Has virtual reality reached its reasonable age?

On March 17 and 18, the fifth Virtuality exhibition dedicated to virtual, augmented and mixed reality took place in Paris. On the program: remote work, vocational training and digital twins, far from the playful experiments of their endeavors.

At the beginning of virtual reality, its main potential was foreseen in the field of entertainment, in particular for movies and video games. Today, despite the social aspect of the metaverse, this technology is more focused on services for professionals. What does this evolution in the use of virtual reality say? How will the metaverse affect this?

From experimentation to professional use

The first release of Virtuality in 2017 was open to the general public. Virtual reality, which was covered by the media with a touch of curiosity and optimism, wondered the extent of its potential in the fields of healthcare and industry. However, it was geared towards entertainment use, whether it be 360-degree movies, video games, or more offbeat experiences. In one of Birdly’s flagship booths, the user lay face down in front of a fan and, waving his arms, acted as a bird flying over the buildings of Manhattan.

Five years later, everything has changed. The Covid-19 pandemic has been there, as has the spread of remote work. Many booths were dedicated to creating workspaces in the metaverse or vocational training in virtual reality. Another demonstration of this technology with Wyca Robotics, a robot topped with a 360° camera that allows you to visit remote locations in real time. If the Aeroscopia aviation museum located in Toulouse was on display, this invention was also (primarily?) presented as a way for professionals to visit factories abroad without having to travel.

The same observation for augmented reality and mixed reality, even if they never had entertainment as their primary goal. This trend is confirmed, these technologies are mainly used for marketing or tracking.

New tool for remote training and meetings

The main argument in favor of creating offices in the metaverse is the ability to create cohesion and a common corporate culture for their employees around the world. Companies that specialize in these services, such as Bublr or Kwark, therefore insist on all the possibilities offered by the virtual in terms of customization that go far beyond what can be done in the real world. According to them, the embodiment of the character in the professional metaverse will allow you to be more attentive than during simple video conferences. These companies also allow you to set up a showroom to present your products to customers in a more innovative way. Even if they were present at Virtuality, virtual reality is not really their priority. And it is not for nothing that these metaverses should be easily accessible to employees, regardless of their equipment (computer, tablet, smartphone).

This question of material accessibility is likely the key to the evolution of the use of virtual reality. Between 2017 and 2022, the use of a virtual reality headset for gaming or virtual chat has not become a fact for the majority, who still prefer traditional video games and social networks. Therefore, it was logical to move to a model of customizable services for professionals.

Bublr worked with All Rights Entertainment to create an environment conducive to the remote sale of their films during the Cannes Film Festival. Thus, visitors could easily access images and trailers. (bubbler)

Virtual reality is applicable to many areas of vocational training, whether it be hard skills such as industrial safety or medical hygiene, or social skills such as management, problem solving, conflict and anti-discrimination. Even if these are serious games, the game aspect is put forward by the company as a means of engaging students. And it’s not about replacing trainers, on the contrary: VR training companies are teaching them how to organize this new type of exercise and how it can complement more traditional workouts.

More photorealism with Numix immersive learning. Here is a simulation of intervention in the Enedis electrical network. Coaches can vary training situations and even cause dangers. (Numix)

Historically, the show has only focused on virtual, augmented and mixed realities. But the original proposal has changed: one of the future applications of virtual reality is the metaverse, so it was important for Virtuality to expand its topics to blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Therefore, many conferences have been held on these topics. First, to explain these innovations to uninitiated professionals, but also to recognize that no one has a precise definition of the metaverse! The inclusion of cryptocurrencies and NFTs also veered the show towards economic and financial themes, such as interest in cryptocurrencies for investors or the integration of brands into the metaverse.

Several booths were devoted to major metaverses, such as the French from The Sandbox and the Czechs from Victoria VR, who sponsored the show. If here and there the social and entertainment aspect was emphasized – The Sandbox, for example, admitted that they were working on new game modes – these platforms were very insistent on economic potential, in particular in the virtual real estate market. At a time when concerts, film screenings, and exhibitions are already being organized across the metaverse, the future of virtual reality entertainment is sure to play out on these platforms.

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