Can you do the Big Lap without leaving your own armchair?

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Doing the Big Lap VR style. PIC: Adobe Stock

The founder of Australia’s leading AR & VR Company, 7DX, Julian Ward, looks at the growing impact virtual reality might have going forward

Virtual Reality (VR) can be described neatly by the phrase, ‘The future happens very slowly, then all at once’, coined by futurist pioneer Kevin Kelly.

VR technology has been in development for 50 years, with recent advances in technology catapulting the capability and experience to simply amazing new levels. To enter the virtual world a HMD (Head Mounted Display) or VR Headset is required, with built-in or addon speakers for spatial audio and handheld controllers for interaction which also deliver haptic (vibrational) feedback.

Today there are great options where the cost has come dramatically down helping accessibility. At the other end of the spectrum, advances in parallel computing graphics processing units (the same tech that allows us to mine crypto currency and build deep learning AI) now enable extremely powerful VR experiences.

The objective for a great Virtual Reality experience is to elevate you to a state of Plausible Presence, whereby parts of your brain are convinced the experience is real, whilst some parts cling to your external reality. This conflict in the brain, or cognitive dissonance, serves to ignite a few key areas of the brain – resulting in an incredibly immersive and engaging experience. This leads to impressive cognitive gains in the areas of focus and dramatically elevated memory retention.

7DX creates experiences for government clients and large organisations, using these cognitive boosting aspects for performance, learning, and simulation training programs. Some examples: gameplay simulations for the NRL to enhance decision making under pressure or fatigue, training safely in high voltage power substation simulations with Transport for NSW, simulating emergency procedures for dam disasters with Water NSW, and trying to prevent drownings with a water safety rip simulation program.

There have been many pilot programs and studies deemed to be successful looking at the treatment of phobias and anxieties, and also work in the dementia and Alzheimer’s space where the effect of the immersive experience seems to have a very positive effect on the participant. This space is evolving but there is already some astonishing work being done and it is certainly worth looking at further if of interest.

Virtual Reality can take us to places we cannot physically go to, from adventures in completely imagined fantasy worlds to places for us to explore or be inspired, galleries of great art or even providing us the opportunity to learn how to navigate through a space station or pilot a submarine.

VR has come a long way and it might be worth forgetting past experiences with phone-based systems like the Gear or basic cardboard-type set ups. There are two real options for consideration:

1) The High Power VR & PC set up. It will cost approx $3,000+. This will get you a decent spec PC with a good graphics card (GPU) and a top shelf headset, such as the Index, Vive, or Oculus Rift S.

2) The Stand Alone all-in-one headset option. These do not require a PC, cables or moniCan technology help grounded grey nomads hit the virtual open road? tor, consider the Oculus Quest or Vive Focus Plus. It’s worth noting Oculus was acquired by Facebook for billions of dollars and they have invested billions more into Research & Development in their Reality Labs. This delivered huge advances, resulting in the birth of the Quest. The Quest retails for around $649 and is just incredible technology for that price, providing a similar experience to the high-end set ups (though less graphically powerful) for a fifth of the price.

You can now tether the Quest to a PC and have the full-blown experience as well. The Quest is certainly worth considering for an affordable on the go device that packs away into a neat travel case.

Virtual Reality technology is moving at an incredible pace and from our experiences it delivers amazement and joy to pretty much 100% of people who use it, both professionally or personally.

The experiences on offer for download are fantastic and well worth your time to get involved.

Julian Ward is the founder and CEO of 7DX, Australia’s leading AR & VR Company

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