Originally Published by Medicine Hat News
Author: Nick Kuhl
The internet existed in the 1990s and cellphones were relatively common by the early 2000s.
In 2019, both are staples for use and a reality engrained into everyday life. People tend to panic without either them for more than a few moments.
It is now believed by many that extended reality (XR), an umbrella term encompassing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), will have the next big technological impact to society.
“It’s not an if – it’s a when,” says Amy Peck, an XR expert and entrepreneur who spoke to students, faculty and some public members, as well as on a livestream to some other colleges, Friday at Lethbridge College.
The growth metrics and trajectory for XR are following similar paths to previous technologies, most notably the smartphone, she says.
Products are already coming down in size and cost and moving up in accessability The key piece that is missing, but that is coming, hence part of the reasoning behind LC’s program introduction this year, is true everyday purpose.
“What we really need is day-to-day utility,” Peck said. “We are going in this direction so it’s really important that we start to put mechanisms in play.”
She looks at three pillars around that: context (what do I want to see?); utility (why do I need this?); and fun (it has to be entertaining).
Peck is an entrepreneur and leader in VR and AR, who launched her own XR company to help others incorporate the technology into their own businesses. She is senior director of Enterprise Content at HTC Vive Studios and had previously founded EndeavorVR, a leading global XR strategy and consulting firm.
Innovation and entrepreneurship and immersive technology, such as AI, block chain and XR, are all going to merge moving forward, she says.
“There’s so much technology coming so quickly,” Peck says. “We all actually need to get engaged in this conversation about new technology.”
As the future is in this direction, according to Peck, educators and stakeholders need to build a framework with standards ethics, behaviour and empathy.
At Lethbridge College, she spoke about the XR landscape and opportunities.
Peck says AR is a computing platform, while VR is a destination to learn, to be someone, or to do something.
As such, she believes the technology can be used to expand and improve the education system. She approached LC after hearing about their new one-year certificate program in AR/VR.
“I really believe that particularly virtual reality has the opportunity to completely change the way we educate,” Peck said. “Because we can build virtual environments. We don’t have to limit curriculum to this kind of linear format. It touches every industry. This is going to touch all of us.”
Mike McCready, an instructor and chair of VR/AR at the college, said the first-year program has 30 students and is off to a great start.
“She wanted to be a part of that. She wanted to be able to impart some information and some ideas to the students,” he said.
“One of her personal mandates is to really realize this technology to be used for good — to improve humankind. That became clear in some of our conversations. The future is really as limitless as our imagination. The technologies are unlimited.”
McCready said the public has some simple misconceptions relating to XR, such as: it’s just for video games, it’s too complicated, it’s too expensive – and that it’s a fad like 3D TV.
“It’s not going to go away. It’s just taken some time. I remember when social media came out, like really big with YouTube and Twitter, and people were like ‘oh, it’s a fad.’ Now, it’s in everyday life, from entertainment to news to politics – everything,” McCready said.
“We are kind of in the ’90s of the internet with VR. You look at where we are at today – every business can’t live without it. If you’re not on page one of Google, you don’t exist. It’s evolved. We’re at that stage now with VR, where people don’t know that they need it. It will come to a point where it’s a flash bang and there will be this high demand. That’s one of the things we hope with this VR program is when that demand really explodes, that we’ll be able to supply the skills that will be needed.”
One practical example, McCready says, would be using XR for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
“Imagine having an app where you could just hold it up to the symbol and all of a sudden it tells you what the symbol means, what the potential chemical is, the safety precations. None of us can remember everything. This can augment our personal experience,” he said.
“Our goal with what were doing with the applied research here is really helping to identify industries that could benefit from that. And how can we help those companies implement these technologies for success? The growth is just going to keep expanding.”
McCready says use cases and ease of use will lead to a higher adoption rate. Both he and Peck believe possible areas could, sooner than later, include first responder training, agricultural safety, therapy, entertainment, language and travel.
When 5G hits data provider networks, web-based AR can replace app-based use, McCready says.
“That’s going to really, I think, boost the potential adoption,” he said.
“It’s going to be a global village,” Peck said.
“That’s what we’re heading towards. Instead of looking for ‘why we shouldn’t do it’ and ‘what’s wrong with it?’ – we don’t have to write the story of dystopian future. We can write a completely different story. But we all need to start writing. That’s the message from me: get in the game.”