“Wow that’s nice Grandma, what is it?”
“It’s one of those virtual reality head set thingies, I heard they were the must have present for Christmas this year.”
“Erm, great, what do I do with it?”
Every Christmas seems to bring its must have present, toys for children and tech for adults. Go back a few years to 2010 and 3D TVs were ‘the thing’, but this year they have pretty much disappeared from high street retailers. Perhaps there are some things that VR could learn from the 3D TV experience.
Tech needs to be simple and instant. If you wanted to watch that 3D film, you had to mess around getting the headsets ready for everyone and make sure you were sitting in an optimum place to view. VR needs to find a way to allow us to interface with it quickly and effectively. We need to be able to slip on the headset and be instantly immersed in another, Virtual, world without having to fumble around for controls to switch things on.
Tech needs to have a single standard to ensure it is portable and shareable. With 3D there were two types of headset, the simple polarized glasses type, and the connected vision switching type. The latter gave the better experience but came with a higher price tag. Currently with VR there is this type of division. There is the cheap and cheerful, Google cardboard type headsets, slip in your phone and you’re off. Alternatively there are vendor specific options like the Samsung Gear VR headset, great quality but you are tethered to a high spec PC.
Tech needs to be social. So you are watching that 3D film and your friends call round, for them to join your experience you need more 3D glasses or they will feel excluded. This can be an issue with VR, you are isolated in that world, currently the only way to share your experience is on a flat 2D screen. There have been prototypes of ways to meet in virtual space but they are not openly available yet, so alternative ways to make it social need to be considered.
Tech needs to be affordable. The higher spec 3D glasses meant a high outlay on top of a high cost TV. With the Samsung Gear VR, you can get some amazing experiences from your mobile phone, but you do need that high spec PC to run it. The rapid increase of Cardboard or cheaper plastic headsets provide a much more affordable option.
There have been trials of Google cardboard VR headsets in UK primary schools, providing a great experience but without any real thought on the further application of the technology. Most primary pupils don’t have their own mobile phones or, if they do, they are generally too old or too low spec for viewing VR. In addition there is the need for connectivity – Parents won’t be happy with their child bringing home a massive data download bill. Primary Schools need to ensure they have the Wi-Fi capacity to cope with VR and the capabilities to help pupils access it.
Tech needs infrastructure support. 3D TVs had little support on networks, Sky had a premium channel (another expense) which disappeared due to low subscription, and the BBC suspended its 3D offer when financial cuts bit. For VR to thrive it needs to have accessible and visible channels. AR (augmented reality) is linked to real world objects providing some form of visibility, however VR, as its name implies, is completely virtual! People need to have safe environments to consume content supported by a reliable infrastructure.
There is huge potential for VR. It can bring new dimensions into leisure and education sectors. However, we need to consider the potential issues it can have, and look to recent history to avoid making the same mistakes.
With this year’s BETT show looming as the big education tech event at the end of the month it’s worth those visiting thinking about the mistakes of the past. We need to ensure that technologies such as AR and VR are not confined to that tech cupboard full of wizzy ideas which never quite delivered what was promised.
If you are considering investing in VR, AR or MR (mixed reality) technology then it needs to be part of a strategy not just a fad. It really is worth speaking to someone who has been involved with these types of projects and uses their experience as a guide. Enlighten-ac has this knowledge and understands how to apply an effective strategy to the introduction of new technology.
Before you invest in your new AR, VR, MR technology , it’s worth having a chat to them.
Why make expensive mistakes, and consign more good ideas to the back of the cupboard?
Talk to the experts at Enlighten who are already leading numerous successful AR/VR projects.
Guest Blogger @Enlighten_ac