The North has embraced virtual and augmented reality. There’s entertainment from the likes of Swapbots and the region’s many games developers, and more serious applications from companies like Evidential and ZeroLight.
But it’s not just businesses that see the potential of these immersive technologies. Academia is taking them seriously, too.
An upcoming conference at Manchester Metropolitan University will explore how AR and VR can make the jump from fun, novelty projects to widespread commercial success. Now in its third year, the International AR & VR Conference 2017 focuses on the hospitality and tourism industries and is produced by the university’s Creative Augmented & Virtual Reality Hub.
Dr Timothy Jung founded the Hub (so named because words like ‘Institute’ sounded too stuffy) six years ago when he spotted the potential of AR and VR. It now consists of a team of 10 that works on research and practical projects, exploring new uses for immersive technology.
These projects have included AR work in Dublin and the Manchester Jewish Museum, work with Google Glass at Manchester Art Gallery (in 2014, when Glass was still cool), and a VR project at the Kendal Calling and Lakes Alive festivals in the Lake District.
Jung says the conference is a good opportunity to bring academia, businesses and the public sector together to explore immersive technologies.
“We need to think about business models from the start or businesses will never use AR and VR,” says Jung. He points to VR shopping experiments from the likes of Ikea and eBay as showing how ‘experience and buy’ can be a model to make money.
The International AR & VR Conference 2017 takes place at Manchester Metropolitan University on 23 February. Speakers include representatives from Samsung, the BBC, and Microsoft. Also, I’ll be chairing a panel on AR and VR in the North West of England with Fiona Kilkelly (Immersive UK), Volker Hirsch (Tech North Advocates), Simon Smith (Studio Liddell), Andy Cooper (Draw & Code), and Dom Raban (Corporation Pop).