The Reality is VIRTUAL not VIRAL
THESE PHRASES HAVE BECOME THE THEME OF 2020.“Social Distancing.” “#StayHome.” “Wash your hands.”
As businesses try to figure out what comes next and how we can establish some level of normalcy at work while maintaining productivity, many are asking the question: Is this virtual reality’s time to shine?
Well, we in the tech industry say “YES.”
We’ve been saying it for a while, but still… We have already been seeing the benefits of using virtual reality as an option for meeting up when physical proximity isn’t an option, and as the world continues to evolve, we believe that this tech will find itself on the list of “must-haves” right alongside other tele-commuting software.
Speaking of which, the current, rapidly-changing landscape we have all found ourselves in lends itself to tele-commuting in volumes we’ve never seen before. With most businesses agreeing that “the show must go on” in some form or fashion in order to avoid mass layoffs or even a complete and total shuttering, even though individuals are unable to physically be at the workplace, companies (ours included!) are turning to the likes of Zoom and Teams for some face time collaboration with their teams. But what happens when face-to-face on a 2D screen isn’t enough to keep the ball rolling?
That’s where we believe that VR can come out swinging. When you need to be as hands-on as possible, while still maintaining your distance, virtual reality allows users to gather in a virtual space to learn together, practice skills together, and explore otherwise impossible scenarios together.
For example, doctors at George Washington University Hospital are harnessing this powerful tech to examine the inside of the lungs of a patient diagnosed with COVID-19.
Dr. Keith Mortman, chief of thoracic surgery, said that “There is such a stark contrast between the virus-infected abnormal lung and the more healthy, adjacent lung tissue… And it’s such a contrast that you do not need an MD after your name to understand these images. This is something the general public can take a look at and really start to comprehend how severe the amount of damage this is causing the lung tissue.” Outside of healthcare/research, some have already begun incorporating VR into continuing-education seminars and conferences in order to enhance audience engagement with 3D visualizations.
Meanwhile, in the education realm, students of all ages have been sent home to undertake e-learning in lieu of traditional classroom instruction. While this is, and will continue to be, an important option for many students, what about those whose education requires a level of immersion that cannot be gained by watching instructional videos or listening to lectures alone?
Enter Virtual Reality.
“Hands-on” practice is one area where we have seen VR truly shine. Regardless of social distancing requirements, VR-equipped students are able to continue practicing their skills with virtual tools without skipping a beat. And this goes for on-the-job training classes, too! Why let this time pass with trainees sitting at home, when they could be learning the skills required for their job instead? Why come to a complete halt if you don’t have to? When we find ourselves on the other side of these crazy times, employees who can hit the ground running will be essential to picking up as close to where we left off as possible
Here at V3, we have created training programs that allow our customers to keep wheels turning while their competition sits at home. VR headsets can be deployed to trainees, and instructors are not forced to pause their curriculum while the rest of the world is at a standstill. Realistic scenarios, custom environments, and product-specific training procedures give our customers the upper hand. While most companies are poised in the blocks, waiting for the gun to fire to signal when we can resume our lives, our customers are already sprinting down the track!
See our previous blog posts about virtual training here and here.
Lastly, for businesses whose livelihood relies on getting their products into the hands of customers, virtual reality also allows for close-up demonstrations while still maintaining current standards of social distancing. From small items to large and otherwise unwieldy products, demoing in a virtual space creates as close to an in-person experience as possible, and also creates opportunities to market to more potential customers than ever before when distance is no longer a blocker.
See some of our work in digital marketing here.
And the best part about being able to deploy a fleet of VR headsets is that it’s finally EASY! With hardware options like the Oculus Quest being super portable, gone are the days of PC setup, rearranging furniture, and stringing cables to properly setup lighthouses. Such compact portability means that headsets can be packed up into cases barely bigger than a loaf of bread (after being sanitized, of course), and shipped to whoever needs it. The end user can simply pick it up, turn it on, and GO!
Do you have questions about how Virtual Reality can support your business during this time? Or general questions about what else this powerful technology can do? Let us know! Want to SEE what we can do, in living color? We’d love to show you this powerful tool in action. Let us put our claims to the test for you with a demo today!
We genuinely want to hear from you and are happy to share what we know. Your questions might even be a catalyst for our next post! In the meantime, we hope that all of you are staying safe, sane, and healthy.
Crawl, Walk, RUN: Working in Phases
It was the summer between 5th and 6th grade. Long before the “balanced calendar” and year-round school, summers seemed to last forever – which was great.
