We recently covered some of the factors holding Virtual Reality back, citing worries that it is another gimmick like 3DTV, as well as the current lack of high-quality content. As such there are those sitting on the sidelines taking a wait and see approach, but a select few have been brave enough to experiment with the new medium. And it appears that first-mover advantage may once again prove invaluable.
Sport has always traditionally been a place where the latest technologies are tested – HD, 4K and now VR. UEFA has been testing filming in VR during the Champions’ League semi-finals and the final, and at this summer’s European Championships they will be using dozens of Nokia OZO cameras to film 360° footage as testing continues. Their hope is that fans will one day be able to watch an entire game from inside the stadium, completely immersed in VR.
The PGA Tour is also letting golf fans get in on the action, with VR videos of Wentworth showcasing a tour of the clubhouse, players’ lounge, practice range, and even footage of Tommy Fleetwood playing the opening hole. It seems that no sport can resist VR’s allure, as organisers vie for fan attention.
VR seems to have found a natural home with sport. Fans are devoted, and will pay for the latest experience to bring them closer to the action. Organisers meanwhile have the financial clout to test out what works and what doesn’t. VR certainly doesn’t come cheap, with a single Nokia OZO camera costing £40,000. And that’s before you think about the live streaming element, with all its associated infrastructure costs. Closer to home, hobbyist cameras are at a much more attractive price point. The Ricoh Theta retails at around £299, which means everything from a family dinner to a school sports day can be captured easily.
But it’s not just entertainment that is set to benefit from VR. Medical professionals are investigating how VR can help treat various conditions. One company, Brighter SE, has rigged a bicycle to a domed VR screen that displays the local neighbourhood of an Alzheimer patient. Using this technology, called the jDome, the patient can ride around near their childhood streets, stimulating memories and aiding their treatment.
According to Professor Andrew Glennrester, who is exploring the impact of VR on visual neuroscience at the University of Reading, the potential of virtual reality is limitless. “Using immersive VR, we can change the visual world as an observer moves, something which is invaluable to scientific research into human perception. VR makes it possible to double or quadruple the size of a scene, or move one object towards the observer while shrinking it so that it stays the same size in the image. Finding out what changes are imperceptible to the observer gives us crucial information about what the brain chooses to represent when structuring the scene. This information leads to a better understanding of how the brain represents the 3D world as we move around.”
The business and training applications of VR merit a mention too. Ford has used it to verify 135,000 design details to date on 193 vehicle prototypes. Not only has it proved more efficient, but by conducting all those tests virtually, Ford has radically reduced the environmental costs of physical prototyping. Attensi, meanwhile, has developed VR experiences that mimic retailers’ shops. Employees are then trained on customer service techniques in the virtual world, helping them better understand company best practice.
Businesses are striking out and finding real-world applications for VR beyond gaming and entertainment, and it is already paying dividends. Now that the first generation of consumer headsets make VR very much affordable to enterprises of all sizes, can your business afford not to invest?
We’re hosting the inaugural meeting of the CONTEXT Virtual Reality Research Group on July 5th at the British Museum. If you’d like to attend, please email Charlotte at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the event you will hear from academics, VR manufacturers and leading retailers – including Brighter SE and Attensi – as they discuss this new technology, its applications and its potential. You will also be able to try out most of the technology mentioned in this post. More information on the event here!