‘In ten years, we may all have virtual reality spectacles in our pockets’ 17.10.16

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With 2016 predicted to be the VR industry’s first billion-dollar year, we asked Georgina Wilczek, director of this week’s VR & AR World conference in London, where the sector is heading

ICON Virtual reality is having something of a moment. Is this conference particularly timely?

GEORGINA WILCZEK New headset launches in Europe this autumn, including PlayStation VR and Microsoft HoloLens, have meant that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two of the hottest topics in the technology industry. The VR and AR market is forecast to generate billions of dollars in revenue by 2025, and we are seeing great interest from all sides in how best to unlock the potential of these new technologies.

VR & AR World is the first time that the most exciting companies in these industries have been brought together in Europe on such a large scale. We will have more than 140 speakers at the show, sharing case studies of how VR and AR are opening up new possibilities across sectors including heavy industry, entertainment, education and retail. We will be exploring how companies such as Boeing, Ikea, Jaguar Land Rover, Bosch Engineering and Arup are using VR and AR to support their business objectives.

ICON What are the main themes that are likely to emerge in the VR and AR fields over the coming years?

GW Until now, VR and AR technology has largely been confined to the gaming and entertainment industries, enjoyed by die-hard tech and gaming enthusiasts due to its limited applications and the damage it could inflict on the wallet. However, the technology industry is realising that its potential spans much further – particularly as newer headsets have eradicated many of the picture quality issues previously associated with CGI technology.

One of the main attractions of the conference is that it will highlight the various ways in which VR and AR could be applied in business – whether it is to help streamline business manufacturing processes or engage and attract new customers in retail. Creativity in the industry is particularly high at the moment and we are excited to see how far this can be taken as increasingly useful and innovative ideas move from the drawing board into reality.

Given the infancy of both technologies, there are still a number of challenges that the industry needs to overcome, which will also be discussed. This includes methods in 360-degree filming, pixilation, latency, mitigating nausea, and being able to transmit data-heavy media to multiple user devices, both live and on-demand. It will be interesting to see how the industry comes together to overcome these obstacles, setting the industry on course for the next generation of products and applications.

ICON What might designers and architects take away from the event?

GW VR and AR stand to make a huge difference to the way in which designers and architects operate. Today, companies are able to produce CGI versions of buildings for clients to walk through while they are still in the concept phase. Designs can also now be easily presented to a much wider audience, in a more detailed way. These abilities are a real asset, which can help negotiations with clients and make an architect’s work even more engaging.

Representatives of the design firm Arup will be speaking at the conference about its use of VR and AR to create virtual buildings and environments. We also have a real estate panel discussion, which will look at how estate agents can utilise VR as an extension to existing 360-degree static photo technology. It will explore how VR ‘walk-round’ technology can help those who are unable to visit a site in person, or those looking to purchase something off-plan.

ICON Is there an overall message about VR’s future role in our lives?

GW The way in which we consume media has changed a great deal over the past 10 years alone, putting the smartphone way ahead of newspapers, television and radio. Mobile devices now stand at the forefront of how we consume media and communicate with others. Yet it is conceivable to think that in another ten years or so, we may well all have our own VR and AR spectacles in our pockets too. There are many amazing ways in which both VR and AR can have an impact on the way we live and work and, with such a huge amount of investment being poured into the sector, it is likely that both technologies will be with us for a long time.

VR & AR World, ExCeL London, 19-20 October 2016

 

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Until now, VR and AR technology has largely been confined to gaming and entertainment, but the technology industry is realising that its potential spans much further

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