May 3rd, 2018
Merging Realities – VR/AR Event of Multiple Perspectives Highlights!
Held at Lethbridge College on April 26th, in Alberta Canada, Merging Realities featured the world’s first VR Conference. The goal of the event was to raise the awareness of the potential of VR/AR.
The event was possible thanks to Doghead Simulations developers of Rumii an impressive social platform for VR, which can be operated with VR devices and used for broadcasting live streamed content such as presentations, images, audio, video and more.
“Merging Realities is a catalyst for amazing things to come for Lethbridge College and the VR/AR industry as a whole”
“The time was right to plan a VR/AR conference, held completely in VR. The event is primarily student-led, which adds to the uniqueness of the event. VR will change education and conferences and this project will be pivotal in this change”
Mike and his efforts working with Doghead to bring this event to life, sets the stage for more events like this one to be held in VR environments in future.
Merging Realities was not without its rockstars ‘within the VR Industry’ the featured line-up of keynote speakers ensured the success of the event.
Alex Katzen, who is with the Google Daydream team delivered the opening keynote of the event, which covered projects Google has been working on in the area of Immersive Computing. It was clear from the opening presentation that there is a strong emphasis on the VR ecosystem and content which could be created and delivered within it.
Alan Smithson from MetaVRse took the stage next and talked about ‘The New 3D and why VR/AR will be the new tools for v-Commerce’.
In his usual inspiring style, Alan emphasized the importance of VR, launching into what initially seemed like a pitch deck about the VR / AR industry, its growth potential, value and the exciting opportunities within it.
Alan then discussed the projects that his own company MetaVRse has delivered, as well as some impressive demos from companies like Rigid Gems showing the potential of future technologies and how it can make an impact in the visual presentation of products in 3D and virtual environments…
In addition, Alan presented what is commonly referred to as vCommerce! In a very sharp bullet list Alan pointed out the percentages, showing increases in purchase and use behavior when people use platforms like AR:
VRAR and Leara eLearning
Stepping into the realm of immersive education, Alex Jackson VR/AR Association, and Connor Gottfried, Leara eLearning, delivered these presentations “Using eXpanded Reality to train first responders for performance and stress management and Pros and Cons of learning with VR” respectively.
Both presentations reinforced how the immersiveness, engagement, and diversification of learning experiences, as well as the benefits of experiential and mixed reality learning.
Connor’s presentation also pointed out some of the ‘cons’ or challenges we face with the technology right now, access, haptics, feedback, comfort just to name a few.
This is something I felt was quite important after reading his presentation slides, since the only way to improve the industry for VR, AR, MR, XR etc. and apply it to more practical use cases in the real world is to first understand where the weaknesses are in the technology products, software applications, and services on offer, and how do we improve the technology to address those weaknesses for industry-specific cases.
Timothy Enos on VR Tourism discussed how VR can be used to create travel perspectives and impressions of the destinations by potential travelers. Timothy elaborated on how these experiences can be created, the quality of the experience and how this needs to improve, to be competitive with photography social platforms like Instagram that tend to be popular for travel based marketing right now.
Timothy dives into how creators should be making VR experiences citing his own case studies and work and the importance of the user experience, where it relies on ease of use and simplicity.
Red Iron Labs
Lloyd Summers and Rosalinda Hernandez, from Red Iron Labs discussed the challenges and opportunities of a VR game startup. Highlighting what was a very grounded approach to VR game design, theory, and considerations such as realism, physics, resolution, responsiveness and player feedback.
No doubt Lloyds presentation was an awakening to many of the young inspired college students or developers who may have been in attendance at Merging Realities about the fact that designing games on cutting edge platforms is not necessarily fun and games in terms of its process and there are many lessons to be learned in the business of game development, especially in VR!
Lloyds presentation was followed by Rosalinda from Red Iron Labs who discussed opportunity and diversity and how this impacts company culture and adds value.
Matt Wright (Chief Experience Officer) ‘I do love that title Matt’, from Mammoth VR demonstrated the concept of future gaming, and content in VR as much more than what most of us might have thought! In a presentation titled ‘Through the looking glass’.
Matt took us on a journey through the evolution of gaming over the years. From mouse and joystick devices from days of old to haptic sensory controllers in VR.
Matt envisions a future where content is truly interactive and immersive, with a number of technologies guiding us through that experience, where games are not just a list of tasks and cinematics but instead are living environments where you are creating the story or participating in it. Matt explores how these experiences would be created and what tools are used in the process.
But it was more than just about games and hardware. Matt’s presentation also showcased the future economic impact of this industry. It showed the correlation and evolutions of thought such as how game currencies and game economies have influenced purchase and use behavior and how things like cryptocurrency and vCommerce seem to be a natural evolutionary step in consumption behavior.
This is a topic I have also written and talked about in recent months, so I was intrigued to read Matt’s presentation and hear his views on the subject.
Jeff LaFranz, Vizworx Data Visualization in the virtual realm. Jeff details some of the real world challenges facing companies who manage big data.
The challenge of managing data and then the considerations around migrating that data into a virtual realm and making that information useful, are going to impact industries significantly in years to come. So many industries from finance to medical have massive data dependencies.
Making sense of this data and also solving real business problems are two critical components which Vizworx discussed.
Steve discussed applications and the iOS ecosystem for educational apps. An interesting comment Steve made was that mobile apps tend to have a low level of interactivity, whereas VR / AR apps tend to provide more interaction, especially for educational purposes.
Neobear was a particularly interesting application which uses experiential content from all over the world to teach about people and places. Within was another very creative site mentioned where well-developed content and storytelling are used to educate people about important issues going on in the world.
Staying with the theme of learning Wade Carson, from Serious Labs delivered a great presentation on “The application of VR in operator safety training”
“Slip on a VR headset and man the controls. Experience life-like worksite scenarios, developing crucial skills while leaving potential incidents behind.”
I, unfortunately, did not have the presentation slides to refer too when writing this article but I did research the Serious Labs website and can confidently say what Wade and his team are doing is exactly the type of pragmatism required in the VR industry today. ‘Solutions developed with a purpose to train, educate and provide experience’, solutions developed for real world use cases and ultimately market driven!
Cathy Hackl Futurist @ You Are Here Immersive Labs
Closing out the event in the final keynote address was the influential Cathy Hackle.
Cathy strongly emphasizes how this is the future, and how it will be ingrained within the generations to come where they will work, live, socialize, travel, play and learn using VR, AR, XR, MR and related technologies.
Cathy’s presentation served as a great closer to the event and summarised the inspiration, opportunity, diversity, experiences and digital realities, created by immersive technologies.
Merging Realities was the first of its kind as far as a conference goes which was presented entirely via a digital platform using VR, and which participants could witness and participate in from anywhere in the world from North America to Dubai.
Of course, this would not have been possible without the efforts of an innovative college like Lethbridge College and also Doghead Simulations and their outstanding technology of Rumii a truly amazing social platform.
From the response, Alan Smithson gave to my own question about ‘when social platforms would become mainstream’ I think in Merging Realities we have witnessed one massive progressive step towards validating just one of the potentially many use cases for Social VR platforms.
No doubt entertainment will be next to embrace the idea, perhaps we will see social VR platforms used in concerts or stage shows? The sky’s the limit, but business and education and conferences like Merging Realities is where the possibilities and opportunities always start!
While Doghead and Rumii are very impressive, it is worth also noting that companies like Facebook believe that social VR is the future also.
I am inspired by the startups and companies in this space that are creating a lot of momentum.
In addition, I hope to see this as the beginning, one of many future events which are delivered using digital and experiential platforms.
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