Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) might be exciting for gamers, but charities should also be feeling the buzz.
VR allows us to step inside the shoes of someone else’s situation, to learn skills from simulations, and to enter immersive spaces that can provide respite from the real world, if just for a little while.
AR allows us to enrich our experience of the real world. With our everyday devices, we can attach safety or support information to real-life objects or situations. AR means that we can block distracting visuals or even see previews of potential changes to our environment.
VR and AR experiences are a bit of a mixed bag right now. They range from inexpensive gimmicks to more pricey, but more immersive experiences. The greatest potential value of this technology lies at the fully immersive end of the spectrum, but this can often come at a significant financial cost.
New headsets like the Oculus Go provide wireless VR with high-quality screens but they have limited processing power, which restricts the experiences you can develop to something like simple video playback, or stripped back 3D virtual environments that don’t look or feel very realistic.
The Oculus Go is exciting as it’s much more affordable and portable. It doesn’t need to be plugged into an expensive computer with cables and power. You could take it to the home of a supporter or service user, pop it on their head, and away they go.
Recently Amazon announced that its AWS ‘Wavelength service’ would allow for “single-digit millisecond latency” between cloud-based apps and the end user, but what does this mean for the future of AR & VR?
Firstly, latency is very important. It is the time for data – say a movement or button press – to leave the user, travel to the cloud and the result of the action to return back to the user. This means that the smaller the latency, the better the responsiveness and therefore the more believable and comfortable the experience.
Single-digit millisecond latency is small enough to be unnoticeable by human senses which means that by using AWS ‘Wavelength’, all processing can be done in the cloud rather than on expensive hardware required to be bought by the user. In effect, a VR/AR headset could become a wireless pair of display glasses, sensors and hand controllers, with all the intensive computing handled in the cloud.
In other words, this means that a cheap, ultra-portable headset like the Go could ‘connect to’ (via the cloud) a hugely powerful network of people providing real-time interaction with a sophisticated and visually-rich 3D space or world.
The benefits of this are numerous – the most important being that this creates a much lower barrier to entry to create fully immersive real-time virtual experiences. For VR developers it also removes the cost of having to develop for multiple platforms and hardware configurations, whilst aiming for the best quality experiences they can create. For AR developers it opens up the potential of massive online participation, allowing for the number of augmentations and their quality to be significantly increased.
As 5g networks grow, and data plans inevitably drop in price, we will see this technology adopted by more people, and become available in more situations.
Could your charity make use of it?
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