I was old enough to not need supervision every second of every day, which means I was old enough to start taking some risks and learning a thing or two.
One particular day, my friends and I rode our bikes to the local municipal swimming pool. This pool’s legendary high dive had a reputation all its own. Being the age where hyperbole was more of a way of life, this thing might as well have been 30-stories tall. In truth looking back I think it was (3) meters. During previous summers I had shied away from slaying this particular dragon, but this year was apparently going to be different for some reason I can’t recall – oh that’s right, peer pressure! Before I knew it, there I was blindly climbing the ladder’s steps. When I got to the top, what was a noisy hot July breeze just 3 meters below, now became a brisk wind that invented goosebumps. And there was no noise… somehow the sounds of splashing and yelling were muted…just gone…silence. I was up there for what seemed like 7 or 8 years. I finally got the courage to take the requisite steps to the edge to look down. I remember wishing to be ANYWHERE else. Cutting through the silence I heard a voice say, “Better go. That ladder only goes up.” I still have no idea who said this. I’ve never even mentioned it until now. But those words resonated with me. 3…2…I… I jumped. I went deep into the unknown, and I lived. I stood on the edge of something that used to be bigger than me, heard what I needed to hear, and jumped.
I say all that to say this. Sometimes, in our professional lives, we still need to take chances and learn. I literally stood on that edge, and with the smallest amount of reassurance, threw caution to the wind and jumped. Years later, reflecting back on it, I’ve learned the value of being able to segment something out and do it one piece at a time. There are some scenarios where it’s not an option – like jumping off the high dive. That moment, when you jump is what it is. But the ladder to get there is one rung at a time.
The same rules apply when looking at interactive technology and the work that we’re able to do. Whether or not to use an interactive experience to strengthen your communication objectives is a daunting prospect without all the info. And that’s what we’re here for. Just because an interactive experience is a journey, doesn’t mean there needs to be fear associated with it. Working in phases is a great way to lessen the stress, ease the cost burden, and make sure you’re headed in the right direction. This is what it’s like to work with VisionThree.
First of all, we don’t look at the work like a project. A project is something fleeting… something with an end. We look at the work as an experience, or better yet, an investment. We know these things are investments for you. And that’s the way we’d rather it be too… we’re not here for the one and done deal. It’s in both of our interests that we act as partners and never “client and agency.” We know that you’re sticking your neck out if you’re bringing us to the table, and we don’t take that lightly or for granted. In order to make something that will last and be viable at all stages, we help you by building it to allow for scalability.
When you’re ready, we can talk. No pressure. We’d love to have you visit our Experience Center in person to get the full impact. But we can always have a virtual meeting to show you what we do with the actual experience creation. But where we really make a difference, we feel, is advising our clients on how to save time and money and achieve goals. Working in phases is only ONE of the many things we can help you with.
Let’s face it, there are going to be times in your professional life where you’re standing on that high dive all by yourself. Unlike that situation, we’re here to help remove some of that fear. In a way it’s kind of a good thing that the ladder only goes up…one rung at a time.
The question is, where will you go?
AUGMENTED REALITY (AR):
Adding digital elements to the view of the real world.
VIRTUAL REALITY (VR):
100% digitally created world.
MIXED REALITY (MR):
Marketing buzzword popularized by Microsoft for their brand of Augmented Reality products.
“Immersive videos” or ‘spherical videos.”
AUGMENTED REALITY (AR):In this example of Augmented Reality, the cityscape is rendered over the camera image of the real tabletop environment.
Augmented Reality Defined: “A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.”
Layman's terms: Adding digital elements to the view of the real world.
Microsoft Hololens (Hololens 2), Tablets & Phones, Apple Glasses (future), Oculus Glasses (future).
GOALS WITH USING:
To build onto the existing world, providing extra relevant content.
Simply put, Augmented Reality overlays digital images on top of the real world and let’s you see both at the same time.
Here at V3, one way we have used AR is to provide a way for our clients to demo large, unwieldy products for their customers. Being able to overcome the impossible hassle of lugging massive samples from demonstration to demonstration allows our clients to provide context for what their products will look like in place. From large-scale electrical panels to scale models of entire city blocks, we’ve effectively used AR to paint a picture of “what could be” for our clients and their customers.
V3 has used AR to provide a way for our clients to demo large, unwieldy products for their customers.
