As an adopted Mancunian, my favourite things about the city are how welcoming it is and the sheer energy it has.

Case in point – on Friday afternoon, when most of the country was winding down in some rare sunshine, I went over to Manchester Metropolitan University and met some fantastic immersive tech companies at the International VR & AR Conference 2018.

Far from getting ready to go home and put their feet up, the companies I spoke to were passionate about revolutionising business through tech.

One of the things that struck me was the sheer range of sectors that their technologies could be applied to – from bringing history alive in museums to interactive fire drills. 

I got to try out some of the tech myself, and although it still feels quite unnatural putting on a VR or AR headset and interacting with the software, I can see that it’s definitely getting closer to being an everyday reality for businesses.

One of the companies I spoke to even referenced the recent Spielberg blockbuster Ready Player One, saying that the tech in the film isn’t far off being a reality for businesses which, if you’ve seen the movie or read the book it’s based on, is pretty incredible.

The event was a partnership between the Creative VR & AR hub at MMU and the South Korean government organisation Gyeonggi Content Agency, and from what I saw there’s going to be some exciting innovation coming out of the new relationship.

A video of me trying out the latest immersive tech will be available later this week.

Immersive tech won’t be a reality for Xbox

It might seem like VR is everywhere these days but one of tech’s big hitters has taken a step back from making it a reality.

In a bit of a blow to gamers, Microsoft has decided against bringing VR to the Xbox – despite saying in 2016 that the next generation of the console would include high-fidelity VR.

The news comes alongside reports that VR and AR headsets have taken a dip, even with Sony’s PlayStation VR headsets flying off the shelves like hotcakes, selling more than a million in total.

Instead, Microsoft is now looking to PCs for its immersive efforts, as it reckons it’ll offer users the best experience.

Dining out on AR

Before I go to a restaurant I’ll always pull up the menu to take a look – partly because I’m really indecisive and partly because 78 per cent of my brain is always thinking about my next meal.

With that in mind I’m pretty excited about a new app called ‘Aug-It!’ from Liverpool-based start-up AR Independent.

It’s an app that’s going to let businesses promote their brand through AR experiences, and its first client is restaurant Dockside Dining.

The brand wants to become Liverpool’s first fully immersive dining experience when it opens later this month. This sounds pretty cool in theory, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of good food which is sometimes the danger with experience restaurants.

Using the app customers will be able to take a gander at an AR pop-up menu on their smartphones to get a real-world look at what’s on offer.

They can also contact the brand by uploading messages and photos to virtual bubbles and balloons, which can then be shared on social media.

It’s also aiming to add in gaming, product recognition functions and virtual location tracking in the future in a wide-ranging virtual feast.

Get the measure of the competition

I wanted to measure a sofa the other day, but as a millennial with little or no DIY skills, I had no chance of owning a tape measure. Instead I ended up using my hands, to figure out it was ‘sort of’ two hands high, which I’m pretty sure is the same metrics they use to measure horses.

Well it looks like I’ll soon have a more accurate way to measure my noble steed because Google is finally rolling out its AR tape measure to the majority of Android phones.

The app will work with most recent phones, as long as they’re compatible with Google’s AR Core platform, and looks incredibly easy to use. It might not be a great idea to use it for extremely precise measurements, but I’m pretty sure it’s better than using my hands.

AR is still old news

Top news outlets like The New York Times are already using AR to help readers fully immerse themselves in the day’s news. But as cool as it is, it looks like there’s still a way to go before it becomes a regular feature for our headlines.

The NY Times recently brought out an article that let readers get a closer look at the eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala using AR. Using a series of photos taken by a local for the project, the scene had been recreated so that readers could walk around a truck in the village of San Miguel Los Lotes buried in ash.

Through the paper’s app, they were able to switch between a table-top model and life-sized scale version of the 3D scene, allowing them to get a real feel for the story and what it would be like to be there.

The only downside is that the story and AR experience only became available on June 19, over two weeks after the eruption took place, because of the tech-heavy elements involved. That means, as cool as it is, AR in its current form just isn’t going to cut it in the fast-paced world of breaking news.