This VR Treadmill could be your next home gym
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.
Companies in numerous sectors feel the strain of Covid-19 and its social distancing economy. Either organizations are overrun and need extra hands (health care) or they are on pause and business is paralyzed. XR offers opportunities for both. Event organizers, for example, have suffered. Of course they prefer in-person events over virtual alternatives, but waiting for everything to return to normal is not a business strategy.
Ad agencies, as well as multiple in-house corporate departments (marketing, sales, HR and event) are pressed to find alternatives that have a more human connection with their respective audiences. Virtual platforms exist that can simulate reality in an immersive and "gamified" way to create a "second-best" experience. Hyperfair, for example, offered a virtual alternative to trade shows, but also includes the potential to build virtual communities. The VirBELA platform, already used by many American schools as a virtual campus, can also be used as an online collaboration tool and for virtual events.
PWC's Virtual Park
A long-time pioneer in New Realities, PwC UK continues to study virtual and augmented technology and how it will affect their clients’ business in the coming years. Last year they launched the "Seeing is Believing’" a report that predicts how VR/AR will impact global GDP by $1.5 trillion by 2030.
PwC UK created Virtual Park largely in response to COVID-19. With employees working from home, PwC needed a way to connect with colleagues and work as a team. Virtual Park, a “second-best” world that uses the VirBELA platform, allows users to get in touch with their employees, understand the different service lines, attend events and presentations and learn more about the corporate culture and company values.
Events are also organized to connect with thousands of students in the UK who are interested in starting their career at PwC. Applicants can obtain information from PwC Senior Managers, but also have one-on-one conversations with the Student Recruitment Team. At the same time, the gamification element helps PwC enter their target group’s world.
HTC launches Vive XR Suite, a VR-app bundle for remote productivity
HTC has officially released the Vive XR Suite, a bundle of five enterprise VR applications with a single login; the apps are designed to make remote work and collaboration easier for business. The release coincides with the majority of the world still working from home.
The Vive XR Suite does not consist of proprietary software, but rather the goal is to package existing applications in order to increase the added value of HTC hardware. The five applications include:
VIVE Sync (HTC) - Meetings
VIVE Campus (VirBELA) - Virtual Offices
VIVE Sessions (ENGAGE) - Opleiding & training
VIVE Social (VRChat) - Social VR
VIVE Museum (Museum of Other Realities) - Tentoonstellingen
HTC is one of the founders of this VR cycle, their focus on this business applications and this software bundle only reinforces their commitment to VR.
Virtuix Omni announces Omni One, an omni-directional treadmill for consumers
Virtual reality startup Virtuix is building a personal VR treadmill. The Omni One, a comprehensive full-body controller, allows you to physically run, jump and crouch on the spot. Following the successful launch of the Omni Arena, a multi-player installation targeting arcade centers and the esports industry, the Omni One should be ready for the consumer market by mid-2021. The VR treadmill will cost $1,995 (incl. PC and headset) and the company announced the product together with a crowdfunding investment campaign. After testing these treadmills myself in Austin, Texas, it becomes apparent how challenging the workout is.
Looking towards the future
If the Omni One looks vaguely familiar, the concept already appeared in Ready Player One, the 2018 science fiction film based on Ernest Cline’s futuristic and dystopian book set in 2045. If we look ahead into the future and try to match our social evolution with the technological revolutions, such a scenario may not be far-fetched. Due to stay-in-place orders, we seek more refuge in the virtual, both privately and professionally.
According to Michael Wolf, CEO of Activate Consulting, a leading strategic consultancy firm for media, entertainment and technology, the total value of the gaming industry will be around $198 billion by 2024, excluding virtual and augmented reality hardware and devices. Activate Consulting sees a huge increase in the use of gaming platforms for virtual concerts, dating, and messaging, among others.
It is only a matter of time before technology will keep up with expectations. The arrival of 5G will serve as a giga-accelerator for the virtual industry. In the 1980s, KITT, in the tv-series Knight Rider, was a talking self-driving car that no one ever imagined to be cruising the streets. Less than fifty years later, self-driving cars actually exist.
The vision of the future sketched above may sound slightly sci-fi, but perhaps not so absurd. I'm a big fan of virtual reality, particularly as a “second-best experience,” so maybe we should point ourselves in the direction of the future and embrace the technology that helps us connect and be healthy during this trying period of social distancing.