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Visions in VR: Personal Experiences and Industry Insights into the 2017 VR Landscape

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2016 was not, as many industry figures predicted, the year of VR. It was the year of political upheaval and celebrity death. 2017, on the other hand, already seems like a brighter prospect (forgetting politics of course) for the medium, with many of the advances we were promised in 2016 actually touching down a year later. As far as 2016 is concerned, in VR terms, it will probably be remembered as the year that set the ground rules for the medium. 2017, on the other hand, might just be remembered as the year when it finally connected with the mainstream in a legitimate way. And no, I'm not just talking about pornography. For more on the topic you can check out my Tech Meets Creativity piece RIGHT HERE. With this piece, however, I'll be discussing my own personal experiences with VR, examining a few of the upcoming trends and asking some industry experts for their thoughts. Anyway. Let's crack on shall we?

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The Three Big Players

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Oculus Rift

Arguably the big daddy, and the VR trend-setter that got us all a flutter about the medium in the first place, Oculus made headlines last year for being bought out by Facebook, which was a move met with widespread derision from the community. There's also the fact that the unit wasn't really 'completed' until last November when the Oculus Touch controllers were finally released. The Rift is still, however, in my opinion, the best place for newcomers to VR who have the extra money to spare are not interested in video games. That's not to say it doesn't do games well, of course, because it really does, but the Vive offers a fully immersive, room-scale gaming experience that the Rift still can't quite match, not to mention the backing of Valve's Steam platform, and the PSVR has the might of Sony behind it. The Rift, however, easily strikes the best balance between the three in terms of cost, quality and experience.

My first experience with the Oculus Rift was a play through of horror game Monstrum on an old developer model a couple of years ago, and back then I was a little sceptic of the unit. It was blurry, imprecise and uncomfortable to be honest. The consumer model, however, completely knocked it out of the park, I only wish the touch controllers, which I have yet to use myself, were not an option at the time, as using a traditional controller really pulls you out of the experience. The Rift, however, really comes into its own outside of the gaming world and with all of the VR activations and fresh concepts coming our way this year (some of which I'll be exploring later), it might be your best bet.

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HTC Vive

If you ask any tech fiend if they would choose an Oculus Rift and PSVR or a HTC Vive headset, nine times out of ten they'd probably go with the Vive. Whilst Oculus were the first ones out of the gate early last year, HTC really nailed the concept of completely immersive, room-scale VR. The Vive uses tracking boxes placed at either side of the room to create a full virtual space (like the holo-deck in Star Trek) that tracks your movements via the headset itself and the included controllers. Of the three devices the Vive is the one I've spent the least time with, yet it's the one that left the most profound impact on me. I had around an hour with the Rift in which I ducked and dodged bullets, drew a giant penis in 3D space (yes I'm a child) and investigated a murder scene and every moment of it was sheer, perfectly tracked, natural bliss. If HTC is reading. I'll take one!

My only major concerns with the Vive (besides the price, but I'm not going to go on about the price because by this point you all know you'll need at least £2,000 worth of gear to run the Vive and the Rift as intended) is the fact that it requires so much space. Especially in major urban centres like London, very few people will have dedicated rooms large enough to support the room-scale experience offered by the Vive, and if you're just sitting at a desk with it, you might as well go with the slightly more affordable Rift in all honesty.

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PSVR

Considering I was lucky enough to unwrap a PSVR on Christmas morning last month, this is the only platform I've spent any significant amount of time with, so it's the only one I feel equipped to give a full, in depth review, and whilst there are obvious limitations compared to the aforementioned platforms, as a gateway into VR I honestly think Sony have hit the nail on the proverbial head. Firstly, the unit itself is a glorious construction, all slick lines and curves, with a definite science fiction influence that makes it look like the future, even if the build quality of the unit feels a little lacklustre when compared to the big boys. It might also be a little heavier than the Rift and the Vive, but it's infinitely more comfortable due to some clever design work and a remarkably comfortable head strap. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the price is definitely right. A brand new PS4 will set you back around £300 and the VR unit itself £350, with the move controllers that read your hand movements retailing for £70 and the camera that tracks them retailing for £40. That sets the whole shebang at under £800, which is more than half what a full Vive or Oculus setup would set you back. Granted the experience isn't quite as revelatory (especially when compared to the Vive), but it is comparable.

