Last updated: 13 March 2023
Published on: 01 February 2016
7 MINS READ
The Singapore Computer Society’s newly-formed Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Special Interest Group (SCS AR/VR SIG) has big ambitions.
How do you learn kung fu?
No, it wasn’t Morpheus from the famous Matrix movie who asked that philosophical question.
Instead, it was Mr Tee Jia Hen, Deputy Chairman of the Singapore Computer Society’s newly-formed Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Special Interest Group (SCS AR/VR SIG), who offered this quick recap of martial arts education — to illustrate where AR/VR is heading, in a <ahem> few broad strokes.
Circa 500 AD, you would have had to look for a kungfu master.
In the mid-1990s, your master was probably the Internet and in 2005, YouTube.
Coming up in 2016, the master could be a VR app, and by 2017 or 2018, he could be imparting his skills from a VR web site.
Whether it is kungfu or oil rig operator training, the message from the SCS AR/VR SIG was clear: AR/VR is not just about fun and games; there is vast potential to be tapped in other business areas such as education and industrial training, and more.
VR (Virtual Reality) refers to immersive computer-simulated reality where presence is replicated within an imagined world.
With AR (Augmented Reality), the human sensors are augmented with computer-generated information to enhance the perception of reality, explained Mr Koo Seng Meng, who is also Deputy Chairman of the AR/VR SIG.
The AR/VR ecosystem comprises players in various segments such as hardware and displays, content capture, content generation and post production.
“Where I see the opportunity for Singapore is in the content space, where there are many applications for VR beyond gaming and entertainment,” said Mr Koo.
A Virtual World of Applications
VR can be applied in short format content like digital advertisements and films. The immersive experiences also translate well to sports and live action, as well as social news and documentaries.
In the travel industry, VR allows people to immerse themselves in a destination before making their travel decisions. In the building and construction industry, the Building Information Modelling data can be easily imported into 3D software and visualised in 3D through architectural fly-throughs with dynamic texture changes for show rooms.
In education and training, VR allows students to be fully immersed in a high-risk or high-security environment so that they can learn without being exposed to any danger.
An example is the use of VR in a CAVE (CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment) system which usually takes the form of a cube-like space with images displayed by a series of projectors.
A CAVE system combines total immersion with interactivity and has the potential to deliver education and training in diverse sectors such as oil and gas, aviation and aerospace, building and construction, maritime and medical, said Mr Desmond Ng, who is Chairman of the AR/VR SIG and Director of Business Development at EON Reality.
He cited the example of a CAVE system used by ITE College Central in teaching oil rig operations.
“You can’t bring the student to the oil rig itself, so you create the whole environment, train and assess the student’s level of understanding on specific subject matter, such as standard operating procedures in lifting of heavy equipment.
"Through a series of situational assessment questions and a scoring system, you as a trainer will be able to gauge their level of understanding.”
Entering The Matrix
In another example, a student in an Aerospace class at Temasek Polytechnic puts on the stereoscopic glasses, steps into the EON Icube, which is a CAVE system, and is totally immersed in a virtual hanger.
He sees a virtual Boeing combustion turbine, gets to observe simulated combustion airflow in 3D with narration, and learns about every components by taking them apart.
According to Mr Ng, it typically takes up to 24 months of industrial training for an oil rig operator to be fully certified in specific oil rig operations, using traditional training methods. Through virtual simulation training, it could take as little as 9 months.
“When you see things in immersive 3D, you remember it better and longer. And there is zero risk involved when you make mistakes in a virtual environment” said Mr Ng.
This is why increasingly, companies and educational institutions are investing in VR. It enables training lessons to become more interactive and engaging, and can be delivered consistently to both students and professionals.
On the technology front, new developments are taking place to make the VR experience as ubiquitous as the Internet.
“VR will succeed or fail based on content and how easily it is to access the content. And there is no easier or more ubiquitous content delivery mechanism than the web,” said Mr Tee, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of VRcollab.
With WebVR support, users start off with a normal web site and then, using a VR device, they can “look around” the site in 3D, said Mr Tee. Next up will be to enable users to travel from one web site to another using VR-link traversing, much like opening a door to get to another place.
There are, however, many challenges that have to be overcome before WebVR can really take off.
For a start, the WebVR experience is quite difficult to code, said Mr Tee, and there is a paucity of skillsets in WebGL three.js development which are required for this.
In comparison, there are millions of web developers around the world.
To address this, VRcollab is working on applying HTML to 3D with the development of a WebVR markup language. Another area it is exploring is the use of hand movements to create content, so that 3D objects can be pulled from a web site and dragged and dropped into another VR environment.
This will make it easier for web developers to create 3D content, he said.
To the participants, the AR/VR space presents huge untapped opportunities for the local ICT sector.
To position Singapore to ride this wave, the SCS AR/VR SIG wants to bring together the different stakeholders in the ecosystem – the industry players, academics, subject matter experts and other professionals– to share their knowledge and promote the best practices in AR and VR development.
“We want to build up a strategic network of professionals to accelerate the development that can be done locally, so that we can compete with the very best and thrive in the global AR and VR scene,” said Mr Koo.