By Mike Ryan Event Coordinator, Theatre Director/Designer, and Ethnomusicologist

Last Thursday saw the third edition of the AR VR Innovate conference take place in Croke Park. The annual event, boasting a 40% increase in attendance on last year, drew attendees and speakers from a myriad of backgrounds, all eager to discuss and project the history, present, and future of augmented and virtual reality technology. In addition to the packed schedule of speakers and panel discussions, there was also plenty of AR and VR demonstrations from companies like Samsung, Play Nicely and Cimagine to keep the attendees entertained.

It’s easy to see the potential applications for the technology within marketing, film, and gaming, but as the day progressed it was clear that there are few industries which won’t benefit from the advent of AR and VR. For Brandwidth’s Dean Johnson, this is a double edged sword, as he urged the conference to embrace “The Power of “No” ”. With large brands now racing to build their own alternate realities, lest they be left behind, it’s up to agencies and developers to make them stop and think, “VR, more than anything else, is about making great content”. Kellogg’s dubious entry into the VR arena with their “Ancient Legends” cereal drew particular ire for it’s success in creating a virtual cereal eating experience for users, but massively hindering their ability to actually get the cereal into their mouths in reality.

Scott Fletcher from Play Nicely spoke to the crowd about their incredibly creative collaborations with large arts brands such as The National Theatre and The Royal Opera. Scott’s assertion that “context will dictate content” was a theme that emerged multiple times throughout the event. As companies are beginning to become protective of the technology, keen to secure it’s longevity, it’s becoming clear that big flashy stunts won’t hold any value unless they’re acting as an extension of the brand itself. “As long as the context is nailed, then the content can be more surprising”.

The construction industry and similar industrial settings are also facing massive disruption. DAQRI’s Regan Wynne spoke about the application of AR technology in these fields. Their Smart Helmet, which can provide real-time information to workers in the field, promises to be a real game changer with a recent Boeing/Iowa State University study showing a 30% reduction in assembly time up to a 94% reduction in errors when using AR instructions.

The conference’s key note address was given by visual effects industry veteran Don Levy, who reminded the conference that the world of AR and VR is changing by the instant, and the best way to keep ahead of the curve is by focusing on the user and by learning from experience, “Everybody’s trying to get into the game, but it takes practice. Nobody goes to the championship the first day out.” Levy was also keen to remind the attendees that, while the progress of the technology can sometimes seem to be powering ahead at warp speed, the fundamentals have barely changed at all, “In 120 years, we’re still essentially setting up a camera and recording”.

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