Who remembers Google Glass? “Sorta, maybe, kinda, who cares?” That’s the run of reactions I predict that question elicits. Most of the Glass social media accounts quietly disappeared into the ether back in January. There’s still some news about the technology surfacing, but predominantly from third-party healthcare applications. As it turns out, Google has turned its innovation R&D attention to virtual reality, as was on big display during the Cannes Lions festival for creative communications in June.
Google’s VR efforts were first introduced two years ago with its Cardboard, a low-cost solution to make the technology more accessible to the masses and for developers to create content for. A program using it, called Expeditions, was piloted through classrooms around the world. YouTube has already been rebuilt from the ground up for VR. Today, Google’s latest step forward with virtual reality is the Daydream platform, coming this fall, “for creating very high quality mobile VR experiences,” explained Google VP of VR Clay Bavor in a presentation at Cannes Lions.
We’ve been hearing a lot about this new reality that’s virtual in the AV world, and I expect that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding its uses for us. The mainstream cynics have been vocal recently in the media. A New York Times technology columnist went as far as to criticize the simulation as “too immersive,” and complaining how, “VR is still something you have to get used to.”
The real problem that this critic and others are having is they’re missing the opportunities that exist today. They’re spouting one-dimensional views entirely focused on the consumer, mostly gaming and entertainment applications. These are the obvious uses that are certainly destined to come down the pipeline as technology improves, clunky headsets disappear, and price points diminish. What we in the AV industry have already seen—those of us watching, that is—are innovative applications as business tools that are ready for prime time today.
At InfoComm, I demoed VR via Google Cardboard with Polycom and Biamp, the former as a tool to physically put me in a room with its collaborative Centro solution, and the latter for creative marketing. My colleague Matt Pruznick details his VR demo at Stampede’s booth in the July issue. The folks at Arup have been pioneering applications for VR, enabling clients to literally experience their new buildings in the conception phase. There are others already employing uses as well.