Immersive Tech Briefing: One giant leap for VR
Although trips into outer space are usually reserved for elite astronauts and Moon Hitler, a new VR experience landing in New York could give us regular humans a chance to land on the moon too.
Samsung has made a giant leap for VR its new ‘A Moon for All Mankind’ exhibition in the city’s Meatpacking District. Marking 2019 as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, you can go and walk on the moon for the whole of the next year.
In a city as cool as the Big Apple you’re hard-pressed to find an experience that stands out, but this is one that I’d definitely be intrigued to try.
Part of that is because Samsung worked with NASA to make sure the experience was bob on, creating an accurate version of the moon’s surface to go with flight design suits and a gravity offload rig to give you the authentic moon experience.
“Starting this year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Program that landed a dozen Americans on the Moon,” said Sean Carter, strategic partnerships at NASA Johnson Space Centre.
“With VR experiences like the one Samsung has developed, we are working to make lunar missions accessible to the public and are excited to inspire the next generation of astronauts.”
With immersive tech giving visitors a getaway that’s out of this world, it looks like the future of virtual tourism could be about to get a rocket fuel injection.
VR ‘most overhyped tech of 2018’
Unfortunately though, this next news nugget could bring the tech back down to earth with a bump.
According to a new poll from communications platform Fuze, it looks like VR may be a little bit overhyped. And by that I mean it takes home the dubious accolade of ‘the most overhyped tech of 2018’.
In a survey of IT professionals across 100 businesses, 23 per cent of respondents gave VR the title of most overhyped tech of the year.
Although there’s been a lot of talk about the amazing things VR can do – and there’s no denying it has already smashed it in several industries – high prices and a limited range of titles have meant it’s not hit the heady heights expected.
“IT leaders are ready to make radical changes, but these must be aligned with the demands of the workforce and not driven by technological developments alone,” said Fuze VP of product Michael Affronti.
“Technology should support and empower the workforce to be more creative, productive, and innovative. Those who prioritise the employee experience and productivity above future-gazing technologies will thrive in the new era of collaborative change.”
While it might be true that the pudding has been a little over-egged, there are definitely still some fantastic uses for the tech.
For example, it’s having a heyday as a training tool for those working in dangerous environments, such as fire and rescue. It’s also been infiltrating sales, helping showcase products for users in their homes, and help them figure out how things work.
In healthcare it’s being used to alleviate stress for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and helps users overcome mental health issues like PTSD.
The smartphone of the future
The present may be a little soggy for VR but its future is looking a little brighter, as a recent jaunt to the International AR & VR Conference 2018 showed me.
Created in partnership between Manchester Metropolitan Uni and South Korean Gyeonggi Content Agency, the two-day conference was host to some incredible figures in immersive tech.
I tried out a few of the experiences and chatted to the experts, and they seemed to agree that it’s got a good future ahead of it.
Immersive tech like that seen in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Ready Player One is around the corner, according South Korean tech entrepreneur Benjamin Song.
The movie adaptation of Ernest Cline’s popular novel features characters which live almost exclusively within virtual reality and can move freely in the real world to duplicate those actions in the virtual space.
An MR developer for Manchester’s Renegade Fortress said he believes it could even get to the point where we’re all using AR and VR instead of our smartphones and other devices.
Right now it seems pretty crazy but nothing really surprises me when it comes to tech anymore.
→ READ MORE: Immersive tech 'will replace the smartphone'
Say hello to Trumpy Cat
Talking of things that surprise me, if you’d told me five years ago that Donald Trump would be in the White House and Star Trek legend George Takei would have made an AR app of him as a cat, I’d probably have said that was crazy too.
The former actor turned political activist has just launched an augmented reality app called House of Cats.
Users can release Trumpy Cat out into the real world, overlaying the character onto real world objects by tapping into the presidential seal. He’ll parrot phrases based on tweets written by Donald Trump, or ones users have designed themselves.
Trumpy Cat can also hang out in the Oval Office talking to other characters including Meowlania, Vladdy Putin and Lil’ Rocket Pug.
The app costs 99 cents and some of the benefits will go to Refugees International, which makes Takei the cat’s pyjamas, in my humble opinion.
Sliding into the future of VR
A few weeks ago I went round to see my niece and nephew play on their new water slide. They had possibly the most fun I’ve ever seen anyone have.
While I don’t have the garden space for a slip ‘n’ slide designed for 30-year-olds, a VR-based water slide could work.
A new ride at Galaxy Erding in Germany has taken the title of “first virtual reality water slide” in the world and, if it’ll give me as much joy as my niece and nephew experienced, it’s totally worth the trip.
Before getting on the slide riders are rigged up with a waterproof headset powered by an integrated Samsung Galaxy S8, which runs custom software for the VR experiences, including a trip into space.
This might just be a bit of fun for now but the company behind the ride, Ballast VR, is going big for aquatic experiences in future.
The plan is to dunk users in a tank with a VR headset that makes it look like you’re chilling with a whale next to a shipwreck, which sounds like an absolute whale of a time.