Real notes from a virtual world

Last Thursday and Friday (21/22 June), I was lucky enough to attend the 4th international AR/VR conference organised by our very own ARVR Hub here at Manchester Met. In no small way, those two days absolutely blew my mind.

I could wax virtual all the day long. However, in the spirit of TLDR, I’ll keep it brief and share with you four quick reasons why:-

1. It restored my faith in humanity. After all everything about the world of augmented and virtual reality is human-centred. What’s more the humans inhabiting this world are driven to solve the world’s problems; almost every aspect of life is covered from health, wellbeing and education to retailing, training and travel-free collaboration across the globe. The applications are endless. It is up to us digital humans to embrace, apply this tech for good. Access to robust research too, plays a critical role in ensuring we continue to enhance and develop virtual human experiences that will strengthen and deepen our knowledge and capabilities.

2. It is as much for B2B brands as it is for B2C. Far from just allowing us to drive the latest high-performance saloon car,  the use of AR and VR in B2B is fast being adopted by brands to facilitate training, collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Bureau Veritas, for example, is using Microsoft’s Hololens to train its worldwide network of testing inspectors. They fulfilled their business case using mixed reality to reduce the time and cost of training, whilst simultaneously enhancing the quality and impact. A great example of a ‘traditional B2B brand’ embracing tech for employee engagement, as well as profitability.

3. For the UK to move forward, we need to invest in our tech infrastructure and partner up. Quite frankly our colleagues in South Korea put us to shame. They already have 5G and in 2020 will broadcast in hybrid VR to the nation. They have developed the world’s first VR headset with built in eye and brainwave tracking, which will enable biometric research in realtime; a game-changer for those of us looking for more agile ways to study digital human behaviour. Mutually beneficial and likeminded partnerships are critical here, so it’s good to know Manchester Met is leading the way with its relationship with GCA Gyeonggi Content Agency

4. Emotion drives conversation. Music to my ears. Of course it does, and both augmented and virtual reality are great facilitators of these conversations. Immersive and multi-sensory storyteller (and kindred spirit) Sarah Jones head of media at Birmingham City University, champions a new approach to immersive media. For her, it’s about the way we encounter technology, not the technology itself. It’s about reaching beyond entertainment, rather than simply replicating what we see. It’s about the feelings it can excite and how VR creators, writers, developers and producers can reach a deeper level of cognitive and emotional impact.

Over these two days, I didn’t see the future, I experienced the now. I made contact with colleagues and industry practitioners who are going to help and support my quest to deliver an even better Rich User Experience course for our students in January 2019. Above all, I felt energised to continue to explore interactive media, to immerse myself in the virtual world and to champion the digital human here at Man Met.