Virtual Reality: Beyond the hype into the Augmented Age

Jul 5, 2021

Nick Bolton, CEO, discusses how Virtual Reality technologies will revolutionise the way we work, live, and create

Over the past 35 years we have seen motion measurement develop to improve everyday outcomes for individuals, businesses, and all kinds of innovation around the world. Now motion measurement is not only impacting our real world but is now giving us entry into entirely new worlds – virtual ones. We stand at the tipping point of Virtual Reality (VR) and its fledging cousin Augmented Reality (AR) going mainstream and moving beyond the hype.

Motion measurement provides a key foundation for VR and AR across numerous, real-world applications. Vicon helps create truly immersive experiences that deliver ‘suspension of disbelief’ by providing solutions which accurately track participants' movements with extremely low latency. This has the power not only to suspend our reality, but to enhance it in revolutionary ways.

Passing the ‘hype curve’
For too long, Extended Reality (XR), which includes VR, AR and Mixed Reality (MR), seemed to be more future tech ‘hype’ than reality - still some distance from being part of people’s everyday lives. This has begun to change. When Facebook acquired VR company Oculus in 2014, people began to take the business case for VR more seriously, and Location-based Entertainment (LBE) VR experiences, such as Dreamscape Immersive’s, have built excitement of the potential for virtual realities amongst consumers. This move into consumer realms has democratised VR and the tools to create it. We are now moving beyond the hype.

To understand the power of VR, we need to look beyond the device and look to the experience: we need to look past the glasses to see what the Augmented Age will mean for individuals, teams, businesses, and our world. It is now time to start thinking in terms of real-world interactions, and how to bring the imaginative potential of VR into our reality.

Rehearsing reality
VR not only allows us to enter imagined worlds, but also to simulate our own. This offers businesses the power to rehearse the real world and avoid the cost of failure. The benefits of rehearsing the real world are immense: academic institutions like the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre have already used Vicon technology to manipulate a virtual human heart for pre-operation planning. VR also allows exposure to dangerous environments to practise and train without the risk: STS3D’s innovative VR training is helping the mining industry cut risk significantly by taking trainees down 900, 1,500, and 3,000 feet underground in the virtual world to understand the high-risk environment they will work in. Motion measurement is helping save lives.

Anyone who has been truly immersed in VR can understand the hype – it is a truly revolutionary way of experiencing and seeing new worlds.

Nick Bolton, CEO

Twinning – and winning
Working in VR can also help foster innovation and explore new areas for improvement in quality and productivity, including using ‘Digital Twin’ applications. This approach has led to ground-breaking innovations in the airline industry, with pioneers such as Airbus using VR and Digital Twin technologies in the engineering, testing, and demonstration of their aircraft.i For such a mission-critical industry, the ability to test, explore, and interrogate every aspect of a project in the digital world is extremely vital. The wealth of data available via Digital Twin applications means lessons learned in the virtual world are directly impacting our real world.

The benefits of these applications are not hypothetical – these innovations mean real productivity gains and cost savings, and businesses that are slow to embrace this Augmented Age may miss out. Estimates claim that application of VR and AR technology in industry could deliver a £1.4 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030, and impact 23 million jobs.ii If the applications of VR are simulated, the benefits certainly are not.

Imagining the unimaginable
These opportunities from the Augmented Age are only what we can already imagine – but the power of VR is to open our minds to what we yet cannot fathom. Humans are creative beings, and the true power of the virtual world is that the constraints of the real world are relieved or gone, allowing this creativity to thrive.

The virtual world is not only a space for experience, but also for igniting creation and education. Institutions like the University of Portsmouth are diving into this new realm of possibility, using Vicon technology in its ground-breaking Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality, which will provide an entry way for students today to be the XR leaders of the future.iii VR can revolutionise the way we learn – students in the near future will likely learn biology not simply through textbooks, but by studying microscopic life forms or vast wild ecosystems via a Dreamscape headset.iv A new generation of innovation will be created in the virtual world.

Realising the unimaginable is only the start…
Anyone who has been truly immersed in VR can understand the hype – it is a truly revolutionary way of experiencing and seeing new worlds. For VR and AR to move beyond this tipping point, we need to look beyond the glasses and the headsets and open our minds to the ways in which these technologies will revolutionise our daily lives and the way we work. The truly revolutionary potential of these technologies is not in leaving our world and entering a virtual one, but in bringing the power of VR into our everyday lives.

Airbus, Virtual reality with real benefits, September 2017
ii PWC, Seeing is believing: How VR and AR will transform business and the economy, September 2019
iii Vicon, University of Portsmouth chooses Vicon’s leading VFX tracking solutions for its new ground-breaking Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality, November 2020
iv Arizona State University, How students will learn biology in 2021 (and beyond) as part of Dreamscape Learn, December 2020

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