In a 2016 report by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) the projected growth of Virtual Reality in the manufacturing industry was valued at 162 billion dollars by 2020. In comparison, the report suggests that 3D Printing will grow by 35 billion dollars, and Artificial Intelligence by 5 billion dollars. When I read this, I was surprised that VR is predicted to have such a significant impact on the future of manufacturing. So, it’s a good thing that UAP’s Luke Harris is keeping up to date with the latest advancements in VR technology.
The Future of Immersive Starts Here
Luke recently attended the VRS conference, The Future of Immersive Starts Here, in San Francisco. I sat down with Luke to hear about what he discovered at this conference. Luke told me that attending the conference was a very worthwhile exercise because “It was good to get perspective on the industry and I felt excited about where the technology might take us in the future.”
Conference attendees came from diverse backgrounds and industries including; people who were developing tech start-ups, education and training (especially), people from major software companies, tech influencers, the entertainment industry, and architects.
Educational applications of Virtual and Augmented Reality has become a significant growth area. Luke noted that “The thing that surprised me was the focus on investment in using VR for education and training, from surgeons to crane drivers.”
The conference brought forward a number of new terms around this technology for discussion as well. Broadly, the focus of the conference was Cross Reality (XR), which Luke defined as “pretty much an umbrella term for augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and cinematic reality.” Which brought up another new term, Mixed Reality (MR), and Luke defined that as’ a mix of virtual and augmented reality.” Another new term was Extended Reality, and with this term, Luke found that “Some of the speakers are trying to popularise extended reality, which is looking into the future where we will move beyond augmented and virtual reality.”
Advances in Technology
There were a few advances that Luke thought would be really promising to advanced manufacturing and UAP’s fabrication processes. One was the use of ‘light fields’ which facilitated headset free holograms. You can read more about this technology on the Light Field Lab website
However, Luke found that the most significant advances were those that enhanced cross-disciplinary and locational collaboration. “The most impressive technologies were MR facilitated collaborative problem solving, where one person might be wearing a headset and working on a manufacturing floor and be guided by someone in another city or country on what to do. This involves using AR and VR for conferencing, and working together.”
Other technologies that Luke suggested would be big catalysts for change included cloud processing. “One of the exciting developments for Mixed Reality that was presented at the conference was cloud processing, where lightweight, inexpensive devices can have their processing capabilities boosted by processing performed in the cloud.” Luke also felt that streamlining VR processes with a centralized platform and advances with compatible hardware would really drive VR and AR forward.
Luke left the conference feeling optimistic about the role of AR and VR will play in advancing manufacturing. “I definitely got excited about the future of AR. Over the next five years, it’s going to explode. The technology is almost moving faster than the hardware. I don’t know whether it’s going to be with headsets or mobile phones.”
Overall, Luke said the conference gave him a much-needed confidence about boost about how prepared UAP are when it comes to implementing AR and VR into their processes. “[the conference] gave me a perspective of what’s happening in the industry, which was gratifying, because the work I’ve been doing the last year, I felt like I was always playing catch up to the technology. But just looking at what people are doing, even with copious amounts of money, I felt like we’re in a good position. We know the limitations of the hardware and we’re able to push it in the right direction for our processes.”