This week I took part in Dubai Future Technology Week, a conglomerate of tech-themed conferences at Dubai’s World Trade Centre. I was invited to take part in a panel discussion focusing on the intersection between VR and the Internet of Things alongside some excellent people:
Shujat Mirza is the UAE Chapter President of the VRAR Association and someone that I have known for a number of years since his time at local AR startup Pixelbug. Shujat chaired the panel for us.
Dr. Sana Farid is the founder of Munfarid Consulting and VRXOne (the first Google Expeditions partner in the Middle East). She is listed amongst the top 101 women in AR/VR globally as well as the top 100 women who transformed the Kingdom of Bahrain (where she is based).
Salman Yusuf is the Managing Director of TakeLeap - one of the leading developers of immersive technology in The Middle East. The TakeLeap catalogue includes Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Projection Technologies, Hologram Development and Augmented Reality.
The panel covered a range of topics from VR adoption rates in the UAE, barriers to the mass adoption of VR and how VR is transforming our respective industries. The core discussion though, centred on the intersection of VR and the IoT. It’s one of the most unique VR-related themes that I’ve been asked to comment on this year and it’s definitely an interesting subject.
At first it seems to many that VR and the IoT innately sit in opposition to each other – IoT is focused on connecting people with the digital world via physical devices whereas VR is all about going into the digital world itself and thus the physical world loses focus. Really though the answer is right there sin the question – the Internet of Things is about connected digital things to the real world and of course a VR headset is just another one of those Things. We actually see this in action in Ready Player One – having obtained the Copper Key, Wade goes on a spending spree with Aech. He wanders a virtual shopping plaza inside the Oasis and picks up several virtual objects that will serve as plot devices later on (the Holy Hand grenade, the Zemeckis Cube) but he also claps eyes on something he wants in the real world – the IOI haptic suit. When Wade decides to buy this, he selects “real world delivery.” The next scene sees him unboxing his new bootsuit.
Examples of this synergy between VR and the IoT can already be found in the 2018 retail industry. In a presentation directly before our panel discussion, Salman from TakeLeap shared the example of IKEA who have built upon their much heralded ARkit augmented reality app to explore the use of VR to allow consumers to explore their home furnishings.
Earlier this week the world’s first VR sneaker store opened its doors. Six Hundred Four creates shoes based off commissioned art pieces. The web based VR experience allows visitors to explore the flagship Vancouver store and add their chosen shoes to their shopping cart with ease. It works great with an HMD but can also be accessed directly in a browser here.
A third great example was something I found whilst wandering the exhibition hall of the IoTx conference itself. VR All Art is an awesome new platform from a Swiss development team. Their app offers virtual art gallery spaces to artists (or even galleries themselves) wherein not only can visitors explore the works of art but purchase them in the real world. VR all Art currently has a free mobile application that allows art to be viewed in AR but at the conference they were demoing the full VR experience on the Vive.
I had a chance to speak with founder and CEO Vitomir Jevremovic during the conference and he shared some insight into the project:
This is something that I think schools could integrate brilliantly. Imagine having senior age students create a virtual gallery of their artwork and then actually being able to sell them internationally. It would give real purpose to their learning, introduce them to the commercial side of the art world and potentially kickstart a career as an artist from a young age. It’s definitely something I’ll be looking to pilot with the art department at JESS Dubai in the next academic year!
So what about VR and the IoT when we are not talking about sales and retail? Ultimately the IoT is about the transfer of data from the real to the virtual world (or visa-versa) and I think that this is the clue to how this will soon begin to manifest in educational VR. For educators the data currency is that of learning assessment. Right now very few VR apps allow you to assess student understanding, progress or attainment. Imagine if apps tracked student activity within a VR experience and were then able to transfer that data back to the teacher. A student could use a science app to label the bones of a skeleton then data on their accuracy and speed is exported to an external assessment platform for collation and grading. The data could take a physical form too – a piece of virtual artwork could be sent directly to a 3D printer or visualiser for assessment in the real world.
We are very much at the tip of the spear in regard to the way VR cross-pollinates with IoT connectivity but it will no doubt grow exponentially, especially as the virtual world itself becomes more connected and all-encompassing. Some interesting times ahead folks.