Innovate Now – XR for Businesses


Innovate Now was held on 16th November 2017 at Hedgehog Lab in Generator Studios and comprised of a panel of industry experts discussing XR plus Q&A with the audience. The panel included Shaun Allan who started his own business in virtual and augmented reality development back in 2008 and currently heads up the strategic development of the VR, AR and MR division at Hedgehog Lab. Anya Bramich who currently works as a Digital Developer at Gateshead Council and before this she worked with automotive technology company Zero Carbon Futures and during that time worked with hedgehog lab on a HoloLens project designed to demonstrate the use of Augmented Reality in a training environment. Justin Barad who is the co-founder and CEO of Osso VR, an award-winning surgical training platform helping to increase patient safety and the adoption of cutting edge medical technology.

What is XR? Mobile AR / Augmented Reality to fully immersive VR / Virtual Reality, using various technology such as mobile phone or headset, covers all the layers of immersive technologies, although not knowing the phrases and terminology can cause confusion, for example there is a new implementation of XR, which is Diminished Reality – is where you take objects out of a room such as chairs or tables and replace these with virtual elements such as viewing home furnishings.

Virtual Reality – when will this be mainstream? Could be a solution to training challenges in medicine as often you do something once but need to do it a hundred times to be confident in doing it correctly and as close to reality as possible and enhance patient safety. Need to spend more time with VR in everyday life, it’s not as popular as it should be or as predicted. Older versions of the technology might have put people off with Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality is taking off much quicker and be on Mobile devices such as AR Kit on iPhone and AR Core on Android. HoloLens was clever name as people would be reasonably familiar with Holograms from science fiction and this has been used for training and seems well suited to this plus this may be the best benefit of HoloLens for businesses who need training solutions it might solve.

Most worthwhile use of XR? The simplest value proposition for it, including increasing adoption of more technology that allows or improve performance of users based on that training. It will be relatively KPI driven, but can make it something that is demonstrably an improvement in a business. Other industries where XR could be implemented other that uses such as surgeries could include training staff in many sectors such as aerospace or engage staff in understanding processes within a company. At the moment these experiences tend to be entertainment industry for headsets such as Oculus and HTC Vive but there are also commercial packaged versions of these.

Most impressive implementation of XR? Examples could include showing off plans and gaining feedback from residents for new developments for councils and understand proposals. MS sufferer experience was something that stood out to glimpse a little what that is like. Collaboration in a 3D space or a room to provide feedback or have a chat in a virtual space meetings. Northern Design Centre has launched their own Immersive Lab and allow access to latest XR technologies. Innovate UK provided a budget for this to provide facilities such as Green Screen cubes for Mixed Reality and expands on the Vertigo Labs experience and this will move into the forthcoming Proto Building in Gateshead which will house these companies and facilities, plus allow large untethered headset experiences similar to HoloDeck concept from Star Trek. Hospitals are providing VR experiences as part of medical treatment for distractions for children while delivering medication and is an option for many hospitals. Gateshead is leading the UK to build the facilities for XR experiences and build the skills needed for this technology.

Why is adoption not as high as it should be? The cost of headsets and systems is quite expensive with Samsung leading with their cheap headset addition to their high end phones, Oculus is about £400 but was around £700 but when it’s £300 might help more adoption of the hardware. Even when people have the hardware they need a really good reason to use it over something else, such as more experiences or solve a problem better with the technology, need to have more daily user engagement  to help improve the situation. Early Adoption can seem risky but can also give you and edge such as property could take advantage of this. Ikea is working on experiences to see how items will look in a given space, once this sort of use case appears then more companies may follow as well, or visualisation apps like Dulux has for paint are basic versions of this, not a gimmick but something useful. Idea of standalone untethered headsets will help with this including Oculus Go but the first wave of these won’t  as powerful as the tethered device. But there are devices such as HoloLens are very expensive and relatively fragile. Mixed Reality Headsets powered by Microsoft Windows Holographic allow Virtual Reality experiences for a lower cost.

How should Haptic Technology be used with XR? This would allow feedback within a virtual experience or environment, could provide enhanced usability but can be expensive and maybe unnecessary.  With surgery could use it but can actually provide your own feedback with the brain even if there’s no actual feedback and could be overriding someone’s own sense of presence and providing something that feels artificial or the uncanny valley and for haptic feedback it can be confusing or distracting, less is more is the current trend.

What is the one narrative that will ignite interest in XR or VR and take it to the next level? It mainly means showing the evidence of how things can be improved using XR, collaborative experience with virtual events could be one or experience Google Earth in VR for places or taking people to places they can’t go such as Mars.

Going from Pilot to Mainstream, what is the inflection of this? People aren’t moved to action to improve surgeries with XR or technology as much as the aviation industry has to improve itself, and more widespread usage is important and allows training to be more cost effective if centralised.

How do you prevent XR from being the next 3D, where this failed to ignite consumer interest? VR is best used to do something you cannot do in any other medium. The general principles of XR depend on the capabilities of the various “R”s and best experiences are those that require the least on boarding. If there’s a lot of information to take in and if it’s not apparent what this means in reality – these technologies can help visualise this. Anything that is expensive or need to be replicated over and over again, or dangerous is where VR can make a business case.

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