Hello! Right now, I’m writing to you from a virtual world, known as Earth. Ever heard of it?
I made a funny. Okay, not really, but roll with it.
There is a lot to take in as it relates to VR/AR/MR and wearable technology as it relates to those types of output of content.
After attending the Wearable Technology and AR/VR show in London, this past week, I came away with seeing a lot of interesting and non-interesting products, and some interesting tidbits of very useful information.
First the show. Uh, it needs some improvements. The lectern was very popular with many speakers. As in hugging it while they spoke. As someone who used to run training and who speaks, these folks need to take some lessons.
- No stuff when you paid. No pens, no notepad, nothing, except for a cheap plastic bag like you get at the grocery store and their planner.
- No mobile app. Strange, for a show of this nature, a mobile app would be obvious
- Vendors were divided into groups by colors. I like that they were group oriented and placed in areas for that group. The smart health area was exciting, one very cool product was there, then wearable technology from smart clothing (yes, even a swimsuit), health section, AR/VR/MR section, and something else. There was wearable tech for printing.
- Some of the more interesting items I saw included the wearable smart clothing, a ring where you store your credit cards in the cloud, but use the ring to pay for it, something you wear on your foot for security, and a cool fitness product.
Best Products (My top two)
- Activ5 – Great health and fitness product. They had lots of people playing with them. It uses a mobile app, offers a gamification type of experience with a leaderboard, and fitness games.
- Realwear HMT-1 – Awesome solution. This is sort of MR, they push it as MR, but to me, I do not see it (no pun intended).
Enterprise solution for MR
Again, not totally buying the MR angle, but it does offer some very cool features. The product is perfect for those working at a location (construction, etc.), in a plant, in a warehouse, etc.
However, it can be quite useful for say a new employee walking around the office. Or for folks having to do some type of safety training (big win!).
It’s a headset (wearable technology). I saw another vendor with a headset who pitched it as a rugged tablet headset. And in a couple of ways, you could say this is a form of a tablet too, here’s why:
- Built on Android 6.01 OS
- 16GB internal storage
- Emulates a 7′ mini-tablet screen
- 16mp camera with image focus and auto-stabilization
- Able to do real time video chat
- Video playback is 30fps at 1080, supports H.264
- Enables you to view documents, videos, media via you just by speaking to go certain places within the eye view if you will.
- You can be walking around and pull up all types of this media – zoom in, zoom out
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as a result, you can connect to the cloud and download files from Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive and so on.
- Shockproof and Waterproof (IP66) (according to the vendor)
- For folks in the industrial environment who are wondering – PPE compatible
- Adjustable eye view – which I loved
- 1 mini USB connection, 1 USB-C connection
- Multi-lingual (supports ten languages)
- Comes with Document Navigator, Video Recorder, Camera app with barcode reader, media player
It really has a lot of potentials. But there were some things I did not like or feel it needed
- No app store. It relies on you to go and download the apps you want via Google Play.
That’s nice and all, but as a wearable technology vendor with a solution such as this, they should have a variety of apps that people can select and download OR that come with the solution and people just say “select X” and it installs.
For example, the real-time video chat capability. Can I connect to GoToMeeting, Skype, WEBEX or some other type of solution? If yes, how about some apps.
- Training. I couldn’t get a sense on whether or not they provide training (free) on how to use the product, nor have materials in HTM1, that someone could refer to, as a form of training and support. Maybe a few videos.
- Understandable that it is not there yet, hopefully in the future, I’d like to see some connections with 3rd party authoring tools in the cloud and/or an LMS. I mean the ability to take a course or watch a few videos while in the field or just walking around the workplace, would make a lot of sense.
- Ability to output some type of data to whatever or wherever. Again, future tech for them, but this is where immersive learning can cross over with e-learning.
As noted in an earlier post, I see immersive learning in one bucket and e-learning in a completely separate bucket. There will be cross-over.
- I tested the HoloLens by Microsoft and it is still a work in progress. I enjoyed the ability to view holograms (people) via a vendor who provides this capability and found myself not having a headache or feeling motion sickness as I did with some VR headsets.
