VR penetrates into all aspects of our lives.
Sam Watts is Director of Immersive Technology at Make Real, based in Brighton; they created a variety of VR products and experiences for small and large companies.
VR is still an uncharted territory for many businesses. How do you manage expectations?
There are many things but it is also very important to find a valid use case. There is a lot of hype around VR and some people just want to mark a certain type of innovation. For us it is very important that the market and user base continue to grow, but we ensure that the content we create is a valid use for VR.
Oculus Quest has now been released. How big is this difference for VR adoption?
That makes a big difference because it removes some of the barriers to entry that usually make people leave. Previously you needed a high-end PC or laptop to run the headset and you needed an external sensor for the full VR experience. So there is a lot of clutter and wiring. But now the computer is in the headset and has inside-out tracking - a camera on the headset that continuously scans the geometry of the environment to determine its position in the world when tracking the hand controller - so everything is ready to use.
VR is regularly used as a training tool, right?
The most obvious use of VR training is the ability to place people in the world that represent a sector or aspect, but training can be done safely because there is no danger of them hurting themselves. This can be a nuclear reactor, say, or a construction site. This also saves money because you don't need to interfere with your daily work with people who practice on the spot. You can also add an element of consistency because the experience is the same every time. People will need on-site training in the end but you will be able to reach the basic level faster.
And what about the meeting?
Global companies will often spend a lot of money flying to regional offices for meetings. That's a lot of cost, a lot of time and high environmental impact. So there are applications - like Rumii or ENGAGE - where you can wear a headset, join a private room and ask for a 3-D avatar to represent you in meetings with people from all over the world. By tracking the heads, hands, and fingers of individuals who are available, you begin to recognize people in VR from their natural movements and the nuances of their subconscious movements.
Maybe one day it can be used at school?
Yes, that can be the focus of education for schools. Everyone can, say, be a 3-D model of the Great Pyramid.
What other industries can use it?
Architects own and visualize buildings from 2-D to 3-D as usual. This is a natural development from reading something on the screen to actually stepping into the building. You can do everything on a 1: 1 scale so you can understand where the design might not work. The light might be cut off in a certain way or the overall aesthetic - the feeling you are trying to create when someone enters the building - is not reached.
If we walk around the building, can the real estate agent use it?
Yes, you can make a 3-D scan of a house or building and visit from the office instead of having to meet people every time
The ability to see other people's environments can also be a powerful tool for change?
Correct. You can put someone in someone else's position and help them understand their perspective and position. This can help us all to better accept each other's beliefs and situations.
And what about the medical industry?
Also, corpses are expensive so that VR can allow nurse doctors trainees to get some training before working on the actual body.