The games themselves, thus far, have proven to be something of a mixed bag. Of the three games I purchased on day one, the standout was definitely Batman: Arkham VR. It was all over in less than an hour, and it took almost that long to get the camera properly aligned for it, but the level of immersion was outstanding. I was so immersed, in fact, that as I was playing through it on the early hours of Boxing Day morning, numerous family members apparently came and went without my knowledge, getting a good laugh as they watched me swinging about in a kind of drunken dance, completely oblivious to my surroundings. The other two games were the VR Worlds mini game collection and horror game Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. The former was little more than a collection of brief experiences, the best of which was a very sweary, Guy Ritchie indebted London Heist mission, and the latter was definitely scary, but only in 'jump-out-of-your-seat' way, not in a genuinely affecting way.

Aside from the games, which are obviously the major draw, there's a VR cinema app that contains some generic rollercoaster videos and exploration pieces, and a few other demos of “what could be,” but right now, if you want to use your VR to do anything other than gaming, you might want to look elsewhere. Most negative aspersions cast towards the PSVR, however, can be written off as cost-cutting measures. The fact that Sony were able to produce a device that provides this level of experience at a sub £400 price is, in my mind, an absolutely spectacular achievement, and whilst the games have thus far failed to raise my hackles for more than an hour at a time, Resident Evil 7, which is being released in just under a week, looks set to raise the bar as far as mainstream, 'proper' gaming is concerned in VR. There is an awful lot riding on Resident Evil 7 actually, so I really hope it delivers, as its success or failure could have major implications not only on the immediate future of the PSVR platform (for which it is a timed exclusive for at least a year), but VR gaming as a whole.

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Trends

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VR on a Budget

For 90% of consumers, the major factor keeping them from jumping into VR with both feet is the price barrier. With the major headsets setting consumers back a shade under £800, and even the PSVR coming in at just under half that, it's understandable that most consumers are simply not prepared to fully commit to the format, especially whilst we're still wading in such shallow waters. As such, with all the press attention given VR, many affordable VR headsets have hit the market, with vastly varying degrees of quality. From £1 all the way up to £200, there are literally hundreds of options, with the Samsung Gear VR easily sitting at the favourable end of the spectrum. Google began 2017 by releasing their Daydream device, which acts as an even more affordable alternative, but only works with the Google Pixel phones. Honestly, having tried both sets I couldn't recommend one over the other. What they do represent, however, is something I feel will become significantly more common this year; gateway VR. Of course, for any of these devices to work you'll still need a decent smartphone to actually provide the content, but what the smartphone-focused build does mean is that the experiences are completely wireless, which bring me to my next point.

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Going Wireless

Anyone who has used a PSVR, HTC Vive or Oculus Rift will tell you that the one thing stopping them from feeling fully immersed was the epic amount of cabling required to get them working. The Vive especially requires a heavy and actually rather clumsy assortment of wires, which someone will invariably end up tripping over. More affordable, smartphone-based VR is already wireless by necessity, of course, but there are some companies and brands making advances in bringing wireless technology to the top tier systems this year, and I for one can't wait ti cut the cord! The Visus VR, for example, is being promoted as the first VR gaming headset to be completely wireless out of the box. At only $150, it aims to act as a middle ground between the smartphone VR kits and the major players by using your smartphone as the screen for your PC. So your PC does all the heavy lifting and the footage streams to your phone via Nvidia GameStream technology. The Vive, meanwhile, has the upcoming TPCast, which snaps onto the back of the headset and turns it into a wireless device. It's another $300 on top of what you've already shelled out, but as the technology improves, that price will come down. It always does. The Rivvr achieves a similar thing, only it also works with the Rift. In any case you'll need a really decent home wireless network to run these things comfortably, but it's definitely a good start!

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VR in Design

When it comes to design work, VR really is the final frontier. Any artist worth their salt has undoubtedly dreamed of painting virtual worlds and moving within their creations immediately on completion. Thanks to application such as Tilt Brush by Google, this is something that can already be achieved. Until now, of course, that marvellous piece of software stood without equal, but just last week a beta version of another VR programme that gives designers the option to draw and manipulate 3D objects launched on Steam for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive users. The Gravity Sketch software, which was first unveiled last year, allows designers to draw, edit and manipulate forms in three dimensions and, having fixed the majority of bugs and glitches, the company has finally put the application live on the Steam Early Access website for beta testing. Gravity Sketch, which was developed by Royal College of Art graduates Guillaume Couche, Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Pierre Paslier and Oluwaseyi Sosanya, was created with the aim of making it easier and more natural to create 3D models for printing and, whilst I haven't been able to get my hands on it myself yet, it's yet another string to the virtual bow of VR designers everywhere. I can't wait to see what the community uses it to dream up!

