How VR toolboxes and 3D communication could change the world of business

The XR summit B2B strategy conference explored the future of VR in business at the ISE 2019 show, hosted by futurist and author, Amelia Kallman alongside a line-up of leading industry experts, CEO’s and thought leaders.

It’s no secret that virtual reality products have survived the line of fire, transforming from an industry gimmick, once previously relegated to the gaming and arcade world into a growing industry staple that continues to make its way gradually into the mainstream commercial, corporate and live event world year on year.

The impact on the industry is hard to downplay and ignore, with ISE hosting its second XR (extended reality) conference at the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam on February 5, a short walk from the main event at the RAI.

The XR summit attracted an array of businesses from across the AV world, with software developers exploring the latest industry trends to retail and corporate representatives exploring how VR/XR systems could potentially grow their businesses or influence their marketing in a unique way.

The summit explored a number of issues facing different areas of the industry, from the opportunities and challenges of new realities in live events and immersive media, the reality of VR-AR-MR for business and how 3D communication could transform P2P communication in business meetings into a shared and engaging presence.

The conference opened with the first keynote delivered by Muki Kulhan, executive digital producer at Muki-International, who has worked with a plethora of institutions including BBC One, Samsung and Marvel; working to implement new technologies for a variety of business applications from entertainment to advertising.

Kulhan explored current XR trends across the global market, with virtual reality ‘toolboxes’ like Mux being used for training purposes in the audio world to UK grime artist Harry Shotta’s AR app, using AR technology on a smartphone app to create an interactive story that requires users to visit real world locations with their phone to access and interact with content.

A panel of industry specialists explored the challenges and opportunities in live events and immersive media.

The panel was made up of Bob Cooney, location based VR expert, Pieter Van Leugenhagen, co-founder of Yondr and Sam Huber, founder of Admix.In.

Cooney proposed that the industry is largely moving away from a B2C market, with a larger focus on B2B applications that would offer opportunities in areas like the travel industry as well as location based entertainment (LBE) virtual reality applications.

Cooney said that consumer adoption of VR ‘just wasn’t happening’ outside of a minute gaming/home entertainment market, hypothesising that location based entertainment could be the future of VR in entertainment.

With billions spent on LBE VR in live event and entertainment attractions like theme parks, Cooney suggests that ticketed VR events and experiences could be the largest market for VR.

Van Leugenhagen proposed that ‘pre-experience’ applications offer opportunities for the travel and retail industries, allowing users to experience an environment that is considered more immersive and engaging than 360 video or a still image gallery/promotional video.

Kalle Saarikannas, head of communications for Glue, explored the concept of experience learning through 3D communication and how it could overhaul person to person (P2P) communication in both a personal and professional environment.

While conventional communications across telephone and video conferencing take place on a 2D plane, Saarikannas suggests that, once the technology develops, 3D communication will transform P2P communication into a shared presence.

According to Saarikannas, the world of information has ceased to be flat, with the internet no longer being isolated and the evolution of technology leading to increased reliance.

3D communication presents an opportunity to use virtual spaces to benefit business meetings through immersive experiences.

Whether in a virtual boardroom VR environment where users from across the world can share the same space without distraction from outside elements, to engineers virtually disassembling an engine with AR technology, sharing information and examining objects in real time which may not be possible in the real world.

Immersive experiences could help retain focus and attention in meetings, limiting distractions by placing users ‘in the moment’ with other users to ‘extend’ reality.

This concept is not just limited to team interactions, as Ibrahim Bakhrani, co-founder of Digital Communication explained: "When a brand wants to engage more with the customer, we always find that when you’re immersed in a reality, you tend to retain more of that information and knowledge."

"So immersive experiences are always another way to go, this is a new reality for us - It’s becoming mainstream faster than we thought it could be."

The experimental enterprise panel featured industry experts Imogen Hammond, creative director for Inition, Ibrahim Bakhrani, co-founder of Digitial Communication and Rober Boers, CEO of Twnkls augmented reality as they explored the issues of integration of new realities into business strategies.

A lack of engagement and ‘old’ style of promotion can have a detrimental effect to business, as Robert Boers explained during the experimental enterprise panel, which explored the reality of VR-AR-MR for business.

Boers said: "I was looking at buying a new toothbrush the other day, so I went to the E-commerce platforms and started looking at what they had and they had 48 different ones, so then you start to think ‘Okay, which one do I choose?’"

"They all had stupid little pictures of toothbrushes, these vendors have not adapted to the new world of E-Commerce platforms where you immediately go there, and you use that as a search engine."

"We don’t go to any brand page anymore where there are large videos, nice glossy pictures. We look at these stupid little pictures on an E-Commerce platform, so they need to think about that and use us, the firm, to help them build the AR content."

Imogen Hammond, creative director of Inition, believes some companies have been slow to adapt to new technologies, failing to develop a structured method for use of VR/AR technology. She added: "For years, I’ve been reading brand guidelines about how to use peoples’ logos and how to position their photography, but we’re only just starting to develop guidelines for how businesses operate in this immersive landscape."

While some companies may be slow to adopt new technologies and render 3D models, Robert Boer argues that existing technologies and applications can be adapted to provide users with a new experience.

He said: "We can convert existing content in AR, we have practical experience with that. We helped build the IKEA Place, you can place furniture from IKEA into your home. But it takes a lot of labour, so we engineered an engine to do this automatically. If you have, like IKEA has, all these rendered models then you can build this engine.

The XR summit offered integrators, developers and business representatives an excellent opportunity to delve into the future of VR/AR technology and explore the current opportunities and difficulties that the industry is facing as well as opportunities and potential uses in a wide variety of fields.

As the technology continues to develop and as VR continues to be adopted in the mainstream B2B world, the XR summit will certainly be one to watch as the industry grows and the summit increases its foothold and prevalence at future ISE shows.

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