The beginning of May saw Will Guest and Josh Secretan off to Tallin, Estonia. The event: a meeting of academics and start-ups all working in the field of Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR). Most of the attendees were based in the Baltic or Nordic regions, it was wonderful to see what a powerhouse this region has become in the VR and gaming world (I guess, with good funding comes good research!). Also in attendance: a Silicon Viking, professors from Cyprus, Korea and Taiwan.
I think we all appreciated the patience some of the ‘virtual’ participants had. Like is ever the case, a room full of professionals in emerging technologies struggles to quite get the web-conferencing to run perfectly… perhaps that’s what we should develop next.
Over the two days, each organisation did a presentation on their work so far in the field. This was inspiring to see such an array of projects. There were some incredibly strong implementations in VR. We saw how one professor demoing a relaxation physical simulator, swimming among her virtual fish, with the hardware suspiciously looking like a hammock. Some of the AR concepts were great, too. My favorite was the use of a projector to “augment” graphics demonstrating the field lines of magnets, simple – but genius! There was another augmented application which stood out, developed by a start-up: it allowed children to create words with real-world blocks of letters, a mobile app would then read these words, and overlay an animation, depicting the word. A really clever app, but it still struggled with the human factors issue of ‘how do you interact with the real-world when you have to hold a phone’. Reseach presented shows the curve of ‘acceptance’ of AR and VR. Obviously, VR is ten years ahead, but the outlook is very positive for both. The future will be exciting!
Honest conversations with wise peers also helped: I needed to hear some people admit that there are a lot of “gimmicky” solutions out there, using these novel technologies, not for their intended purposes, but merely to add buzz to your application. These broken apps do the sector far more damage than could something (Pokémon GO anyone? Yes, I went there).
Our hosts took us out into the beautiful Old Town, a must visit if you ever get the chance. Proper table service, a hidden cocktail bar and the best ribs possible.
The final day saw the end of the presentations and the beginning of a ‘blue sky thinking something’ phase. We divided into groups and really tried to brainstorm the issues facing this sector – in particular focusing on how these emergent technologies can become mainstream.