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Virtual reality breaking boundaries

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There are many preconceptions about virtual reality (VR) technology.

Our thoughts about the capability of VR technology are informed by examples seen in everyday life, such as the popularity of the simple but extremely addictive world-building computer game Minecraft. The members of a recent government delegation who visited Company-X led by Minister for Local Government and Associate Minister Trade and Export Growth Nanaia Mahuta mentioned the game two or three times during their hour at Company-X.

But VR technology can do so much more than create three-dimensional computer models of the real world to keep the Minecraft-playing kids happy for a couple of hours. Its capabilities are now much closer to those imagined in the 1980s by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his team when they created the Starship Enterprise’s holodecks in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Star Trek team envisaged virtual reality technology that simulated three-dimensional environments that users could interact with. Using the holodeck, the crew and the passengers of the Enterprise could step into three-dimensional recreations of times and places for recreational purposes, or simulate any training scenario. The sky and the writers’ imaginations were the limits.

We don’t quite have holodecks today, but Nvidia Corporation, best known for its personal computer graphics processing units, is pretty close to Roddenberry’s dream in this space. Nvidia has developed NVIDIA Holodeck to bring designers, peers, and stakeholders from around the world together in a virtual environment to explore creations in a highly realistic, collaborative, and physically simulated environment. Look up the demo video on YouTube.

A Star Trek level experience is delivered through specially designed VR headgear.

Nearly all of Company-X’s virtual reality projects require such headgear, although there are some exceptions. Sensor-encrusted gloves are available to inform the virtual environment projected to the eyes of those wearing the headgear. This is still an emerging technology. We’ve tested some gloves at Company-X and found that the gloves’ capabilities are not quite refined enough for our purposes and the return on investment in the enterprise environment.

The VR of today is a lot closer to holodeck technology than Minecraft.

Augmented reality (AR) technology capability goes hand in hand with virtual reality.

AR reality technology provides a computer-enhanced view of the real world.

A great example is a heads-up display (HUDS) in a fighter jet projecting instrument readings onto a transparent viewscreen in front of the pilot. HUDS removes the need for the pilot to look down to physical instruments, enabling them to keep their eyes on the sky.

The same is true, the sky is the limit, with augmented and virtual reality projects we, at Company-X, are working on with clients.

With the augmented and virtual reality technology available today, scenarios far too dangerous or costly to recreate in the real world can be simulated time and again. Best of all, the reactions of those being trained or refreshed can be recorded so that everyone can learn from the scenario.

It was clear the government delegation who visited could see a real-world application for AR and VR technology as they left the Company-X office in excitement. “You must really love coming to work,” our team was told. And we do.

If a use case can be imagined it can be applied to a business, programmed and deployed to the workforce to help that business see itself in a new way. It’s all about making dreams a virtual reality.

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About Author

David Hallett

David Hallett is a director of Hamilton software specialist Company-X.