If you want MR, then HoloLens is the way to go. Using the hologram company (different vendor), you can transport someone from your location to another location – and those folks at that location, can see that person, hear them, ask questions and so forth.
Example: You are in London. The meeting/event/conference/etc. is in Tokyo. Everyone at the Tokyo event has a HoloLens. They see you there, even though you are still in London. Full engagement and interactivity. Now, that is cool!
- If you get motion sickness with a VR headset, even one that is a smartphone VR headset, then it is bad content.
I tested two different headsets, from two different vendors with two different pieces of content, while at the show. One was Oculus Rift, the other was Samsung Galaxy smartphone headset.
Each time, I lasted about three minutes before I got motion sickness. According to an expert in the VR field, the issue wasn’t the headsets, it was the content.
The challenge? How can a consumer tell whether the content provider is good or awful at creating VR content? I mean no one is going to say, “We will give you nausea when you buy our content.”
The other issue? As of right now or at least for the foreseeable future, there will be only a few vendors people can go to, who can create great content, without you getting ill. That is not ideal. Why?
Pricing. It is not going to be cheap. Sure, you can find free content right now, I mean it is usually video with hotspots, or video via a 360 camera, or images stitched together for a 360 experience, while fine, it isn’t fully interactive.
The fee-based stuff is across the board. And that is a challenge.
It came out quite quickly that MR is the future (as I had noted in an earlier post) and not VR or AR.
Yes, AR offers something of value and so does VR, but MR takes both and adds a little bit more in terms of capabilities.
Think this way, AR can be done via your mobile device. You do not need any wearable technology. VR and MR you do (at least for now, and foreseeable future)
I poised a question to a panel of experts, asking about security.
Regardless if you are using VR, AR or MR, your virtual world could be hacked. Thus, while you are walking around and seeing all of these cool and interesting items (not only in the workplace) but also on your street, at the mall, park and so forth, someone could hack and change all that.
Right now, no one in the space has solved the security issue. That will be a must in enterprise as the industry grows.
Who will jump into this technology?
Marketers. They are already doing it and working on it. I’m not a fan of seeing ads on a web site, nor those pop-ups or back in the day flash banners.
The idea of walking into a store and seeing ads show up in my view or I’m walking about and seeing them, will be a huge turnoff.
Currently, your mobile device includes GPS (listed as location services). While you are using an AR app, you could go to a store and see targeted ads for you (exists today).
Who else will use this technology early?
I think people in education, I mean MR or smartphone VR is perfect. Companies who want to provide training content to their employees.
Again, with the use of smartphone VR headset or a tablet headset similar to the vendor above (I should note there were other vendors offering tablet headsets too – with the eye piece viewer).
I am on the advisory board for a content development firm in the UK. On a recent trip, they showed me a VR course they built for a very well known media company in the UK.
I admit I was impressed but wanted more than what the technology, regardless of any company out there, is unable to do today.
The Glass Ceiling Cracks
Whoever creates the ability to incorporate the five senses into a course or content will break the ceiling. Right now, no one has hit the five senses. When you try to touch something in VR, you will either go right thru it or touch it, but you cannot feel it.
Example: You are attending medical school. The school has you using some type of immersive engagement, while you are practicing on virtual cadavers. What are you missing? The feeling of the skin. This is a huge minus. But, break that glass ceiling and bring in those five senses, and the feeling of touching that skin becomes real.
Now, let’s go one step further. You broke the glass ceiling, but you want to go even further up (like the glass elevator at Wonka). Add empathy.
Game over (in a plus way).
The technology of VR, AR and MR exists. Right now.
From wearable to content, it is out there for purchase.
Want to create a VR, AR or MR course? Not a problem, it can be done.
Need some cool content for immersive engagement? Doable and done.
But, let’s not forget that this is a work in progress. We are at the entry level into VR/MR. AR has been around for years, but taking it to the masses with high quality is in early stage too.
The wearable will improve. The content must improve.
Because learning is one thing.
Getting sick from viewing or doing it,