Last updated: 13 March 2023
Published on: 23 January 2018
5 MINS READ
Virtual reality (VR) is emerging as a key technology for media and enterprise, as we learnt from the VR X SMF Ignite conference.
By Francis Kan
Accurate simulations of complicated medical procedures – say separating Siamese twins – are an impossibility.
Until virtual reality (VR) came along.
VR technology, which is most commonly associated with video games, is starting to make its mark in the business and medical world.
"We use VR simulation to help train young doctors by developing different scenarios. It is a bridge between textbook learning and real training," said Dr Matthew Yeo from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, who shared his experience using the technology to help surgeons train.
Dr Yeo was one of the panellists at the VR X SMF Ignite conference held on 29 November 2017 as part of the Singapore Media Festival.
Considered the first VR summit of its kind in Singapore, this event aimed to spotlight how this emerging technology can create new opportunities not just for the media but also for other industries.
It attracted creators, technologists, developers and users from Singapore and overseas.
During the event, experts shared their insights into how the emerging VR technology has spawned a host of new storytelling techniques and business applications.
In the oil and gas sector for instance, VR is being used to create realistic 3D simulations for safety training.
"The technology can help create situations that you can't recreate in real life," said Sridhar Sunkad, Managing Director at EON Reality (Singapore & APAC), who spoke on how VR can be used in enterprise.
He cited a Goldman Sachs report that said 85 per cent of the growth in VR and AR use will come from non-game sources.
"Enterprise VR and AR solutions allow workers to perform more effectively. When you bring this into training, the attention rate goes up by 30 to 80 per cent," he said.
While still on its early days, some trends in the space have started to emerge. Here are some nuggets of wisdom from the other speakers at VR X SMF.
Tell good stories, don't recreate reality
In his keynote address, Mohen Leo, Director of content and platform strategy at ILMxLAB, talked about the evolving nature of immersive storytelling based on VR technology. ILMxLAB is Lucasfilm's newest laboratory for immersive entertainment.
Mr Leo noted that stories using VR should not try to recreate reality exactly. "Reality makes less sense than a well-told story. Stories simply distil meaning from life, elevating what is relevant and leaving out everything else, making it more poignant," he said.
"The early challenge is to figure out how to scrape away everything that doesn't matter so that VR gets better at telling stories than real life."
Nor should content creators wait for VR technology to be perfect before they embark on immersive storytelling projects.
"VR does not have to flawlessly tell stories. People have always suspended disbelief. As long as the stories are compelling, people are willing to forgive to technical limitations," he added.
He also touched on the challenges of building immersive worlds that are interesting enough keep users coming back. The immense task of building rich life-like environments, he said, will likely require audiences to participate in developing the world.
China's the place to be
On the business front, another speaker, Allen Foo, the founder and CEO of venture capital firm UCCVR, shared some insights into the burgeoning VR/AR ecosystem in China. Fuelled by government funding, China is fast-closing the gap with the United States when it comes to these emerging technologies.
Mr Foo said that China's VR market is set to grow to US$9 billion market by 2020.
Meanwhile, Asia's share of AR/VR revenue is 45 per cent, with China making up a large portion of that share.
"Capital is paving the way for emerging technologies to radically transform industries. Government funds have increased exponentially for science and technology," he said. "When you have great ideas and people, then what you need is capital."
With Chinese funds showing a greater appetite for risk, he advised startups with good ideas to look for partners in China to help commercialise their solutions.
The final keynote speaker of the day, angel investor Albert H Kim from Korean gaming firm Binaree explored the topic of monetising VR technology, specifically, what it will take for VR gaming to become mainstream.
A VR gamer will need to pay a few hundred dollars for the headset, around US$4 an hour to play VR content on a gaming platform, and may also need to upgrade their computer.
Despite the technology not being cost-efficient at the moment, Mr Kim is optimistic about the future of VR gadgets.
"We are waiting for a standalone device where you don't need a PC. You just pay US$200 and you can play VR games," he said.
"This is the future we are waiting for!"