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Real World Replacement

Why leave your home to do aomething when you don't have to? That's the question at the heart of this trend, with VR opening up the floodgates to allow us to experience things without the need to be physically present. One recent example surrounds the Glenfiddich whisky brand, who commissioned creative agency Space to create a VR tour of their distillery in Dufftown, Scotland. Google also recently partnered with the Natural History Museum in London to allow people around the world to explore its exhibits as if they're really there as well as dive into virtual reality experiences. Underling this move towards reality replacement, leading creative software developer The Foundry recently released new research that revealed not only a huge disconnect between consumer demand and the current VR offering, but a commonly held belief that VR was going to eventually replace many real experiences. The research, commissioned to follow the launch of The Foundry’s pioneering VR software, CARA VR, indicates that the interest in VR could potentially be larger than ever expected, with more than one in ten (12%) stating that VR is actually better than real life. Meanwhile, over one in five (21%) believe that VR will become commonplace in people’s lives and homes by 2021. Over the next five years, people believe that a number of real-world experiences will be replaced with VR, with over a quarter (27%) believing that computer games will be completely replaced with VR consoles. Over one in ten (12%) believe that watching sport will be replaced by VR viewing experiences. Other everyday experiences expected to be replaced by VR include shopping, visiting the doctor, attending a theme park and even going on dates. Maybe Black Mirror was right all along? Or maybe we're all just fumbling in the dark here looking for answers when we should instead be asking the right questions?

Creative Opinions

OK, that's enough of me harping on. What you all really want to know, I'm sure, is what the creative industry at large thinks of VR and what it's recent and potential advances, successes and failures mean for the immediate future. I reached out to a number of industry insiders and here's what they had to say for themselves:

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Vishwa Ranjan, Head of AR and VR at IT consultancy Infosys, believes that VR require better hardware, software and power for mass adoption.

A more sophisticated VR experience requires better hardware, better software and more power than today’s phones (and most computers) are capable of producing. We need hardware that allows our phones and devices to track, measure and map the environments around us. We need software that allows devices to make sense of incoming data and map it accordingly on our screens. We need more power for our devices to process all of this data while maintaining a reasonable battery life. Most importantly: We need an ecosystem of “killer apps” that demonstrate obvious and real value to customers. Enterprises, manufacturers and consumers all need to have practical reasons for buying into expensive hardware and software. When all of those elements are developed, we will have reached the “critical mass” threshold necessary for widespread VR adoption. We’re not there yet, but we are so very, very close - and our proximity to mass-market VR should garner a lot of interest from a lot of industries.

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Dan Phillips, Head of Digital and Interactive at MPC Advertising, discusses his agency's recent work for John Lewis.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen brand and agency interest in VR develop from tentative exploration into active examples, which is very exciting. The growing appetite from consumers to be a part of a developing trend, plus mainstream availability, has helped make VR technology more accessible to many people who are now able to give it a go. In our recent experience developing the interactive VR experience for John Lewis, which allowed customers the chance to enter the enchanted world of the Christmas television advert and play with the animals, we witnessed the impact of interactive VR as an individual experience, but crucially also how powerful it was for people to be able to share that experience with others. Using bespoke 3D camera technology we were able to extract users from the in-store environment, and composite them in real-time directly into the garden scene. Rendered immediately as a shareable video with a unique URL, they could then share this with family and friends, extending the experience and demonstrating to others exactly what they had just seen and done. Their experience was immediately able to be seen in context, rather than being just an abstract and highly individual one.

We predict there will be much more investment into social VR this year, from better share methodologies through to multi-user experiences, which means brands and agencies don’t need to focus on building the most expensive experience but rather one that simply evokes an emotional response that people want to engage in and talk about. The social activation for John Lewis wasn’t linear storytelling but it embraced the experiential nature of VR. It was a simple, playful experience that saw the technology disappear and users control interactivity intuitively with their own hands, developing something new and meaningful. We’re starting to see brands continue to get more savvy about what they want. It’s a very intimate thing to invite someone into a VR experience – there is nowhere to hide, so brands need to have something interesting to say. If you can get the experience right, it’s becoming one of the most compelling ways to say it.

