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31 Jan - 03 Feb 2023

RISE Spotlight: XR in Today's RealityReporter Roundtable

Immersive Tech in Action

The ISE Reporter Roundtable explored immersive tech in action with a panel of four innovators who are shaping the field of extended reality.  In conversation with moderator Callum Booth, Editor at TNW, the panellists shared real-life applications to demonstrate how the XR medium is transforming the worlds of sport, healthcare, events, and broadcast.

Tony Parisi, Head of AR/VR Ad Innovation at Unity Technologies, set the stage to talk about the ‘Real-time 3D Revolution’. Unity’s software sits at the heart of multiple XR applications, giving a front row seat when it comes to observing the acceleration of immersive technologies. He commented, “We built our business powering the gaming industry, but what’s been happening the last five years is that other industries are using our technology a lot more… engineering and construction, automation, manufacturing, film-making, education and training across a variety of industries.”

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As well as training, a key driver of this revolution has been the adoption of 3D technologies in marketing. Big brands are using XR for experiential selling, creating interactive and memorable campaigns powered by the customer’s mobile phone. Pokemon Go helped to bring AR into the mainstream, along with brands like Coca-Cola that quickly adopted AR to bring promotional cans to life with video graphics.

A big challenge is how to bring 3D experiences into our own environment, like seeing animated animals playing on your kitchen table. As demand increases for this functionality, Unity is working on perfecting delivery.

Professor Cathy Craig, founder and CEO of Incisiv, discussed how XR can boost performance in sport. As a psychologist, Cathy wanted to understand how top athletes make decisions, using XR to study and enhance the ‘Action Intelligence’ of athletes. Incisiv is currently working with Scottish Rugby to research concussion in players. Using XR technologies they can provide medical professionals with specific information.

“We needed to preserve behavioural realism, what you see and what you hear in the virtual world has to correspond as closely as possible to the real world… now we have wireless technology and the ability to preserve the realism in our movements too, so we can recreate sporting scenarios very accurately.”

Dr Raphael Olaiya, a medical doctor and data scientist at the UK’s National Health Service, shared some of the challenges faced when unlocking the potential of VR within simulated emergency training.

One way to overcome the challenges of cost versus need is to focus on the effectiveness of VR in comparison to existing simulated training. A key benefit is the accurate simulation of a high-pressure environment. Raphael commented: “Advances in VR have minimised the mental distance of believing what’s in front of you.”

In addition, one can practice and re-enact the scenario repeatedly with little impact on cost and without requiring other medical professionals to be present.

Raphael sees opportunities with AI in the future. The unpredictability of real-life emergencies is yet to be replicated in VR, and AI is the way to bridge that. This can also be harnessed to create a more personalised experience for the caregiver and their virtual patient.

Travis Craw, a producer at Media Monks, then brought the conversation around to events and the blurring of lines between the physical and digital space. Covid-19 has forced us into a mixed-up reality, Travis explained: “With so much of our real life lived exclusively online, what we’re trying to do in mixed reality is to bring more of our actual reality back into our digital experiences.”

Travis sees XR coming into virtual events in three ways: mixed reality studios and green-screen environments, new forms of interactivity that can be achieved from home, and by combining multiple different devices such as phone and computer. Media Monks has been putting on mixed reality events for ASML, Facebook Connect and Hasbro. By combining the real venue with a virtual stage, and connecting real-world cameras with gaming engine virtual cameras, the company created a truly interactive, immersive 3D environment.

“We’re redefining what it means to be a venue,” said Travis. He explained that XR is bringing people into virtual venues, whether that is audiences at stadiums or business conferences. By combining multiple devices and realities, we will find new ways to deliver mixed-reality experiences.

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