by Mike Seymour (@mikeseymour)
It is said that you need the ‘right’ tool for the job, but sometimes a tool can find the ‘right’ job.
VR or Virtual Reality is being hailed as a huge break-through for entertainment and games, especially with the up-coming release of the new Oculus Rift (Crescent Bay), Valve’s Vive and the new Sony Morpheus. There are enormous amounts of research funds being thrown at this cutting edge technology, with most of the biggest players in Silicon Valley and the film industry looking to use this new shiny high-tech tool.
At DISRUPT.SYDNEY in September, Skip Rizzo from the University of Southern California will present his team’s work on using VR for helping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), as well as equipping those who are going into war zone with the emotional tools needed to deal with the stress and horror of war. This is proving to be an incredibly effective and powerful use of VR.
This remarkable research from the dedicated team at USC’s Institute of Creative Technologies builds on the ground-breaking and defining work of Marc Bolas and his team in developing VR for the last 20 years at USC. Collectively, this group of people from multiple disciplines has been building the field and creating the future by not so much using the latest tools as inventing them.
It is easy to see why some people think the best use of a new disruptive technology is just the chance to do what we have done before but in a new way. For example, TV was initially seen as a great way to have televised radio plays, in almost the same way, we have seen commentators jump on the simple idea of VR providing ‘immersive movies’.
The USC ICT work shows how completely different ideas and applications can be found once you actually experience the new medium and explore its potential. With men and women returning from both years in Iraq and also Afghanistan, the effort to help these people return to their lives and cope with the realities that they had to experience – via professional high tech therapy – may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one hears about VR, but once you experience it, the application of immersive PTSD therapy seems not only valid, but truly compelling.
This need to both learn from experienced professionals as well as experience something first hand is why, in addition to Skip’s insights, the Digital Disruption Research Group will host a workshop with a range of current VR solutions from Oculus Rift to Gear VR and cheap accessible solutions such as Google Cardboard. The team will also explain in easy to understand terms the actual tech behind the newest Lightfield VR solutions just shown in LA (but still unreleased) from the leading graphics conference SIGGRAPH.
The world of VR encompasses immersive head gear experiences such as Oculus Rift and also extends to augmented reality (AR), which is mostly identified with Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens. The difference is best illustrated by Google Glass and Magic Leap’s as yet unreleased newer devices. The ‘screen’ of data on the now discontinued Google Glass moves with your head. It is fixed in relation to your eye. The data or overlay of information in the Magic Leap headset will track with the world. This second approach allows for a digital chess board to ‘sit’ on a table in front of you and stay fixed relative to the desk as your head moves – very much unlike the Google Glass display. The idea of mixing computer images on top of your world but locked in sync with real surfaces is expected to be 3 times larger than even the VR explosion. It is easy to see why companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook have invested over $3 Billion dollars in this new tech.
Clearly, the landscape of VR applications is a wide vista of opportunities of how this disruptive technology and these coming innovations will find markets and meet needs beyond just being a new ’tool’ for the movie or games industries. Come and help find the new ‘right’ problems – September 25th at DISRUPT.SYDNEY 2015.