Fancy doing a virtual session?

Sipping white Americano and looking through the windows of the coffee-shop in Epsom’s library I was watching the dramatic rainfall which was determinedly flooding Epsom square in April 2019.

For the moment, I thought how nice it would be to click a button and change the reality outside the building into a canvas of beautiful autumn colours, with golden trees painted by some imaginative impressionist.

I was just pondering virtual-reality events, the subject of a small assignment for my University, and my flight of fancy was probably the result of my studied materials. However, VR-and-AR-powered events had already been in my mind, over a year before the COVID outbreak, and all the forthcoming lockdowns, and this mind-blowing 2020.

Just to be clear, here are the definitions of VR and AR, provided by Digital Catapult:

Virtual reality (VR) refers to a completely immersive virtual and aural world that a user experiences, usually through a head-mounted display (HMD). The research considers 360 degree media to be a form of content within the spectrum of VR.

Augmented reality (AR) refers to a real-world environment on which digital objects and/or information is overlaid either through a head-mounted display or via a handheld device with a camera such as a smartphone or tablet.

I realised the idea of having VR and AR or mixed-reality events would help them to be paperless and eco-friendly. They would also be more immersive and educative. Participants could make virtual journeys, have adventures or watch educational presentations. Speakers in the conference sessions could create thematic environments.

This would help to reduce carbon emissions and footprints as participants don’t need to travel and can attend the events without leaving their own sitting room or office, which would save attendees time and money.

VR-training, AR-powered learning platforms, mixed-reality University lectures and school lessons, VR-books and teaching materials… Imagine studying in a world of extended reality? This would be the marvellous oil-painting VR masterpiece, which I had visualised!

By the way, whilst talking about art, I remembered Anna Zhilyaeva (Twitter: @AnnaDreamBrush) — the French-Russian mixed reality artist who brightens our reality with her live performances. Using her “Volumism”, she uses technology to immerse spectators in her digital artistry landscapes.

“VR is already established as a training tool for energy, military and defense sectors and it has been used to train rail engineers in specialist equipment. Where once fighter jet pilots would train on physical simulators, they can now hone their skills via a headset,” — says Engineering & Technology Magazine.

Virtual activities are also an area of interest for game developers, providing mixed-reality games which are played using for example Oculus Quest 2.

See the ‘Star Wars Squadrons in Virtual Reality’ in the Virtual Reality Oasis’s review:

See also the ‘Official Trailer of the Star Wars Squadrons’:

Let’s come back to education and training. A firm called VRAI www.vraisimulation.com specialises in VR training for large organisations, including the United Nations, and helps to train their staff to work in hazardous environments making their training more authentic and memorable.

Universities are now investigating new technology-powered remote teaching of students and discovering that the potential of virtual reality is quite promising. For example, a team of academics, technologists, gamers and philosophers have partnered with the University of Glasgow to promote the idea of learning in extended (VR, AR and Mixed) reality. www.edify.ac is helping students to absorb information from alternative platforms. Moreover they also help teachers to fund their teaching ideas: https://www.edify.ac/fundme

However, shifting to virtual events will have high switching costs for both companies and customers. Also it will take time to develop bespoke products. To convince customers, AR & VR educational products must have a good value proposition compared to conventional online learning platforms.

Nevertheless, this technology is already helping to shape the business environment, is being used for valuable staff training, and is central to designing and developing new VR services.

Implementing events and conferences in extended realities may be a bit pricey at present but businesses should think and act within long-term plans, creating opportunities for specialists to integrate VR & AR into IT systems so they become an essential part of staff-training and whole enterprise learning.

“Many business leaders and training professionals already recognise the transformative power of VR, but a solution for enterprise needs to be practical, results-driven, and long-term,”- says Justin Parry, Co-founder and COO of Immerse www.immerse.io

It is also vital for businesses to invest in research, and investigate the potential of innovative extended reality in marketing, because this could be also a source of big data to analyse behaviour and responses of the target audience, which provides valuable information for improvement of personalised products and services.

After a year in the lockdown, ZOOM meetings and Microsoft Teams sessions have become the norm. This idea is the vital new reality, which leads to immersive VR and AR environments. However, lots of questions arise.

How should we start to think about this?

What strategy is needed to design a certain extended-reality service?

Is it better to use pre-existing off-the-shelf VR platforms or code the images from scratch?

What is the mix of animation, simulation, real images, real film sequence, voice-over, gaming, questioning, testing, feedback?

What is the added-value of the extended reality?

There are so many questions to be addressed. I sip my white Americano and look out of the window…

Friendly life form. Organic Intelligence.