By Kerry Topp
Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are hot, in fact, they are damn hot right now.
And it is for good reason.
Firstly, according to the international research company, IDC, total revenue for VR and AR is projected to increase from US$5.2 billion in 2016 to over US$162 billion in 2020.
Secondly, if you mentioned the words augmented reality to anyone outside of the tech industry more than three months ago, they would probably have stared at you blankly. Then came Pokémon Go. Remarkably, that app has been downloaded by 100+ million users and thanks to it’s viral success, the possibilities of AR are now clear for everyone to see.
What is VR and AR?
VR is a 3D computer-generated simulation of real life, which the user is deeply and digitally immersed in.
AR, on the other hand, is sometimes termed Mixed Reality (MR) and it overlays digital information or holograms on to the physical world around us. With AR, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two.
Beyond fun and engaging games like Pokémon Go, reality experiences are currently used in a range of industries, including entertainment, medicine, education, construction, architecture and government.
In my view, reality experiences have now reached the point where humans can interact with it in completely natural ways, from visualisation to gesture and speech recognition, which allows us to be much more efficient and do things we could never have done before.
Over the course of our 51 years of operation, our people have seen many technologies come and go – some successfully and some not so. Because of this, we are very careful about jumping on ‘bandwagons’ – perceived or otherwise. Our approach here is simple; to assess the technology with direct customer input and feedback.
Datacom has led the way locally, by bringing the first Microsoft HoloLens development unit into New Zealand earlier this year. We then quickly followed that up with the establishment of the first HoloLens practice in the country.
HoloLens is a headset that projects high-definition 3D holograms into the wearer’s field of vision, in order to create a mixed reality of both the “real” and “virtual” worlds around the user.
Microsoft has been working on this ground-breaking technology for years and has recently made it available in North American markets only.
Since landing the first HoloLens development kit in New Zealand we have seen strong demand from customers wanting to know more about augmented, virtual and mixed reality. We are seeing widespread and surprising uses for this new technology across our customer base and predict it will become even more mainstream in the coming years based on IDC’s projections. Datacom already has some of our own customers actively prototyping and encouragingly, we have more in the pipeline.
Demonstrable AR Use Cases
Our first real-world project in New Zealand is with Auckland Museum and the University of Auckland’s Information Systems and Operations Management Department (see image below).
In Australia, Datacom has built a concept app that demonstrates how HoloLens can be used to support the motor vehicle industry. The app could allow retailers to sell cars without the need for a single vehicle sitting in a big expensive yard.
As a result, users can interact with a life-sized holographic car, from sitting in the front seat and walking around it to opening the doors and listening to the engine (see image below).
The AR/VR Garage
On Friday, 2nd September 2016, Datacom became the first corporate partner of The AR/VR Garage – an augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) development facility in Auckland’s Eden Terrace.
The AR/VR Garage is a community-led test bed for one of the globe’s fastest growing technology sectors. The facility provides:
- Co-working space for start-up companies with a focus on AR/VR;
- Project space for stand-alone short-term projects;
- Incubator and accelerator services through our on-site operator Industry Connect, and hub resident Lightning Lab Auckland;
- A technology showcase featuring the latest prototypes from Auckland’s world-leading AR/VR sector.
Datacom’s involvement in the AR/VR Garage is again a direct response to the significant interest and desire we have seen by our customers to get hand-on with the experience.
In our view, The Garage is an excellent way to develop a safe environment to test potential AR use cases and to use the strength of GridAKL to tap into new groups of early adopters to engage with the AR ecosystem.
The AR/VR Garage’s working alliances were also firmed-up by Friday’s announcement that it will be the Oceania HQ of the US-based VR Society, joining chapters in Beijing and Canada. Last year, the society netted about US$170 million in VR projects for its global members.
The VR/AR Association, a New York-based organisation with satellite sites in London, Amsterdam and Singapore, is also setting up a New Zealand chapter in the AR/VR Garage to help accelerate industry growth in the region, and the International Game Developers Association will also have a presence in the Garage.
What this all means is that the AR/VR Garage – with Datacom’s support – will fuel Auckland’s growing AR/VR community, which includes game developers, screen and film producers, animators, educators and digital storytellers, and help grow New Zealand’s global digital industry footprint, jobs and investment.
New Zealand Inc
Being a home grown New Zealand business that employs 4,700 employees across 32 countries, growth is not something we at Datacom take lightly. Far from it.
We have worked hard to get to number one in the New Zealand market and we are now challenging international businesses offshore in places like Australia, Malaysia, Philippines China and the US, for a place in their markets’ hearts. Our reach and size now means that people expect more from us. They want to see thought-leadership from us. We know this and we are up for the challenge.
As Daniel Burrus, bestselling author, global futurist and innovation expert, recently pointed out in a post entitled Why Augmented Reality Is Much Bigger Than Pokémon Go, “Businesses are about to be faced with both challenges and opportunities to bring their products to life. The Sephora mobile app is already utilizing augmented reality to “apply” digital makeup and lipstick using the user’s smartphone camera.
“Over 100 million users are also using another form of AR every day with Snapchat geofilters. Seamlessly merging the real and the virtual in photographs is proving to be a phenomenal hit for the social network.” Daniel Burrus
This is an exciting time for technological advances and I’m pleased to be a part of a refreshed and rejuvenated Datacom that is positioning for the significant potential of local and global growth in this incredibly exciting and immersive space.
Our goal in committing to reality experiences is simple; to help grow world-recognised capability, know-how, products and businesses to take New Zealand to the world, just as Datacom has done and will continue to do.
In our view it’s incumbent on us all to work together to uncover more New Zealand businesses growing internationally and taking on the world.
We’re looking forward to the (ad)venture.
For more information on Datacom’s AR/VR practice or the AR / VR Garage, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For more information on the Datacom AR / VR Practice refer to: https://www.artificialintelligenceonline.com/17993/%E2%80%8Bdatacom-leaps-into-augmented-reality-with-trans-tasman-hololens-practice/
- For more information on the AR / VR Garage launch refer to: http://idealog.co.nz/tech/2016/09/augmented-reality-reality-aucklands-arvr-garage-opens
- A Microsoft video of a university in USA that created an education app for medical students https://youtu.be/SKpKlh1-en0
- A “Virtual Museum” app we created as a demonstration to Auckland Museum using their actual 3D artefact scans, to show how people could interact with artefacts like never before https://youtu.be/uhMt4AK9_kQ and https://youtu.be/x1ZWGs-zmtM
- A game demonstrating how holograms can interact with real objects in our boardroom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBMSNzX2J6k
- The virtual and augmented reality market will reach $162 billion by 2020 http://www.businessinsider.com/virtual-and-augmented-reality-markets-will-reach-162-billion-by-2020-2016-8?IR=T (BI Intelligence)
- Why Augmented Reality Is Much Bigger Than Pokémon Go https://medium.com/@DanielBurrus/why-augmented-reality-is-much-bigger-than-pok%C3%A9mon-go-32e2df61b5fb#.eq9nvvb92 (Daniel Burrus)