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Ankur Aggarwal, CEO at Veative, believes that, as we head into 2017, discussions on VR will begin to take centre stage once again as one of the hot topics for this year and that, as many still get to grips with what you can do with VR, its future is only set to thrive and adapt further over the next few years.

It sounds obvious, but controllers will play a vital part in virtual reality during 2017. We’ll start to see a consolidation of industry equipment which will be based around and driven by consumers. Low and moderately priced VR headsets do not normally include controllers, and as we know, controllers enable true interactivity with VR objects. The simple need of having a controller, along with the physical design and the way software is applied to its buttons, will play an increasingly important role in the expansion of and use of VR outside of the gaming world, and taking a firmer hold in industries such as education and engineering. What we’ll also start to see very early on in 2017 is the introduction of all-in-one VR headsets. I believe that all-in-one headsets will become the hardware of choice for educational VR, moving it away from the dependence on mobile phones, and enabling easier administration of equipment around schools. This will mean fewer components for teachers to look after and charge, while also reducing the security risk of having expensive phones going missing or breaking in an environment of mass and shared use.

There’s been steady growth of VR in the education market - despite the fact that it’s still very much a growing trend. This is noted from the surge of companies coming to market. Again, some of this growth will come from demand - for example digitally savvy students along with teachers wanting to experience how technology can enhance learning. As this happens, VR will expand very quickly in industry use and we’ll see the integration of some high-end hardware. This will in turn bring low-end education with it very fast. For example vocational training could be a channel that'll utilise VR faster than academic education. In that case it’s likely to become easier to measure the return on investment of VR in vocational training versus standard academic education. This may accelerate adoption of VR further. VR educational content will also begin to go beyond simple ‘virtual tours’ in 2017. Right now virtual tours are limited and uses passive unmeasurable input which is insufficient alone to justify cost and time. This will be the year we'll see the need for VR educational content to be even more interactive and effective as supplementary classroom learning material. Companies will have to make sure all VR teaching and learning tools are designed to link to relevant curriculums showing the clear benefits of using the technology for teachers and learners.

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Alexandre Tomic, Co-Founder of Slotsmillion.com, the first ever VR online casino, wonders why we fear VR, and feels that we should instead be embracing it with open arms, despite the negatives.

For all the buzz surrounding virtual reality these days, a recent episode of Charlie Brooker’s brilliantly harrowing Black Mirror series reminds us of the horror and mistrust with which the concept has often been viewed. Virtual reality has long been the stuff of dystopian science fiction, so now that this technology has arrived, should we be alarmed? Should we be battening down and preparing for the apocalypse? In fiction, VR usually represents the fear of surrendering oneself to rampant technology, abandoning the human spirit to the machine, the loss of individual identity in the face of rapid technological change. It’s the terror of being lied to and manipulated by computers controlled by unseen forces. Escapism, meanwhile, is bad, say the books, because it erodes and devalues real human experience. Of course, this is largely nonsense. As all sensible people know, escapism is both good and bad, and it’s a question of good measure – getting lost in a book or distracting yourself with a video game is exactly what the mind needs sometimes.

Virtual reality is also both good and bad, like many technologies: cars kill an estimated 1.8 million globally people per year, but ambulances save more lives. Likewise, the internet is a great connector of people but it can also spread division and hatred. Let’s get one thing straight. People will die while using virtual reality; this is inevitable. Somebody, somewhere, playing a zombie game, will suffer a fatal cardiac arrest as the machine tricks his subconscious into believing he’s really being attacked by an undead and the media reaction will be hysterical. But barring the odd, unavoidable zombie-related fatality, the new medium’s use in everything from medical training to education may help pour water on the inevitable media outrage. Eventually, museums will be able to exhibit to hundreds of thousands of people at once using screen technology that goes beyond the resolution of the human eye. Open University lecturers will address the masses in real-time. Companies will be able test product prototypes without having to create multiple expensive versions, thus bringing down costs and creating even greater technological advancement.

VR gambling, will be will be another inevitable byproduct of this brave new world, and one that is sure to garner alarmist headlines. In fact, it’s already here. SlotsMillion VR is the world’s first, and currently only, real-money online casino, a virtual space where players can interact and play any number of virtual slot machines. Telepresence, meanwhile, will connect people in more meaningful ways, as virtual reality becomes more than just a new way to experience zombie games but, in the words of Mark Zuckerberg, “the next major computing and communication platform after phones." Yes, VR porn might ruin the odd marriage, but it’ll be a small price to pay.

