VIRTUAL REALITY CONFERENCE
The warm cozy yellows of the rising sun bounced off tall grain silos, lit a red ship’s hull and made its way across a vast empty parking lot. Sparkles diffracted off ice crystals and frosted windows around me. I took it all in, in solitude from the penthouse deck on the fifth floor of a converted warehouse in Malmö harbor, Sweden. The intensity, color and crispness of the light triggered the memory of a morning in Iceland years back. The pictures from that morning still trigger the recollection of the air’s crispness and the sound of snow falling gently off overloaded pine branches surrounding the B&B. Of course the view this morning was different but the emotional response had similarities. It was the brains ability to trigger emotional responses that had brought me here. There would soon be a whole lot more of positive and engaging mind manipulation. The morning chill and the thought of a warm coffee made me backtrack across the virgin frost into reality and the Virtual Reality Conference.
Inside the penthouse rows of chairs faced a pulldown screen and a city skyline backdrop behind panorama windows. Perhaps a distraction from the screen from time to time I mused as I took a front row seat for the opening remarks. Per Sikö of Jayway, today’s host, set things off and introduced the first speaker.
Cristian-Emanuel Anton of VRMeetings shared his journey from developing games to convincing “serious” business that Virtual Meetings with a large dose of Augmented Reality thrown in might very well replace Skype and Death by PowerPoint any time soon. It is certainly one way to reduce the carbon footprint and lessen contrails in the skies in years to come. A firsthand experience set up was available for tryouts between sessions.
Eva Kindlundh of Warpin Media argued for the possibilities and attention retention amongst viewers. The future is only just beginning as the immersive experience of first VR (Virtual Reality) will likely be overtaken by AR (Augmented Reality) and downstream morph into the big-ticket main stream of MR (Mixed Reality). She broadened our views with examples of her company’s forays into VR and AR applications in fields as widely apart as try before you buy a house or overcoming fear of public speaking.
Thomas Saaby Noer of Khora detailed a project about getting it right before even investing in a building. His company had placed real surgical doctors and nurses in a mockup hospital setting where they through the use of VR helped optimize the design of operating theatres in a hospital to be built in years to come. By monitoring and recording movements and motion by hospital staff lifesaving procedures can be fine-tuned long before a single (laser) scalpel is ever put to use. It is not only about training of what is there but also harness skillsets of experience to build to perfection.
Between session blood flow and adrenaline was stimulated by donning goggles, holding a stick and a controller to save pucks as a goal keeper of the local hockey team Redhawks. The friendly competition’s highest scorer would walk away with a pair of Oculus Go googles, an incentive for those who did not mind a bit of immersion to the amusement of the surrounding audience.
Jaana Nykänen of Divine Robot detailed VR applications as far a part as applying the right amount of fertilizer in farming to sell laser scopes for hunting rifles. She conceded with cold hard facts and graphs that Sweden and the Nordic countries are lagging behind and if not soon rectified will be left behind as the adaptation is significantly slower than in USA, China and elsewhere. They were also in on the fun by giving a new meaning to planking in the VR game “The Plank”. A player was placed in a mockup of a constructions site elevator and transported in VR with sounds and controllers to the umpteenth floor of a high-rise construction site. There a bottle of champagne lured at the end of a 1.5 meter long (5’), 15 cm wide (6”) suspended wooden plank. As a player stepped out on the two-by-six it vertically swayed slightly enhancing the experience. The reward was to lean down to grab a bottle of bubbly at the end of the plank. If failing the fall would not be into the high-rise abyss but rather a mere 7 cm (3”) to the floor..
Ove Rishøj Jensen of Auto Images made the argument for preserving history in a compelling way through the project “Moment of Freedom”. The experience is designed as standalone as well as a museum piece which is based on one newsreel from April 1945 documenting the arrival in Malmö of concentration camp survivors onboard the “White Buses” at the end of WW II. The White Buses were run by mostly Red Cross volunteers who after the collapse of Hitler’s Third Reich went to Germany to transport camp survivors to Sweden and Denmark. Through lengthy research the film makers were able to track down five survivors and through VR tell their stories.
Lars Cimber of Jayway rounded off my afternoon exemplifying some of the possibilities of AR engines already built into iPhones and Android devices and where they may go next from AR instruction manuals to …. The sky is certainly, not the limit as NASA has already designed the Mars 2013 experience.
Even if I had to cut it a bit short I walked away buzzed with the array of possibilities and a newfound mission to help Sweden to play VR catchup.