Outside of sales applications, AR also generates opportunities for people to connect with their surroundings in the real world in new ways. Imagine exploring a new city while you’re on vacation, and walking directions are provided via your phone’s camera. Or looking for a place to eat dinner, and you can simply point your phone at a restaurant’s sign to read current online reviews. The retail industry is a huge growth area for AR right now.
Real-world applications are ever-growing and becoming more and more innovative every day. Apple has started making big investments in AR, introducing a library of apps designed to integrate virtual elements into the physical world. IKEA, GE, and American Airlines are some of the partners that Apple has announced so far to debut AR applications to run on iPhone and iPad.
Microsoft’s HoloLens has brought this tech into trend in the mainstream in the wearable tech realm. Rather than viewing virtual objects in the real world through a “window” like one might with a tablet running an AR application, wearable tech like this allows users to interact with virtual objects in their actual space via a transparent “screen” mounted on a headset.
This all sounds great however, the wearable technology just isn’t there yet. Very limited fields of view (think of a postage stamp-sized screen in front of your eye) and limited graphics capabilities have seriously handicapped this type of hardware. We have high hopes for this tech’s future, especially with companies like Apple and Oculus increasing their involvement in meaningful ways. But for now, it’s on the shelf, labeled, “Well, they certainly had good intentions.”
Sadly, the wearable AR hardware just isn’t there yet. Small field of view and poor processing impose limits. We’re hopeful for the future.
VIRTUAL REALITY (VR):The Oculus Quest Virtual Reality headset (trumpet fanfare). No computer required, no wires, 100% awesome.
Virtual Reality Defined: “The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment.”
Layman's Terms: A 100% digitally created world.
Oculus Quest (also, Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro, Valve Index… the list goes on and on).
GOALS WITH USING:
To create a custom environment specifically suited for a variety of different purposes including training, education, entertainment, social networking, and more.
The main goal of Virtual Reality is total immersion into a different world – a world built entirely of the creator’s vision. Users don a headset and enter a consequence-free virtual environment full of advanced visualizations where skills can be practiced again and again with the touch of a reset button. The virtual space might be a classroom where users can repair the inner workings of a jet engine or perform a cutting edge surgery. These scenarios are engaging and impactful, and most importantly, they feel REAL. Studies have shown that skills learned in VR are retained quicker and last longer than traditional hands-on practice.
A lot of our clients come to us with requirements for enterprise release, so we took that feedback and created the V3CORE Training platform. This powerhouse training platform offers a broad array of benefits like the ones we’ve already discussed, AND allows multiple people to “meet” in the same space at the same time, regardless of geographical distance. Imagine being able to meet with team members from around the world for a training without having to hop on a plane! With V3CORE Training, this is now a REAL Reality! The endless possibilities of this platform let our clients’ vision come to “real” life in a virtual world that can accommodate participants from across the globe. Obviously that carries a huge practical benefit no longer requiring extensive amounts of travel budgets.
There’s TONS V3CORE has to offer that we’re not talking about here, but we’d be happy to discuss. Just find us on social media (links below) or visit our website to schedule a virtual demo.
We’ve created the V3CORE Training platform. Our robust, cloud-based solution that takes VR Training to the next level.
In researching for this article it quickly became apparent that the notion of “Mixed Reality” and “Windows Mixed Reality” were extremely contradictory in nature. So while there may be conflicting reports and opinions on the subject we’re communicating it the way WE see most useful to you – the people we’re trying NOT to confuse.
MIXED REALITY (MR):
Mixed Reality Defined: “An experience where a live presentation of physical real-world elements is incorporated with that of virtual elements such that they are perceived to exist together in a shared environment.” (sound familiar?)
Layman's Terms: A marketing buzzword popularized by Microsoft for their brand of Virtual Reality products.
To summarize and hopefully lessen the confusion you may have in this area, to us, “Mixed Reality” is essentially the same as “Augmented Reality”. The fact that Microsoft included the term “Mixed Reality” in the marketing efforts of their VR headsets (Windows Mixed Reality), THEN marketed HoloLens 2 as a Mixed Reality device further clouded the issue. Thus all hopes at removing confusion were lost.
And as a Bonus… 360° VIDEOS:The GoPro Feedom360 camera rig. That’s right. That’s (6) GoPro’s networked together to create the image. Very economical!
360º Video Defined: “Also known as ‘immersive videos’ or ‘spherical videos,’ 360° videos are video recordings where a view in every direction is recorded at the same time, shot using an omnidirectional camera or a collection of cameras. During playback on normal flat display, the viewer has control of the viewing direction like a panorama.”
