By Doug Hunter
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are here to stay and will become ever more prominent in as time ticks on.
Pokemon Go!’s recent boom in popularity and almost as quick decline may be a hazy memory in people’s minds, but it has left the world a different place. Even our previously non tech savvy friends and family know about AR now. Virtual reality was previously a thing discussed in sci-fi films but is now a topic of casual conversation. Someone who didn’t know that AR and VR existed at the turn of 2016 could now give an elevator pitch on how each is different.
VR allows us to enter a completely different world and leave the current one behind. This is ideal for some when there is so much inequality, suffering, confusion and hate in the ‘real world’ right now.
With VR, people can escape to anywhere. We’re already seeing some amazing possibilities with increasingly powerful headsets coming to market. Developers are fighting for the limelight with more and more beautiful games and experiences that take people far beyond the confines of our universe. These are places where science doesn’t follow the same rules: Whatever the mind imagines people can make it in a VR experience.
From Eagle Flight
…the possibilities are endless.
The other day, while sitting at my desk in the heart of Shoreditch, I took a private tour of Pyongyang through Google Cardboard. I felt like I was visiting North Korea. Despite being a five minute walk from Old Street station I was spinning around on my swivel chair taking in sights from a very different nation on the other side of the world!
Micro holidays on my lunch break, how cool is that?
I have recently been thinking a lot about what VR can offer industries further than gaming, and am only scratching the surface with this… The more I think about any industry, the more VR has the potential to be a game changer.
This type of experience needn’t be limited to entertainment, the business implications are impressive too. Remember when you first went on Skype and people could talk from across the globe with video connections? Meetings had so much potential, soon we will be able to connect and share projects in 3D without leaving the office. We will be able to virtually transport ourselves to points in space around the world and interact with people on a far more intimate level.
I have been speaking a lot to the team from Rentr – a property management platform for the private residential letting market. The team is constantly developing its platform, yes they work in property but at heart, they are pure technologists – constantly looking to make lives easier and cheaper for both private landlords and their tenants.
Adam Blaxter discussed his views on VR saying that, “Here at Rentr we are deeply invested in property technology, and VR is a buzzword in the PropTech industry today. Between all enterprise domains, the property vertical is the most natural home for VR – there is a natural use-case for virtual experiences of living spaces and future developments – so the speed of development of VR has us all very excited. Our primary developers at Technology Blueprint have already put together PoCs (Proofs of Concept) for us on VR viewings of properties, but the dedicated efforts of teams like at Google Tango are changing the game with hardware that is opening up the space for 3D environmental modelling in real time for VR applications for example. You only need to search for companies like Matterport and PropertyScape to see that work is underway across the board. Through the course of 2017 I expect to see more consumer-grade experiences emerging for mobile-enabled devices, but more importantly still more premium experiences for the top end of the market.”
Car designers will soon be walking around a car designed in London, modeled in Thailand and projected through VR in front of the eyes of people in Germany, The US, Japan and anywhere else simultaneously. All so that executives can ponder on whether they should make it in Sunderland. This is all before the artists with the clay models build a millimeter perfect model, saving a lot of time and money.
I have worked in automotive clay modeling in the past and don’t believe the process will be lost any time soon, but more and more design agencies are going to be able to get their ideas to the people that matter quickly, before final clay builds are ordered.
Surgeons in India might be able to call on the advice and expertise of a specialist in Cuba when performing a procedure that they haven’t been through before – demonstrated in high definition in a country many miles away. In fact YouTube tutorials are about to change forever!
I then asked my friends at at Promogogo, whose service streamlines ticket sales, what they thought of VR too, their reply was: “Imagine if VR recording tech existed back in the day and we could relive iconic moments like Queen’s 1985 Wembley performance – or the Nirvana’s 1992 Reading one? We think it’s very cool and will help drive interest for live events where people from around the world will be able to watch not only what is on stage but get a feeling for being in the audience.”
In November 2015 I went to a Virtual Reality exploration into the future of nightlife which, in reality, was a marketing ploy brought to us by Absolut Vodka. Stunt or not though, the event was great and the VR room was something to behold. After playing VR games in early development and seeing some seriously interesting uses for VR in engineering, this was the first time that I really lost myself in a new world.
This got me to thinking. Everyone talks about the obvious uses of VR, the ones most likely to mean headset sales go mass market but it is possible that the very things we might set out to avoid through VR, by disappearing into these alternate universes, will benefit the most from it?
Can we make the world a better place for those that need it most through VR experiences?
This might sound dark, but if 5 years from now we aren’t getting live reporting from war zones, natural disaster sites, refugee camps, and so on, in VR, then I will be hugely disappointed.
Hear me out… I don’t want to see the terror as if I am playing Call of Duty, far from it.
Think about what might happen if people could immerse themselves into the war zones of today, they will hopefully come out thinking “there has to be a better way!” On the ground experience of terror could finally bring about a new shift in mentality, towards greater humanity, people may push for better policies and less fighting if they have ‘been there’.
Humanitarian work can benefit on many levels. Imagine people from a wealthy, western nation being able to walk around a refugee camp in VR, tell me the average donation from someone that sees the problems first hand, as if they were there, won’t be larger than those that saw a TV ad or a statistic in the paper?
First we had the internet, then we had internet 2.0. The next major step was the mobile revolution with more people reading the news nowadays on a mobile device than on a computer. This goes to show that constant connectivity is changing everything about the world we live in. Imagine if VR becomes the next wave of change finally bringing a level of global, personal connectivity that was thought impossible a matter of years ago. We already have too much news input, with less objective analysis or perspective.
Overload and compassion fatigue are already with us due, in part, to over reporting. Will the first news and charity outreach campaigns using VR be the ones that are remembered for years to come for changing this?
I believe that this VRevolution is coming. I just hope that we will use it overwhelmingly for good, not just for piloting drones and entertaining the wealthy.