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Tackling a very specific area of VR, Christian Burne, Business Development Director at Visualise, ponders how travel agents will access top-quality virtual reality on limited budgets.

Virtual Reality is becoming an increasingly valuable tool for agents, allowing them to produce virtual travel experiences that immerse consumers in tantalising glimpses of their dream holiday, in a classic ‘try before they buy’ style promotional tactic. There’s only so much brochures, TV ads and websites can do to usher customers along the buying journey. Brands and agents that are adopting VR into their consumer engagement strategy are clearly the brands that consumers remember. And the proof is in the sales. While many agents see VR as a long-term investment, widespread adoption is expected in as little as three years, and to capitalise on the impending boom, agents should begin planning, developing and testing VR content now. However, as with testing anything new and innovative, budget limitations can often be a roadblock – especially as VR is currently seen as a luxury expense. Typically, there comes a point where you feel safer deploying your budget elsewhere. This is particularly true with VR, where generally businesses worry that a ‘limited-budget’ will result in sub-standard content that will have zero effect and actually be more detrimental to the brand than good.

Thomas Cook, which wasn’t necessarily a ‘limited budget’ campaign, was one of the first travel brands to adopt VR into their retail toolkit, and their pioneering spirit certainly paid off. The brands Try Before You Fly VR campaign triggered a 180% uplift in excursions to New York, proving that VR can (and does) have a significantly moving effect on customer’s who are primed to book a travel experience. VR and travel is a powerful marriage, and despite being in its early stages, it’s a marriage that is set to transform and positively disrupt the way brands across the entire sector spectrum engage and convert consumers. So, if you‘re concerned that your budget is, or might be too limited, then reach out to a VR production studio; be clear on what you have to invest and what you hope to achieve, and work closely with them to unlock myriad exciting ways you can being VR in to your consumer engagement strategy.

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Mark Curtis, Chief Client Officer at Fjord, the design and innovation arm of Accenture Interactive, feels that, after years of hype, VR has finally entered the mass public consciousness.

Augmented reality and Virtual Reality were among the most talked about developments in 2016. It was the year Pokémon Go became a global phenomenon, bringing mixed reality to the mass market – a real tipping point. It was the year Oculus Rift was finally released, too. However great, VR does have its limitations – mostly due to the closed nature of the technology itself. The battery life of current mobile devices restricts running a VR experience to just an hour. Because of these limitations interest in AR grew rapidly. AR applications weren’t just limited to the gaming and consumer marketplace. In manufacturing, a number of striking innovations were seen on the shop floor. For example, Industrial software company Vuforia began using AR to contextualise the Internet of Things.

Many organisations’ approach to developing AR and VR experiences does remain silo-ed in instigation and application. At Fjord, we think organisations must start rendering digital data into meaningful graphics and scaling it to fit the perspective of the visual field. In 2017, as MR moves towards the mainstream, organisations will turn away from single, silo-ed enhanced reality experiences to focus instead on harnessing and combining all types of reality - enhanced and real. They will create singular, integrated and compelling experiential platforms on which to build experiences that are “blurred reality.”

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Hayden Allen-Vercoe, COO for Orbital Media, a digital and social agency that specialises in new technologies including VR and AI, in particular in the healthcare industry, is a great advocate for VR, which he feels might revolutionise the healthcare industry.

This has been the year that virtual reality (VR) has started to make its mark and it’s only set to grow. While numerous brands start to embrace the new technology, its potential to revolutionise the healthcare industry is only just beginning. In fact, Global Industry Analysts predict that the worldwide market for virtual reality in healthcare will reach $3.8 billion by 2020. It’s still very early days for the adoption of this technology, but developments are moving at pace and it’s clear that these advanced digital tools offer extensive opportunities to transform elements of the healthcare industry, from medical education through to the marketing of healthcare brands, be it to healthcare professionals or consumers of OTC products. This spring saw the first live virtual surgery experience at the Royal London hospital. The impact? Instead of a couple of students peering over a surgeon removing cancerous cells from a patient’s bowels, students and observers from around the world immersed themselves into the procedure simply by wearing VR goggles. When it comes to training new procedures and life-saving treatments, this technology can train professionals with increased sophistication and reach.

