Datacom’s development unit will work with Microsoft’s HoloLens headset (the world’s first self-contained holographic computer) and technology to develop new augmented reality products, which will be available in the form of apps.

“We will focus on front-end visualisation and get data to the surface in the 3D holographic world,” says Chris Blair, Delivery and Innovation Agent at Datacom.

“We want to work with content developers and help design and shape [new] augmented reality products.”

The Datacom team is first concentrating on developing an earthquake response application in collaboration with Microsoft, and is also working with Auckland Museum to allow HoloLens users to share the same view of collection items that have been scanned into 3D holographic images, despite the viewers being in different locations.

Blair says augmented reality is “going to have huge appeal” in a variety of sectors such as education and training, health and safety, search and rescue, construction, manufacturing and architecture.

A recent Goldman Sachs report predicted that virtual and augmented reality revenues will surpass the television market, making this growing space a $100 billion dollar industry by 2025.

Augmented reality can be used in education, for example medical students can dissect a human body which is a hologram; for training by overlaying a manual on a motorbike while a trainee mechanic repairs it; for search and rescue by mapping out the terrain to improve navigation; for construction by using map co-ordinates and overlaying all the plans, diagrams and data to make better decisions.

“There will be evolutionary development of apps that create 3D spaces in the real physical world,” Blair says.

Opportunities abound at the AR/VR Garage, a state-of-the-art research and development facility in Newton established by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) in early September. The innovation hub was set up to accelerate and showcase the development of New Zealand’s augmented and virtual reality capability.

The operating model is unique – a collaboration between industry, corporates, tertiary and research institutions, and local and central government agencies – all connected to key international players in the virtual and augmented reality space.

Microsoft New Zealand last month announced a strategic partnership with the AR/VR Garage, saying the HoloLens and Windows Holographic technology would be used by start-up companies on their own applications and also for collaborative projects aimed at developing world-leading outcomes.

The Media Design School has also become a partner with its students studying virtual and augmented reality and being involved in the latest developments.

The rapid development of the AR/VR Garage was triggered by the relationships and interest forged at the Tripartite Economic Summit and Techweek AKL 2016 held during the same week in May.

More than 1300 people attended the Magnify – The Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Pacific Summit. There was such a buzz at the summit about the advances and future of this disruptive technology that Ateed decided Auckland needed a special precinct.

The AR/VR Garage now has 15 tenants sharing co-working space, ideas and solutions, and the number is expected to grow to 20 by the end of the month.

Many of the present tenants are focused on creating content for “the virtual reality revolution” in television and the movie industry.

For example, people could find themselves on the MasterChef set and move around the benches watching the contestants cook.

The AR/VR Garage has become the Oceania headquarters of the United States-based VR Society, joining chapters in Beijing and Canada. The society last year secured more than $200 million of virtual reality projects for its global members.

A New Zealand Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Association has been formed and is based in the AR/VR Garage, which has fuelled the local community of game developers, screen and film producers, animators, educators and digital storytellers, and quickly become an international hub.

Through its connections, the AR/VR Garage wants to become a test bed for global proof-of-concept and prototyping innovations.

VR Society board member Jonas Hudson, who spoke at the May Tripartite summit, said his organisation was well aware of New Zealand’s reputation for high quality content creation.

The VR Society’s member studios included Walt Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Warner Bros, Universal, Sony Entertainment, Paramount, DreamWorks Animation and Virtual Reality Company.

“The partnership with AR/VR Garage will enable Los Angeles and Auckland to deliver on the Tripartite Economic Alliance’s goals by driving new business, creating jobs and training programmes in production and technology. It will also grow a Pacific Rim technology corridor for virtual and augmented reality start-ups.”

Blair says the build-up of interest and momentum in augmented reality over the past four months has been incredible and “take it a further six months out and this is going to be everywhere.”

The establishment of the AR/VR Garage by Ateed and the collaboration between Datacom and Microsoft was perfect timing.

Blair has no doubt that the AR/VR Garage will become internationally known as a centre of excellence that will attract plenty of product development. “Without the Garage, international players and organisations might never have come to New Zealand to have a conversation. They will now bring opportunities for us and them alike,” he says.

Source: The New Zealand Herald

By Graham Skellern

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