This Month In The Wonderful World Of XR: Dress up as an avatar to the Christmas party


Pieter Van Leugenhagen

Jan 25th, 2021

The mass adoption of extended reality or (XR)–the collective term for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR)–is a long ways off, but there’s a battle raging between the giants of big tech to become “the next big computing platform.” The corona crisis has only fueled the fire which is why I am writing a monthly overview of the most noteworthy events and changes in the XR landscape.

This Month In The Wonderful World Of XR: Dress up as an avatar to the Christmas party


Pieter Van Leugenhagen

The mass adoption of extended reality or (XR)–the collective term for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR)–is a long ways off, but there’s a battle raging between the giants of big tech to become “the next big computing platform.” The corona crisis has only fueled the fire which is why I am writing a monthly overview of the most noteworthy events and changes in the XR landscape.

London launched its largest "invisible" art show

Since this month, London has hosted the first-ever augmented reality group exhibition. The event, entitled “Unreal City”, will display 36 virtual sculptures in various locations along the Thames. They are invisible to the human eye, so you conjure them up through the lens of your smartphone. The overall goal of the organizers of “Unreal City” is to unite the worlds of art and technology in a way that is accessible to all.

 

Such AR exhibitions, or call them interactive walks, offer enormous opportunities for city marketers, but also for brands. It is actually a shame that such initiatives have not seen the light of day much earlier. 2020 has become the year of hikers and adding augmented reality would certainly have provided an entertaining factor, especially for the younger generation. I am curious how this will evolve in the future and especially the regulations in this regard. For example, as a company, will you have the right to freely use certain public locations to let people connect with your brand and for how long can you use them?

Ghent scale-up invests in VR glasses to bring employees together for the holidays

Deliverect, the software for bundling catering orders for home delivery, has had a record year. To thank their employees for their hard work over the past year, Deliverect is gifting each team member with the Oculus-Quest 2, one of the most advanced VR headsets on the market today. And they did it for a reason.

 

Because it is not possible to bring all colleagues together for an end-of-year party and because a lot of new colleagues have joined this year who have not actually met each other yet, co-founder Jan Hollez came up with the bright idea to organize their Christmas party in virtual reality. For this they used the social VR platform “Altspace” from Microsoft.

Virtual reality is “the second-best” experience and very different from a massive zoom session, you can freely navigate around in a platform like “Altspace” and move from group to group to talk to people. The eyes and mouth of your avatar move and with your controllers you can wave at each other or shake virtual hands. Via multimedia screens you can integrate presentations or videos, so that in addition to an informal part with networking and mini games, a formal part can also be linked to it.

 

In America we see a lot of customers buying VR glasses en masse to bring their employees together in virtual reality. They even go a step further and ask us to build custom worlds on the Altspace platform. The identity and culture of the company is then processed in the virtual environment and they work out a long-term vision to, for example, also hold meetings in VR, because we are getting tired of the Zoom of Teams sessions in group, but working from home will no longer disappear.

 

I have already discussed the fact that social VR platforms are on the rise. But I would still like to point out that the American “Rec Room” raised an additional $ 20 million this month. They too are winners of the corona crisis and saw their user numbers triple this year. Their 10 million registered users are mainly young people.

A new year, new resolutions

As with so many I think, doing more sports or living a healthier life is always in the highest echelons of the list of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps this year it may succeed for many, because there is a new hype on the way, VR Fitness apps.

 

Because I have already given many demos at events in the past, I often notice that a game like Beat Saber is extremely popular with all ages. And where the youngsters get to work with the virtual drumsticks purely in a playful way, we often hear from the older generation that they see this as ideal morning gymnastics.

 

The successful game was bought this time last year by anyone other than Facebook. That acquisition was a perfect fit with the strategy of Zuckerberg and his team, as they launched Oculus Move in September of this year. An app available through the Oculus Quest 2 that tracks all your movements and physical activities across all apps, as well as the number of calories you burn.

 

Other popular examples of VR fitness apps that can help you with your New Year’s resolutions include “Supernatural”, which is similar to Beat Saber, but with a real focus on fitness exercises. The app gives you a new workout every 24 hours and is available via a subscription formula of 20 euros / month. Finally, there is “The Thrill of The Fight” or “Creed VR”. Both are “boxing games” and let you really experience what it is like to step into a ring. You are completely out of breath when you step back out. I can assure you that.

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