And yes, it may be early days for adopting this technology, but charities are quick off the mark to understand how VR can help them in awareness and education. The UK National Autistic Society has created a VR film to show people what it’s like to live with the condition. Using Samsung Gear headsets, this has been taken on tour around UK shopping centres. Another example is for dementia where Alzheimer’s Research UK has issued a VR film to help educate the public on what it’s like to suffer from this condition by putting members of the public ‘in the shoes’ of a sufferer. Instantly, the awareness and education takes on a new meaning and so with it comes commercial benefits for the charity. It’s been widely reported that when healthy people truly experience a disease in such an immersive way, it is likely that they will have greater empathy and therefore commit to support the cause through donation.

This is just the beginning. With the new VR hardware entering the market and subsequent maturation of the VR app market place, this is the advent of some truly revolutionary healthcare tools emerging over the next year. From APP treatments, diagnostic tools and healthcare professional simulator training to healthcare professional education, we are set to see more VR technologies transform the healthcare industry.

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Chris Cardew, Head of Strategy at Mindshare, discusses the best practice for brands using the technology to effectively communicate with customers.

We talk a lot about an increasingly commoditised attention economy, where it is difficult for brands to get noticed, and even harder to get people to actually spend enough time engaging with the brand for it to have any long lasting effect on their attitudes and behaviours. It’s ironic that in a world that has never been more connected, it’s now increasingly hard to connect with people. VR is becoming an increasingly credible and effective way for brands to overcome this. There is no doubt that it can create a quality level of sustained engagement, and when executed well it can create powerful brand experiences that people will remember, and importantly make a clear statement as to what a brand stands for.

Not many people will be able to tell you the last time they saw an advert for a newspaper, but for those people who were immersed into the shocking reality of solitary confinement thanks to The Guardian, they’ll likely never forget it and will be reminded why the brand truly is a pioneer in cutting edge journalism. And for the tennis fans who got to go inside the mind of Andy Murray on Wimbledon’s Centre Court thanks to Jaguar, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that moved some to tears, and proved that the brand is as exciting and innovative as when it was first created.

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Alex Mahon, CEO at The Foundry, feels that certain real world experiences might be completely replaced by VR experiences in the near future.

Our research shows that there is going to be an increasing appetite amongst consumers for high quality VR headset content. The fact that everyday experiences like watching sport are predicted to completely vanish for some people in favour of VR versions within five years is pretty incredible. However, there are barriers that are halting the progression of VR. Hardware providers need to lower costs in the next iterations of their headsets if they want to break through to mass consumer adoption. We need more VR content creators to start experimenting with narrative and experiences to ensure we get compelling content into the headsets.”

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Finally, Stuart Hetherington, CEO of Holovis, believes that VR will be used to save lives in 2017 and beyond.

For areas such as Design and R&D, virtual reality environments created in immersive CAVE systems are a well-established method for bringing complex data sets to life in 1:1 scale with real-time volumetric 3D projection. However, the use and rapid adoption of VR technology is having a much greater impact than just saving time and costs; it can help save lives. The Near Miss Simulator is a multi-sensory environment that immerses users into a virtual working scenario using an HMD for visual immersion, surround audio systems, perfectly synched motion and SFX. It has been designed to train people in high risk jobs, such as construction working at height, virtually recreating tasks that they have to complete. A Coach guides them through the scenarios and can at any moment trigger jeopardy or non compliant practices and in the case of working at height, virtually drop the user to the ground. Once the users are immersed and engaged in the training scenarios, the environments are so believable that the reactions are truly extraordinary. It certainly delivers a lesson they won’t forget in a hurry!

The primary purpose is to effectively train staff in best practice methodology while inducing actual feelings and behavioural triggers of impending jeopardy in unsafe conditions. These highly involved, compelling learning environments quickly reinforce Health and Safety routines, improving muscle memory and increased information retention. VR is becoming a crucial tool for this style of teaching as the environment needs to be intensely immersive and multi-sensory, to the extent the user believes and engages in what is happening around them, even directly to them, enhanced with actual, real-world motions and special effects (SFX). It is the only way of dramatically teaching the consequences of unsafe working methods without the attendant risks. In recent tests this new form of learning out performed traditional classroom based training and book learning on every level. All in a perfectly safe, risk free, simulated environment.

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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