Some days you can’t help but love your job! In December 2016, my new company, along with IMDA, Favorite Medium, IoT Asia and Vertic, sponsored Pecha Kucha’s Rojak.Digital event at Singapore’s National Gallery. As part of the event, I participated in the world’s first combined Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) experience. Seeing first-hand how AR and VR can be combined to create an interactive, mixed-reality experience opened my eyes to the consumer and enterprise opportunities these technologies create.
One of the participants at the Pecha Kucha event, Auggd – a Sydney-based AR/VR company, created an interactive demo that allowed the kids to experience AR and VR in a truly unique way. The concept was that the kids play the role of time travellers on a mission to find and catalogue dinosaurs. The problem is that their spaceship has crashed and they are trapped in a prehistoric world until they can find all the dinosaurs and unlock the path back to the future. This two-person game had Player 1 using a Samsung Gear VR headset to roam the virtual world in search of the dinosaurs while Player 2 used a Samsung tablet with AR to navigate Player 1 through the maze. Since Player 2 could not see where Player 1 was on the map, they had to communicate their positions to each other to achieve their goal.
“So what, it’s just a silly game for kids” some of you will say. But trust me, I learned more about these emerging technologies and the importance of effective communication from watching those kids interact than from reading dozens of articles. Seeing is believing.
What did I learn about AR/VR from the demo?
Learning #1: VR is experiential, not insular
Many people believe that VR will turn us into insular beings who live in our own virtual world. I don’t believe this is the case, rather, I believe VR is experiential. VR gives us the opportunity to see and interact with things and locations that we may never get to in the real world. In Auggd’s previous demo in Sydney, they created an Apollo 11 Moon Landing VR experience. Sure, one of the kids at that demo may grow up to be an astronaut, but VR gave all of them a chance to step foot on the moon.
Learning #2: Kids just get it
We’ve all heard how kids today pick up technology quickly – and this demo reinforced that. Very few the kids had ever used VR before the demo, but they immediately picked up the navigation and game concept. They also excelled at communicating back and forth to navigate their way around the maze and achieve their goal. The biggest challenge was getting them to stop playing and let the others have their turn.
Learning #3: Kids come in all ages
Yes, I sneaked a turn, as did many other adult kids, with the oldest approaching 70 years old. I’m sorry to say the adult kids were far worse at the game then the young kids. One funny moment involved a young kid trying to navigate an adult kid through the maze, with the young kid growing increasingly frustrated with the adult kid for taking too long to navigate the maze. (Note: I was, unfortunately, that adult kid)
What’s Next for AR & VR?
Conclusion #1: AR to become more mainstream in 2017
Let’s face it, Pokémon Go has a lot of people – and marketing departments in particular – actively seeking ways to leverage AR to enhance their business processes and/or transform the customer experience. The retail and hospitality sectors in particular have increased their focus on AR, while the utilities, construction, real estate, and mining sectors have been deploying AR solutions for years.
Conclusion #2: VR is about gaming for now, and that is not a bad thing
The more VR users and market awareness, the more developers will want to create innovative, experiential content that goes beyond gaming. Just think how great it would be to have VR devices as standard in elderly care homes. Asia’s rapidly aging population, combined with a younger generation who spends less time with the aged, creates a great opportunity to develop engaging and experiential solutions for the elderly to keep them mentally active and engaged.
In the near term, we also will see enterprises, governments, militaries and NGOs leverage VR to let their staff experience a situation before they ever have to step foot in it. Think about an aid worker that will be operating in a war zone or disaster area – a VR experience would provide them with a realistic view about what the situation will be like on the ground. This, in turn, will minimise the risk of them panicking and potentially save lives.
Conclusion #3: AR + VR = great team building opportunities
Organisations love talking about the importance of communication, and this game concept could easily be adapted and used for team building events to illustrate the importance of effective communication in a fun and engaging way. It’s early days for this combined mixed-reality concept, but with a bit of imagination, the opportunities are endless.
Only time will tell just how successful AR and VR will be, but one thing is for sure, if I ever need to brighten my day, I just need to remind myself of the expressions on people’s faces when they experienced VR for the first time.
Thanks again to all those who participated in the Pecha Kucha’s Rojak.Digital event, Auggd for creating the demo, Samsung for lending the devices, and the event sponsors National Gallery, IMDA, Favorite Medium, IoT Asia and Vertic, for working together to create an unforgettable day.