Vive headset
Insight

An introduction into virtual reality

Why virtual reality?

Being a software development agency, we are never content with just working with traditional tech/ media channels. We always want to inspire both our team and clients to immerse themselves in new ways to solve problems. This is where virtual reality comes into play…

 

Over the past month we have been meeting with a number of influential members of the VR community to help us understand how we can develop exciting content for our clients.

  • Samantha Kingston and Bertie Millis, Virtual Umbrella – A Virtual Reality consultancy based in Southampton.
  • Richard Dolan, NHS – An innovation lead helping the NHS with digital solutions.
  • Tigran Khamoian, Chillblast – Virtual Reality developers and high performance computer developers.

 

Old idea, new technology

It’s not like virtual reality has just arrived on the scene. In fact, since the early 60’s innovators and creators have been trying to create truly immersive and engaging content for consumers.

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We even have a Nintendo Virtual Boy (1996) in the office thanks to one of our Senior Developers, Joe!

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It is only in the past 3-5 years that VR has started becoming a consumable product. From rollercoaster rides to walking on Mars, more powerful and mobile processors have meant VR is now a reality.

Engaging content is key

It is all well and good for the content to be graphically realistic, but if the content hasn’t got a purpose then you will struggle to engage with your audience.

A prime example was when Richard Dolan (@RichPDolan) demoed an anxiety test to the team.

Using the Samsung Gear, the test featured controlled scenarios where the user was placed. All the scenarios were designed to be used as a controlled environment where the user would be able to face their fears/phobias.

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Examples of this include:

  • Engaging a users claustrophobia by placing them in a lift
  • The user travelling on a plane
  • Placing the user in a high place to play on fear of heights
  • The user speaking in public

By measuring a users heart rate through using a biometric device, we were able to see on a summarised dashboard whether the user was reacting to the content, or not.

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Now, the Samsung Gear is in no way the industry leader when it comes to graphical content. This is due to the fact that the processor is an Android Smartphone, and has no where near the level of processing power that a high spec PC would have.

Even so, the content quickly showed that each user was reacting to the scenario around them. Confirming that some aspects of mental health can be treated in controlled environments without endangering the user in a live test.

The purpose of VR in business

It is so easy to just consider VR as a tool to showcase rollercoaster rides, 360 video, etc. But where virtual reality really takes hold of the market is within business.

Virtual Umbrella provided numerous examples of how companies were displaying data through virtual environments. Rather than through flat graphs, it was engaging with them on a much higher level.

On top of this, when Tigran visited our offices he demoed some content that Chillblast developed for the HTC Vive.

As a true leader within the Virtual world, the Vive is currently one of the best ways to experience VR on the market right now.

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By rendering a brand new Audi R8 in a virtual world, Tigran was able to immerse the team into a world that looked real. From the shadows on floor, to the reflective shimmer on the bonnet, the experience felt as close to real without it physically being there.

As a piece of content, Audi could use this in their showrooms for a more immersive experience at point of sale. However, they could also send mobile salesmen out to more remote/ targeted areas and have the ability to sell in any location.

Will virtual reality ever become a consumable product?

This is a very heated subject point in our office at the moment. In fact, it is one that splits our team 50/50.

With that in mind, I can only personally say that I hope it will do.

The development of quality content will drive the success of this industry. And with Sony now foraying into this virtual world, with Playstation VR, it is truly an exciting time!

On top of this, giving niche markets, like charities, the opportunity to convey empathy in a more powerful way will only help them succeed – which can only be a good sign.

In conclusion

Rather than listen to me, take from people who live and breathe Virtual Reality.

“The advent of VR had much in common with the development of PCs in the 1980s.” – Gabe Newell, Valve Corporation

In both cases, Gabe said, people bought technology without knowing why and discovered afterwards what they were good for.

For the PC, he said, it was spreadsheets and businesses that drove the initial success. With VR, people were only starting to discover compelling uses as they experimented and took risks with the technology.”

More locally:

“Virtual Reality will likely be more engrained in business than to a consumer. However, Augmented Reality will be the more consumable product.” – Bertie Millis, Virtual Umbrella.

With the explosion that was Pokemon Go, I can see how this may happen. But we will touch on Augmented Reality another day…

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