22 Feb 2017 - Digital Strategy // By Productive Edge Team

Productive Edge (Virtual) Reality Check: 2016 Trends in VR, AR and MR

Virtual Reality (and it's sibling technologies, Augmented and Mixed reality) is a field that, from a series of failed takeoff attempts throughout the 1990's and early 2000's, has exploded into one with billions of dollars of investment from major companies across the tech spectrum. From Pokémon Go all the way to the futuristic upcoming Magic Leap, the platforms and technologies under the broad umbrella of "virtual reality" are some of those that are most exciting both investors and consumers.  The potential here is vast, and the list below should help you catch up on a very complex and fast-moving new industry.  

The Impact of Virtual and Mixed Reality

Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence Are About to Transform Business. Here's How to Be Prepared. http://www.inc.com/this-way-up/artificial-intelligence-and-virtual-reality-are-about-to-transform-business-here.html How are Virtual/Augmented Reality and AI technology advancements going to impact the business world?  This is a relatively unique take on the impact of these new very hot technological spaces, and it provides a more nuanced analysis than you’ll see on most sites.   IMAX CEO Talks Virtual Reality and His Plans For High-Tech Arcades http://fortune.com/2017/01/09/imax-ceo-virtual-reality-arcades/ IMAX thinks they can be at the forefront of mass-consumption of VR media, and they are prepared to invest in the space in a big way.  Forbes takes a closer look in this interview with CEO Richard Gelfond.   Virtual reality is more than gaming tech – and it's here to stay http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/01/virtual-reality-is-more-than-gaming-tech-and-its-here-to-stay-6342416/ There is a significant amount of skepticism around VR and MR tech, primarily because the application has historically been limited to video games, and in certain circumstances non-interactive media.  Modern VR investors and developers are trying to get past this   Google Travel VP on the Power of Virtual and Augmented Reality https://podcast.skift.com/2017/01/21/google-travel-vp-on-the-power-of-virtual-and-augmented-reality/ Google VP of Travel Oliver Heckmann discusses many aspects of Google’s approach to travel planning and advertising, VR and MR among others.  Great insight into top tech executives’ mindset on these technologies.   I tried to work all day in a VR headset and it was horrible https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/05/i-tried-to-work-all-day-in-a-vr-headset-so-you-never-have-to A great counterpoint to many very excited reviews of VR technology.  While the potential of VR and MR is enormous, the hurdles are also significant, especially in non-entertainment fields.   TED Talk - What if we could live in the Matrix https://lifeboat.com/blog/2017/01/what-if-we-could-live-in-the-matrix If you’re not sure about the vast potential of VR and MR technology, or you want to get a sense of the further reaches of what is within sight, look no further than this quick TED talk.  

New Developments in Virtual and Mixed Reality

Sundance merges VR with real life through props, AR, and vibrating suits https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/20/sundance-new-frontier/ If you’ve ever read Snow Crash or Ready Player One, the idea of full-body virtual reality immersion will be familiar.  This is the highest- of high-investment VR/MR options, but many proponents would also say that it is the future of the technology, and media consumption in general.   Vive Tracker brings hand-tracking VR gloves, plastic guns and more into the virtual world http://www.polygon.com/virtual-reality/2017/1/4/14170722/htc-vive-tracker-peripheral A middle ground between full-body VR and headset-only VR, bringing peripherals and ‘props’ into VR/MR systems is one of the fastest-growing areas in this field.  Valve and HTC have announced a one-size-fits-all attachment that can be tracked in VR; likely only the first of many such attachments.    Oculus Medium - Sculpt, Model & Play in Virtual Reality https://www.oculus.com/medium/ A new modelling tool for the Oculus Rift, Medium is Facebook-owned Oculus VR’s investment in the creative side of virtual reality.     IBM Speech Sandbox for VR https://www.viveport.com/apps/bbde0cff-98c1-4117-acd8-e808ded515ca One of the most pressing problems with virtual reality in particular is the interface (since keyboards, mice, and controllers don’t follow the user into VR), and this is IBM’s attempt at a fully-voice-controlled AI solution.   Apple Hologram Patent http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-adv.html&r=8&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=(Apple.AANM.+AND+20160721.PD.)&OS=Aanm/Apple+and+pd/7/21/2016&RS=(AANM/Apple+AND+PD/20160721) This one is very technical, but if you can parse the legal and technical details it becomes an interesting look at yet another (some would say the) large technology company preparing to invest in virtual and augmented reality.   

Applications Beyond Gaming

Google is using machine learning to reduce the data needed for high-resolution images http://www.theverge.com/2017/1/12/14250652/google-machine-learning-image-resolution This technology is particularly interesting as it pertains to virtual and mixed reality, where file size is critically important for head-mounted and mobile devices with limited hardware.   3D Scanning for Healthcare Professionals: Facial scans https://www.fuel-3d.com/markets/healthcare/ Fuel3D is just one example of an emerging field of development applications and services directed at creating and manipulating media for virtual and mixed reality platforms.   The five technological advances vital to desh**ifying virtual reality http://www.pcgamesn.com/vital-tech-for-vr While there have been many dramatic advances in the technologies that make virtual reality available to more consumers and companies, this piece is a very frank look at a few jumps that many analysts still think need to be made before the technology can become widespread.   Fitness Meets VR Gaming Skydive while Exercising http://itsybitsymag.com/2017/01/21/icaros-gaming-virtual-reality-flying-simulator/ Exercise and health are two areas that many virtual reality applications are eager to get into, and a number of “flying simulators” are among the most ambitious approaches.   Not Just Games - How Virtual Reality Will Heal And Teach In 2017 And Beyond http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/nima-ghadiri/not-just-games-how-virtua_b_13865544.html An overview of a number of different industries that will likely be impacted in the short-term by the advancement and widespread use of VR/MR platforms and technology.  Medical applications are by far the most prevalent, signalling a major upheaval in that space in the near future.   Warner Music Group readies hundreds of virtual reality experiences http://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/01/01/warner-music-group-readies-hundreds-virtual-reality-experiences Yet another industry leader investing in the potential of virtual reality.  Concerts could be viewed via VR headsets, but Warner is also investigating multiple other potential avenues for users to view and participate in entertainment experiences.  

Developing In Virtual and Mixed Reality

Below are a few tools and references that we use in our own development and prototyping of virtual and mixed reality applications and experiences.  We recommend anyone interested in learning about the developer experience with VR, Unity, and Microsoft HoloLens in particular read through the sources below.   Unity VR Overview https://unity3d.com/learn/tutorials/topics/virtual-reality/vr-overview?playlist=22946 Spatial Mapping with HoloLens https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/holographic/spatial_mapping Verto Studio Modeling Software for VR HoloLens https://winbuzzer.com/2017/01/21/verto-announce-studio-vr-microsofts-holographic-devices-xcxwbn/ Rochester Optical HoloLens Frame Insert » Rochester Optical https://www.rochesteroptical.com/store/hololensinsert/ HoloLens Performance Recommendations https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/holographic/performance_recommendations   To explore the possibilities for VR/AR/MR technology for your organization, connect with our team for a complimentary consultation at 312-561-9000 or Services@ProductiveEdge.com  
Productive Edge (Virtual) Reality Check: 2016 Trends in VR, AR and MR