GoPro Omni or Ozo are the special cameras used to capture video in 360º. (But the videos can be viewed everywhere from VR Headsets to YouTube.)
GOALS WITH USING:
To provide an immersive, yet affordable experience that relies on video footage rather than custom, interactive 3D software. To many the ability to source this type of content is much more approachable from a cost standpoint.
This technique definitely wins our award for most often mistakenly referred to as VR.
You’ve likely seen a 360° videos before, though you may not have known what to call it. They’re basically videos that wrap all the way around you. They pair nicely with tablets and touch-screen phones, which act as a “window” into the video’s world. But rather than just watching the scene from a static view, the user is free to physically move their device and pan around for a better vantage point. And as a bonus, 360° cameras are getting cheaper by the day, and are thus far easier to source than ever, making them very attractive to anyone just starting out with virtual experiences.
The drawback to a 360° video is that while a user is able to physically “look” around a scene (up/down, side-to-side, or on an angle), there is no option to step forward or back to examine something closer or from a distance. This restriction means less interactivity than would be possible with heavier-hitting VR hardware. That’s not to say that 360° video experiences have to be boring! Here at V3, we have taken 360° videos and added additional content in-scene with the video to interact with, making for a far richer experience.
At V3, we take 360º video and add content to it making it interactive. Still way cool!
We want to hear from YOU!
If you have any interest in learning more about any of these tech trends, or if you have any questions, give us a shout! Your next question could end up inspiring our next blog post! Seriously, this is not a sales pitch. We want to tell this story so that this new tech can inspire new ideas and reach its full potential. We hope that this little vocabulary lesson has helped clear some of the fog surrounding some of today’s most popular tech. We are available on our website, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Why Oculus for Business is Important for YOUR Business
With the introduction of the new Oculus Quest headset, more people than ever are harnessing the power of Virtual Reality. With its power, portability, and price point, believers are jumping on the opportunity to bring VR into the training room.
With this newest hardware comes a new educational tool that will change the way that companies prepare new employees for on-the-job scenarios… and in record time, too! And with the announced ‘Oculus for Business,’ companies can feel more secure than ever that their trade secrets are equal parts safe and accessible.
But what is ‘Oculus for Business,' you ask? Let's dig in and demystify it a little bit!
For starters, Oculus hardware runs device-specific software, just like the apps on your phone. Where Apple devices use apps from the Apple App Store, and Android devices use apps from the Google Play Store, Oculus headsets have their own homebase for “experiences” (the VR equivalent of “apps”), known as the “Quest Store.” Currently, when developers create a new experience for the Oculus Quest, that experience is distributed through the Quest Store.
That makes for easily accessible experiences at your fingertips, which is great! It’s certainly great for companies who want to deploy training experiences across a wide network.
But what happens when the content of an experience contains sensitive information? Not all apps/experiences are suitable for public distribution with so little security for trade secrets. That’s where “Enterprise” licensing comes into play. Dependable security measures are in place to ensure that intellectual property stays private.
With Enterprise licensing, companies like Apple provide developers with the “keys” to software that does the grunt work of keeping applications up to date (and out of the app store at large).
VisionThree has been helping companies secure their intellectual property by using this approach for years with apps in the Apple App Store. We are able to use a secure web link that customers can use to download their apps. Our developers can control who has access to this link and/or protect it with a username and password, which provides additional layers of security.
In our view, our clients should have the same headache-free experience when dealing with their Virtual Reality content distribution. Sure, it’s great to protect intellectual property and sensitive information, and we do that. But we also want to provide the most worry-free experience to clients. The process doesn’t stop with creating the experience… deployment is just as important. So that’s why we’re keeping such a close eye on the Oculus Enterprise program.
Oculus has vaguely stated their enterprise distribution platform should launch in November of 2019. We’re in direct contact with them. With just a few short weeks to go, keep an eye on our Facebook and/or LinkedIn pages; we’ll pass along any more news or updates leading up to launch!
It’s What’s On the Inside-Out That Counts
Remember when the VCR remote had a wire? Or your mobile phone had a bag? And the GPS unit plugged into your car and stuck to the windshield?
Technology is moving wicked fast. And Virtual Reality is accelerating even faster.
This post is about VR losing its wired remote, its leather tote bag, and the suction cup. It’s about how your brand can accomplish powerful new breakthroughs with this exciting technology with fewer restrictions and a lower investment. It’s about the future arriving now.
One of those key developments is inside-out tracking. Tracking the headset and controllers is crucial to providing deeply immersive experiences in Virtual Reality. Inside-out tracking means no more need for finicky infrared base stations and troublesome room set-ups.
