Clive Downie and I are sitting in a hotel suite at the Loews Hollywood conducting a video interview about virtual reality as the inaugural Vision Summit unfolds on the hotel grounds below. Midway through our dialogue, the chief marketing officer for Unity Technologies suggests that we don’t even have to be sitting across from each other to necessarily have our discussion.

With VR, Downie says the room and its space can be rendered, just as each person can, and we can be speaking to each other remotely as our avatars interact, and a camera takes it all in. Good bye phones, Skype and cross-country flights for a monotonous meeting – there’s a new way to conduct business and deliver content.

“Just imagine what that unlocks, and how virtual reality extends to other examples,” Downie says. “It’s going to create more opportunities for reality to be mirrored.”

Over 1,400 attendees from all walks of VR and AR life made their way to Los Angeles last week to take in the Vision Summit – a conference where the the likes of Google, Sony and Oculus forecasted the inevitable VR storm that is coming. _DSF5006

With over 5.5 million registered users and a 30 percent share of the top-1,000 grossing games in the world, Unity Technologies has cemented its seat in the gaming space as the developer of Unity, one of the most-popular licensed 3D and 2D engines. They’re now continuing to add VR as a vital focus to the gaming ecosystem.

They recently announced a collaboration with Valve to offer native support for SteamVR in the Unity Platform. The partnership gives VR developers a rendering plugin to further enhance functionality. A scene editor allows developers to create 3D games while moving around inside the 3D environments.

“What’s going on today is nothing short of a revolution. The time for for VR and AR has come. The promise of decades is here … There has never been a better time,” says John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity Technologies. He then immediately warns: “The near term challenges are costs. It’s going to be expensive to get everything you want. 2016 is not the year for mass affordable VR.”

Downie, a former chief operating officer for the social gaming company Zynga, joined [a]listdaily to discuss Unity’s core principles, as well as marketing the mushrooming space that is virtual reality.

What are Unity’s principles designed to accomplish? How are you marketing and positioning the company?

The foundation of the company is to democratize development, and that’s something we live and breathe everyday. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the games business for over 25 years – making games is hard. We started out to make that easier for people by bringing people together, by ensuring that we have a community of developers who are unified around a central tool – the Unity Engine. We want to allow developers to talk to each other, share best practices with each other and make it as easy as possible to learn from the mistakes of others just so that there’s focus in creativity. Democratizing development is still an integral part of our business. If you earn less than $100,000, the Unity Engine is free because we want as many people as possible to use it. We don’t want creators to be impeded.

The second is solving hard problems. It’s subjective, so you have to narrow that down a bit. So, it’s hard problems we can predict over the horizon. We solve hard problems everyday within our Unity Engine tool. We release quarterly updates of the Unity editor to continue solving problems in graphical fidelity, scripting and 2D editing. Then there are problems in AR and VR, which is why we introduced an editor at the Vision Summit to optimize the VR space for maximum presence to the customer.

The third principle is enabling success. We realize that there is a life cycle around the creation, maintenance, and running of the game. It’s not just about the production. That’s the first part. People make games, but after they’ve launched it, it’s about making sure that’s as good as it can be for the customer. Games are services, and you need to continue updating your service to make it relevant and credible and delightful, which is why we have such tools like Unity Ads and Unity Cloud. Our analytics tool, for example, provides that kind of value. Unity has a 30 percent share of the top-1,000 grossing games in the world. That equates to 1.5 billion downloads of Unity games per month. Imagine the data that comes back from that network size – insights like devices they should be developing for, and chip sets they should be focusing on. Ultimately, we exist at the center of the creative and game developer universe. clive-downie-zynga-coo

How will Unity empower developers and content creators in the VR space?

We feel encumbered to reduce the noise at this moment in time to understand the opportunity, and what they need to be thinking about. VR and AR is going to be a spectacular moment for how hundreds and hundreds and billions and billions of consumers globally consume content. It will happen. We are very sure of that. It’s going to happen on a slower trajectory than many are predicting. Being at the center, we see so much. We see what developers need. We see what hardware, software and other tech companies are doing.

What is the common thread of feedback in terms of optimism and pain-points developers are sharing?

The common theme is people are excited, as we all are. People understand there is a major opportunity that’s about to happen. People are in exploration mode, and they need to know that’s OK. There’s a risk, and a gamble. They want to know if this is going to pay off. Being in the fortunate position in which we are, we see so much potential. Some of the great century companies of tomorrow were sitting in the room at the Vision Summit.

There’s been plenty of highs and false starts throughout the history of VR. What’s it going to take for VR to be adopted by a mass audience?

All great inventions over the course of history have done this: they make people’s lives better. It’s that simple. … I think VR and AR will do that over the course of the next five years. When it does, you’ll see a planet-wide adoption like you’ve seen with smart phones, for example.

You’re a father and a family man. Are you ready for family nights of isolated experiences? Is it dangerous to disconnect with each other?

I don’t think that’s going to be the case. VR and AR are going to be the exact opposite. It’s going to allow you to go to places, environments and moments and share them with other human beings in ways you haven’t been able to share them before. That’s going to be the mark of making a difference. … That’s the power of VR and AR. It’s actually going to allow to bind people together in ways they haven’t before.

What kind of content is it going to take for that to happen?

It needs to be content that could bring people together in a social manner. Educational content, like learning a language, is another. You don’t have to be limited to a physical space anymore. The applications are limitless. We’re just scratching the surface.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan.