Leaders in XR on present and future possibilities of virtual, augmented and extended reality

What are some of the movers and shakers in XR saying about where things stand and where they might head? VR Days Europe asked them six questions and distilled the following from the answers of some of them — part 1

For Jason Toff, the New York City site lead for Google VR/AR, the most promising development is that Augumented Reality coming to hundreds of millions of smartphones. He warns that while there is much focus in the industry on increasing benefit, it should not be overlooked to decrease cost: ‘People sometimes overlook the cost/benefit analyses users do’. He hopes that in five to ten years from now XR is ‘as ubiquitous as iPads’.

Dominic Eskofier, who has been called ‘the single most influential European Virtual Reality specialist’, sees how VR changing areas such as health, science and education, with B2B applications as one of the biggest growth potentials. ‘Even traditional industries and companies will be disrupted by XR’.

Technological evangelist, developer, futurist and researcher of human-computer interaction processes, Boo Aguilar is less impressed with things happening in the realm of XR than with for instance biotechnologies like Crispr-CAS9. ‘But we can use XR and AI to help communicate those concepts and to help researchers visualize data in novel ways generating overview effect.’ Aguilar views XR as a medium for purposeful missions and expects it to miniaturize, with for instance cell phones replacing the head mounted display, ‘ending offices as we know it, changing school, behaviors and creating a new culture.’

Martin Schubert shares the magic and mission of Leap Motion with the VR/AR and other industries, and to the world over. He sees a bright future for hand tracking, eye tracking and voice recognition, because they will ‘allow us to interact with computers the same way we interact with each other and I find that very exciting’. Part of his excitement is coming from what he expects of the next decade: ‘I think much of what we do on our phones today will be unlocked from our screens and happening in 3D all around us, overlaid on the physical world’. He foresees that ‘the physical and digital worlds will be almost indistinguishable and our language around virtual objects and worlds will have changed dramatically.’

XR will ‘help us be more human’, expects Michael Gourlay. He works at Microsoft as a Principal Development Lead in the Environment Understanding group of Analog R&D on augmented reality and virtual reality platforms such as HoloLens and Windows Holographic. In Gourlays vision augmented reality platform technologies will ‘synergize with machine learning to enable more personal computing and artificial intelligence.’ Asked about his vision of the future, let’s say twenty years from now, he replies that ‘the VR/AR distinction will be gone, those platforms will be more compact and universal, and we’ll forget what it was like not to have XR available all the time’. Challenges and benefits, according to Gourlay, will be ‘for machines to understand WHY users act, anticipate their needs and help them achieve more’.

‘Over the past year’, explains Martin de Ronde (Force Field), ‘some people have declared VR a dead on arrival technology. Huge expectations were not met with, giving rise to pessimism surrounding the new technology that was poised to change everything.’ Mistakes were made by different actors on the VR stage, but what counts is the huge potential that still remains and De Ronde expects the market to shape up.

Stefano Baldassi is the Senior Director of Neuroscience and Analytics at Meta. His team is integrating neuroscience theory and research in every step of the development of Meta’s Augmented Reality headset. For Baldassi the areas with the most potential are productivity, education, healthcare. ‘They are fundamental areas of our world and they all advance significantly shifting from 2D to 3D digital interfaces.’ And 3D is serious business, according to Baldassi. For him creating, designing and distributing digital interfaces in the 3D space around a user ‘is way more than another mere visual effect. Manipulating those same interfaces when they float around the user body will engage a number of mechanisms in the brain that are part of the perception-action loop.’ As a neuroscientist he knows that when these circuits are in action our cognitive systems accounting for on attention, memory, learning, problem solving and creativity work at ‘unprecedented efficiency’. Baldassi: ‘Computer devices, in the form of wearable augmented reality, will enhance our cognitive functions, not replace them’.

These are some of the 100 speakers of VR Days Europe 2017 — don’t miss out on the tickets!