Cost for the gear has decreased while delivering the same quality of experience. Win win!
To understand the new, let’s quickly talk about the old.
Positional Tracking – The Traditional Way
With traditional tracking, like that of the HTC Vive (which has been the industry standard for “quality” VR experiences), base stations (“Lighthouses”) are placed at opposite top corners of the room.
They are equal parts transmitter and sensor. They emit wide-angle, two-dimensional infrared beams across the entire room. This is done 1 axis at a time, so left-right then top-bottom, repeatedly. Before each sweep they emit a powerful infrared flash of light.
Each tracked device contains an array of infrared photodiodes (“photodiodes” is just fun to say – go ahead and try it, we’ll wait) connected to a chip. Remember those “dimples” all over the HTC Vive headset and controllers? They’re not just for looks! This chip measures the time between the infrared flash and being hit by the laser sweep for each axis.
The PC is then able to determine the angles that each “dimple” was hit with by infrared light and use that information to determine its position in the room. Pretty cool, huh?
While this tech has brought the VR industry leaps and bounds forward, it is not without its drawbacks:
It is relatively expensive (and contributes to the overall hefty price tag of full VR rigs)
It requires mounting lighthouses to sturdy surfaces (aka – you’re probably going to have to drill into the walls), otherwise your experience can be pretty jittery
Lighthouses are very sensitive to interference. Reflective surfaces in the room and especially sunlight can cause issues with the infrared signals, which can also be incredibly disrupting and ultimately make a person feel sick. No one wants to feel sick in VR!
The New Way – Inside-Out tracking
Inside-out tracking uses outward-facing cameras that are integrated into the Head Mounted Display (HMD) and allow the headset to see the environment and any handheld controllers. Sensors and lighthouses that would normally tether a user to a desk have now been integrated into the headset itself. Less hardware, less hassle.
Inside-out tracking differentiates itself from outside-in tracking by the location of the cameras that are used to determine the object’s position in space. Where previous headsets required lighthouses to flood a room with infrared light to determine the position of the headset, in inside-out positional tracking, the camera or sensors are located on the device itself.
Bob’s headset tracks from the inside out. Be like Bob.
Just like your smartphone swallowed your windshield GPS unit, the new method of tracking gobbled up the lighthouses making them obsolete.
But wait! There’s more! As a bonus feature, some headsets with inside-out tracking (like the Oculus Quest) feature “guardians” that can remember a physical room and do not require a user to re-map the space every time that the headset is used in that room. But just in case, they’ve made this all-important safety step super easy and straightforward. If the headset doesn’t recognize the space it’s occupying as a space in its memory, it automatically takes the user through the process.
No more bumping into furniture when the immersiveness takes over!
What does it all mean?
Improvements to positional tracking in Virtual Reality headsets have made the technology more portable and more viable.
It’s not only way cooler for the kids in the basement having lightsaber battles, it’s also proving its worth as a solution in industries that are leveraging this powerful tool. And somehow the price has actually gone down! These new headsets boast improved tech as well as drastically lower cost than their predecessors. Better tech, lower price. Again, win-win!
It’s okay if your mind is blown, so is ours and we work with this stuff daily!
One of our developers had this to say about Inside-Out Tracking:
Inside-out tracking is an important technology because it helps us make compelling VR portable, and as the rise of smartphones showed us, portability and accessibility are a powerful combination.
And remember there’s no point ditching the lighthouses if you don’t ditch the wire tether while you’re at it – which means ditching the external PC too. This new crop of Virtual Reality hardware has ushered in a truly untethered VR experience. Users can now move about their physical space unencumbered by distracting cords, and no longer have a need for mounted lighthouses, or even an external PC.
It is no different from a time not so long ago (depending on how old you are) where computers filled rooms, then tables, and now fit into pockets. Technology is shrinking, becoming more integrated into our daily lives, and is well within reach of “normal” people. And that’s when things start to really heat up in terms of uptake and evolution. If this truly is the beginning of something… and it is… it is absolutely incredible to think of where this technology could take us and what a ride it is going to be.
Just think… Virtual Reality will be “pocket sized” soon enough. Will you be ready?
VisionThree, LLC (a.k.a. V3), is an interactive creative agency headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, USA. Focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Touch interactive, we serve and support clients globally with innovative and immersive experiences. V3 specializes in creating experiences that engage, educate, and entertain. Please learn more at VisionThree.com