The world around us is changing faster than ever before. Innovations are now transient, expectations are unreal, and execution has to be flawless. This was the “rapid world” we knew before the emergence of COVID-19.
In today’s COVID-19 age, uncertainty is at an all-time high. Ambitious product releases have been put on hold, new inventions have been rolled back into the pipeline as social distancing and lockdown measures have become our new reality.
Nevertheless, we can only hope that the future is as bright as we imagine. Emerging technologies are at the forefront of human civilization – how we communicate, process data, consume knowledge, and see things. Several industries, like the electronics, optoelectronics, and AI industries, are experiencing giant strides in product development. In terms of immersive virtual reality, products like haptic suits and the VirtuSphere stand out.
In 2010, very few people expected many industries would be disrupted this much. Fast forward to 2020 – the proverbial leap year with its novel problems has spurred the world’s brightest minds to reach deep into their thinking tanks and ideate groundbreaking solutions to today’s modern problems.
While the geniuses amongst us are at it, national authorities in several countries are putting in place extreme measures to contain the spread of the virus.
In March, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called for the cancellation of in-person events of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The agency issued these guidelines and protocols at the state level, and governors across the country have mandated bars, inns, and restaurants to cease business operation with the exception of carryout or delivery business. In several countries, schools have been shut down for weeks as part of the effort to limit the transmission of the virus.
With the coronavirus pandemic shuttering shops and causing millions of people to lose jobs, the crisis has also limited the camaraderie and buzz of tech conferences. In the tech world, especially the AR and VR community, the same precautionary measures have been applied.
Mobile World Congress was the first major tech conference to announce an indefinite suspension. GDC, SXSW, Coachella, and E3 also joined the postponement parade.
When humanity is threatened, we come together to solve world problems. We start seeing what’s available and start putting new things together – that’s when innovation starts to happen.
There are already reports of positive climate changes due to fewer cars moving, people commuting, and lower industrial activities.
According to Fair Planet, both China and Northern Italy have recorded a decrease in nitrogen dioxide. Energy consumption has reduced drastically in China. As many experts predicted that COVID-19 would impact CO2 levels for the whole of this year, things look good for the Earth, and most people are glad to welcome this little form of positive news.
HOW THE AR AND VR SPACE IS PREPARED FOR THIS NEW WORLD
With social distancing redefining the way we interact and create value, the AR and VR space is probably the best-equipped industry and has been in a constant ideate, invent, and improvise triangle for decades.
These are key areas that AR and VR are influencing in this much-needed time.
The combination of improved cloud computing systems powered by GPUs in data centers will bring about low latency, high bandwidth, and faster computation needed for optimal AR/VR experiences. The Google Stadia, a cloud gaming service, is working to erase the need and idea of game consoles and game restrictions. With Google Stadia, users can play their preferred games on TVs, tablets, and Pixel phones without having to download the game or acquire a game console. Separating the virtual or augmented experience from computers and GPUs means everyone will be able to run AR applications from anywhere with a smartphone or an AR device, such as AR glasses. The Oculus Go goggles allow the user to stream and consume VR content simply by wearing the goggles.
B. Work Environment:
Most VR apps allow for meetings, company briefs, and deliverable reviews without having to be physically present. Organizations can also opt to use Spatial. Spatial is a seamless collaborative app for productive meetings at a distance, where the user can easily import and work with both flat media (text, images, videos) and 3D objects in various ways.
VR will also speed up a safer way of training, especially for health care workers, during these tricky times.
C. Artificial Intelligence
Deepfake technology is working tirelessly on constructing ultra-real virtual characters. There are talks about how far DeepFake technology can go with these characters, and how they can be powered by AI and personify interactive avatars in the AR/VR world. By using AI developed by Deepmind’s Alpha Go, developers have a plethora of tools that help the creation of intelligent and immersive games in Augmented reality and Virtual Reality.
Voice recognition and Natural language processing related technology have improved over time in a bid to better understand human speech. Facial recognition, eye-tracking, sentiment analysis, gesture recognition, and human activity understanding make AI smarter at perceiving human behaviors.
D. Tech Conferences, summits, and concerts:
While most conferences that required physical gathering had to be canceled or postponed, other organizers had their own plans. HTC moved its annual Vive Ecosystem Conference (VEC) in China to a virtual world built by Engage.
VEC, rebranded as V2EC, is a product of Immersive VR Education made possible by advances in network technology; enhancing real-time rendering and enabling a host of important new features for virtual worlds and telepresence, such as cross-platform accessibility, which allows users on any kind of VR and AR device, even a smartphone, to be present in the simulation.
As more and more teachers, students, and families around the world are affected by the coronavirus, there is a growing debate regarding how education should be delivered and managed in today’s social distancing world. Educators in VR have talked about providing educational events, training, and workshops for educators and learners to prepare them for the future of spatial technologies in education. VR companies like AltSpaceVr have taken pole position in this sector. AltspaceVR, like other virtual platforms, requires an account for access. Students may attend using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is available for Samsung Gear, Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest users. Engage is also another VR application built by “VR Education.” It is a popular tool among many teachers and schools. You can use Engage socially with smaller groups for free, and jump into events, conferences, and recorded lectures and lessons from other users.
THE FUTURE OF EXTENDED REALITY (XR)
XR covers every immersive technology, from VR to AR, to mixed reality and beyond. Charlie Fink, former tech executive and Forbes writer, says that along with XR and tech conferences shifting to virtual reality, the use of XR in workplace gatherings will increase as well. In addition, Mozilla, a powerful engine behind the development of common webXR protocols, is essential to the 3D internet we’ll experience in the future, according to Niclas Johansson, Immersively writer and VR/AR enthusiast. At the end of the day, the future of XR technology seems bright, and although we can’t predict every radical change, XR has proven itself as a powerful tool in our everyday lives. One simply needs to log into an XR app or website to see the plethora of users around the world taking advantage of XR for work, school, and play, and to see that XR is here to stay.
Despite the current pandemic, with emerging AR and VR technologies breaking boundaries and transforming the way we live, work, and collaborate, the next decade is beginning to look a little more promising. When in doubt, the AR and VR space has filled us with hope and supplied us with innovations designed to make us better humans. In fact, one might say AR and VR are helping us build a world of empathy and reconnection.