Virtual reality (or VR) has paved the way for new kinds of immersive experiences spanning multiple sectors - from gaming and entertainment to retail, media, automotive, property and beyond.
Dr. Tim Jung, Director of the Creative Augmented and Virtual Reality Hub at Manchester Metropolitan University and founder of the Augmented & Virtual Reality Conference - has spent time researching the impact that VR can have on tourism using a specially developed app called BirdHIVE.
An interactive and specially commissioned VR experience, BirdHIVE was showcased at the Kendal Calling and Lakes Alive festivals in the summer of 2016, in celebration of the Lake District National Park bid to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The innovative app gave tourists the chance to soar like a bird, scale a mountain and ripple across the top of a lake, providing a 360-degree virtual flight tour of the iconic Lake District within just three minutes.
A specialist digital team created 360 drone films to illustrate the special qualities of the national park as a prospective World Heritage site. The 360 videos were hosted on a smartphone app which festival goers accessed using Samsung Gear VR headset.
Jung will present research on the tourists' responses at ICEE (International Conference on Consumer Electronics) between January 8 - 10, 2017, in Las Vegas. His research found that the majority of participants (90.4%) devoted their entire attention to the VR experience and felt fully immersed which allowed them to experience the Lake District undisturbed.
Furthermore, 94.7% of participants perceived the BirdHIVE VR experience to be entertaining and fun. In addition, 90.5% of participants confirmed that their opinion of the Lake District is much stronger after experiencing the VR application, which is a great indication towards the impact of VR for destination marketing.
We spoke to Jung to find out more about how VR and AR can be used within the creative industries.
TechRadar: Can you tell us about the Creative Augmented and Virtual Reality hub at Manchester Metropolitan University and how it came about?
Tim Jung: The Creative Augmented and Virtual Reality Hub investigates new and innovative ways to implement AR and VR in creative industries. We saw new trends and the huge potential of AR and VR back in 2013 and we started the Hub as part of Manchester Metropolitan University, aiming to bridge the gap between academic research and industry application.
TR: In February 2017 you'll be hosting the third Augmented & Virtual Reality Conference in Manchester. Can you suggest who should attend the conference and what they can expect?
TJ: The International AR and VR Conference is an exciting opportunity to meet industry experts and world leading scholars in the field of AR and VR. The specialty of this conference is combining rigorous academic research with the cutting edge and fast paced AR and VR developments in industry. Both experts and newcomers to the subject of AR and VR should attend the conference to explore the latest developments and get a better understanding of opportunities and feasibility.
TR: How can businesses work with the hub?
TJ: Our Hub is leading in research on customer experience, commercialisation of AR/VR and helping businesses realise the benefits of AR/VR. We’re very open to talking to companies and organisations about new projects and the potential of using immersive technology in a variety of sectors – from tourism to retail.
TR: Besides BirdHive, what other projects has the hub worked on?
Dr. Tim Jung: Over the past 5 years, we’ve worked on various AR and VR projects including a mobile AR project with Dublin City Council which investigated where augmented reality can enhance user experience around Dublin’s Independence Trail, a wearable AR project with Manchester Art Gallery which looked at how wearable AR using smart glasses could complement the museum learning experience; a mobile AR project with Manchester Jewish Museum which examined how augmented reality could add value to the learning experience of school children and an AR & VR project with Geevor Tin Mine Museum and Museum of Science of Industry which tested how augmented and virtual reality can enhance the visitor experience.
TR: Which sectors do you think hold the greatest opportunity for immersive tech?
TJ: I think there are huge opportunities in entertainment and tourism sectors, as well as training and education. For example, the idea of gamification using augmented reality technology (e.g. Pokemon Go) could be widely used in the context of heritage tourism to explore heritage sites interactively and also bring hidden stories to life for tourists.
TR: What do you expect to be the most exciting developments in the immersive tech space in 2017?
TJ: The most exciting developments will be the combination of AR/VR technology with IoT. Through IoT, users can interconnect objects and devices in the real world. The use of both IoT and AR/VR will bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds and customers can access contextual and relevant real world information created by AR/VR technology.