homeland to Richmond should entice future immersive media productions to the area.
  4. While often overshadowed by the "usual suspect" production locales like Hollywood and New York City, Richmond has a thriving media production industry, home to not only a number of award-winning production houses but also advertising juggernauts The Martin Agency. It takes little creativity to imagine the seemingly endless applications of VR/AR in advertising, and it's safe to assume that Richmond's production scene stands ready to deliver.

I could go on and on, really, but for the sake of brevity I'll stop with just these few examples of the promise that Richmond holds for a vital future of VR/AR tech and content development. As awareness and understanding of the technology begins to come more into the public consciousness, I hope that the many institutions referenced here and the many more that went without mention seize their moment in the rapidly adapting technology ecosystem. It may feel like the Wild Wild West of the VR/AR Industry, but what better time for a city to make its presence heard loud and clear?

Interested in learning more about Virtual and Augmented Reality production currently going on in Richmond, Virginia? Check out the Richmond Chapter of the VR/AR Association and join us at one of our upcoming events!

Musician, audio engineer, and entrepreneur, David Waltenbaugh has spent much of the last decade actively working with studios and clients in Richmond, Virginia on everything from recording and audio post production to business strategy and development. Most recently David has applied his interest, knowledge, and expertise in audio and media production to the worlds of Virtual and Augmented Reality through the creation of Media Plural, a digital media production and strategy company focusing on the capture, production, and implementation of spatial audio, 360 video, and other new forms of immersive media. Outside of the media industry, he has worked in investments for more than a decade. A (nearly) lifelong Richmonder, David holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics from Virginia Commonwealth University.

David Waltenbaugh