Virtual Reality Experience

Downtown San Jose is home to many beloved and long-standing events such as Cinequest.

The Fairmont Hotel (Pagoda Lounge) plus two SoFA district venues, the California Theatre and Anno Domini, feature VR gallery experiences that surprise, delight and kind of freak out those new to the experience (read more about my day in SoFA here).

Being in the tech capital of the universe, it’s fitting that Virtual Reality experiences have made their way to the cutting-edge Cinequest festival. With me is Silicon Valley Product Manager Justin Smith, who’s worked for tech giants including VMWare, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Hitachi Data Systems and Cisco.

Here’s a snapshot of the experience from both perspectives:

California Theatre

The Un-Tech Perspective:
This virtual reality experience showcases two short films including a view from around the world. After putting on a headset, you are  immersed in new geographies and feel like an observer. The movements you make allow you to see different parts of the environment, but you can’t move or interact in any way.

Virtual Reality Experience1

The Tech Perspective:

Samsung Gear VR


  • Ideal for watching 360 videos on Apps like YouTube and Within.
  • Easy to set up. You only need to insert a compatible Samsung phone into the headset.
  • Least expensive option of the three.


  • Not ideal for gaming or interactive experiences.
  • Has the lowest resolution of the three.
  • Doesn’t have head tracking or positional tracking for room-scale VR
  • Doesn’t support complex motion sensing controllers for interactive experiences

Virtual Reality Experience2

Fairmont Hotel – Pagoda Lounge

The Un-Tech Perspective:

This showcases three different types of virtual reality experiences –  the same experience as the California Theatre plus two immersive experiences. Play a game in VR where you are an eagle flying around Paris. Use head movements to direct flight. Looking down proves nerve-wracking as you soar over the rooftops.


The Tech Perspective:

Playstation VR


  • Compatible with PlayStation 4, one of the most popular gaming consoles.
  • A large PS4 install base will likely translate to popularity with VR developers.
  • More expensive than Samsung Gear VR but cheaper than HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, which require a dedicated PC with a high-end graphics card.
  • Resolution is better than Samsung Gear VR and other similar low-end headsets.


  • More wires and cables needed.
  • More expensive than Samsung Gear VR.
  • Requires a Playstation 4 Pro for best results.
  • Not as many games at HTC Vive.
  • Doesn’t support room-scale VR like HTC Vive.
  • Reuses old PS3 camera and controller technology

Virtual Reality Experience3

The Un-Tech Perspective:
The third experience is a full-room experience. After putting on the VR headgear, you physically walk through the space and interact with a variety of worlds. In one world, you open and close drawers, pet a dog and transport seamlessly. In another world, you  feel like your body  is floating around even though your feet are planted on the ground.

Virtual Reality Experience4

The Tech Perspective:

HTC Vive


  • Provides the best resolution of the three, and the only to provide room-scale VR, but it comes at a high price.
  • Has the best controller for interactive experiences and games.


  • Requires a dedicated PC with high-end graphics card.
  • The most difficult to set up with a number of cables and sensors.
  • Room-scale VR may require customers to move around furniture.

Anno Domini

Virtual Reality Experience5

Anno Domini features three “galleries” where you can have a full-room experience. My favorite is the ability to draw virtually in 3D. As SJDA’s  Director of Marketing, Communications and Events, I can’t help but draw our #dtsj hashtag in the virtual painting program.

The VR experiences at Cinequest truly showcased the best-in-class technology while providing a truly unique experience.

Want to learn more about experiences at Downtown’s biggest events? Mark your calendar for our signature events!