Virtual reality (VR) will soon be the main interface to interact with other people and machines, predicted speakers at the EmTech Asia conference.
By Francis Kan
Let's face it: The pace of development of virtual reality (VR) technology means that the platform will soon overtake mobile phones as the main way that people interact with each other and their devices, according to speakers at a conference on emerging technologies.
"VR is a door and not a window. You walk into a virtual environment and not look at a screen," said Alvin Wang Graylin, China regional president of Vive, HTC’s VR arm, at this year's EmTech Asia conference.
"The headset will be one device on your head that will replace everything on your screen," he added.
Held in Singapore on Jan 30 and 31, the EmTech Asia conference showcased leading-edge technologies with the greatest potential to change lives and brought together some of the most innovative people and companies in the world.
Looking ahead, Mr Graylin expects VR adoption to pick up in 2018 with the emergence of 4K screens for VR devices and the beginnings of 5G networks.
This will overcome current latency and bandwidth issues, and increase the level of immersion a user experiences.
It will also allow for cloud-based processing that will enable headsets to become smaller in size.
Widespread adoption will have a major impact in areas such as healthcare, education and sports performance, he noted.
"VR can make good teachers available to everyone. It will also enable schools to use VR to conduct virtual experiments."
Brett Bibby, vice president of engineering at Unity Technologies, added that it will be industry, and not video gaming as most people expect, that will drive the growth of VR.
(Editor: Unity Technologies is a video games development company best known for the cross-platform Unity game engine, familiar even to fans of mobile games like Angry Birds 2 and Super Mario Run.)
He noted that the cost savings that can be realised by using VR technology – for instance, in oil rig inspections – would be a catalyst for quicker adoption by businesses.
Augmenting human ability
VR is also part of a broader phenomenon known as Cross-Reality (XR), or technology-fuelled experiences that combine digital and biological realities.
These include human augmentation applications, such as a drone that moves in tandem with a human, or technology that allows people to share experiences.
Sony Computer Science Laboratories, for instance, is working to augment humans using VR and augmented reality (AR) by providing users not only with their own perspectives on virtual worlds, but also the perspectives of other users as well.
This effectively enables a user to "see" through someone else's eyes.
The company calls this “superception”, and is designed to add another layer to the VR experience.
Sony is also working on a "human Uber" concept whereby a mask-shaped display shows a remote user’s live face, and a voice channel transmits a remote user’s voice.
The AR technology effectively uses a real human as a surrogate for another remote user.
"Ultimately, technology does not replace humans but augments them," said Jun Rekimoto, deputy director, of Sony Computer Science Laboratories.
1. Photos of EmTech Asia, including those used in the teaser image, are courtesy of EmTech Asia Facebook page.
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