Virtual and Augmented Reality: what does the future hold?

Two of the brightest burning stars in the technology landscape. Four of Australia’s leading experts. We look at the key takeouts from our virtual reality event.

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Child wearing virtual reality headset with abstract bright globe image overlay

Virtual reality encompasses a range of 3D computer simulated environments and associated hardware. Augmented reality, by comparison, is about the world we live in – supplemented with extra information like sound, video or other data.

Over two hours at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre, these two technologies were the focus for four of Australia’s leading experts in the field.

What makes these technologies so disruptive, what are the opportunities and what are the moral quandaries we’ll need to overcome to bring them into widespread consumer acceptance?

On the panel, moderated by the Director of the RMIT Creative Interventions, Arts and Rehabilitative Technology Lab, Dr Jonathan Duckworth, were:

 

So what insights were uncovered? We’ve pulled some of the most powerful quotes from the evening to help you understand where the technology is going.

On the commercial applications of augmented reality

Emily Harridge:

“In terms of brands who are doing things well, I think IKEA's putting themselves out there having kitchens that you can design and walk around… McDonald's are doing a lot with virtual reality and associating themselves with the packaging that can be made into a VR headset from a Happy Meal box.

“[In terms of] augmented reality … you can't go past Pokemon Go which I read has made more than $440 million and $3 million a day just on in-app purchases.”

Chris Mackenzie:

“We've been working with hospitals who've been looking to essentially reduce the amount of time their equipment needs to be used for any training purposes. The MRIs, for example: sometimes they'll need to have a whole MRI just set aside.

“If you can actually offload that you've got a fully functioning device and you can increase the throughput of hospital tests by quite a large percentage.”

On why VR is seeing a resurgence now

Stefan Greuter:

“What's different about VR today is that computers are faster now and the tracking is more accurate and reliable and capable of providing people with the experiences that are commensurate with the quality of computer games.

”[The potential for] high volume sales means that the devices are now affordable to consumers, and more devices means higher development budgets which generally provides an environment for more high-quality experiences.”

On the challenges VR faces

Stefan Greuter:

“First and foremost I think the biggest challenge for virtual reality and augmented reality is the same today than it was in the '80s, that is the expectation we have of the medium.

“When we talk about virtual reality, what we actually really mean is a head-mounted display at the moment and headphones and controllers that allow us to inhabit and interact with the virtual environment.

“If we truly want a virtual reality experience we need to track our entire body as well as what happens in the space that we occupy and simulate all of our centers, not just our vision and our audible sense.

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On the ethics of augmented and virtual reality

Chris Mackenzie:

“[Augmented reality] is a technology that understands the world, and that means you are … essentially creating a type of computer that has more awareness - an embodied awareness - of what it is and what it's looking at than ever before.

“If we consider the kind of ethical privacy questions that we've been asking when things like the Google van drives down the street and takes photos, they're only going to compound when people are able to see and perceive using computers that are pervasive in everywhere.”

Emily Harridge:

“[In virtual realities] you'll have someone else who might reach out and touch [the player] and that's confronting.

“As content creators, I think we have to take responsibility for just being aware … of what the person who is going to be inside your game or inside your experience is going to be feeling and experiencing all these things. It's important to factor that in when you're designing the game and experience.”

On the challenges of VR as a marketing tool

Emily Harridge:

“There's plenty of good ideas around but there's often not the budgets to match them so but there's the challenges there. There's a challenge in educating clients about what the production process is and so there's a lot of education that's taking place at the moment and we're doing a lot of demos.”

On VR’s impact on healthcare

Dr Jonathan Duckworth:

“I think virtual reality will play a major role in the Allied Health space, particularly around mental health, the treatment of mental health, and other phobias and conditions.

"Just exposing people to a variety of scenarios, whether it's treating phobias of spiders, or distractions, people might be undergoing a painful surgery or other procedures, and virtual reality has been shown to sort of distract patients from the pain of some of those procedures."

 

Listen to the full event on SoundCloud or iTunes.

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