Everything you need to know about immersive technologyPosted 25 May 2022
Everything to know about immersive technology
What are immersive technologies?
Immersive technology refers to new ways of creating, displaying and interacting with applications, content and experiences. Immersive technology has transformed the digital experience by bringing together the virtual with users’ sight, sound, and even touch.
Immersive technologies allow a person to feel part of an artificial, simulated environment – for example, immersive theatre requires the audience to interact with the set, props and actors, while an immersive air control dashboard may allow the operator to see and interact with real-time monitoring data.
Virtual reality (VR) completely replaces a user’s surroundings with a digital environment using a head-mounted display (HMD) with two near-eye displays, one for each eye. VR lends itself to both industrial applications and creative experiences with new modes of storytelling.
Augmented reality (AR) creates an immersive experience for users by blending the real with the virtual. Utilising computer vision and machine learning algorithms the device can understand the ‘real world’ in both a spatial and semantic sense. Digital Catapult has helped cultural institutions reach new audiences with AR and helped retail brands explore new AR-powered solutions to grow, and innovate within, their business.
Haptic Technology is commonly known as ‘3D touch’ or ‘kinaesthetic interaction’. Unlike other immersive technologies it involves tactile feedback including pressure, vibrations, and movements. Haptics are likely to be the one of the main ways we interact with applications and content in future computing paradigms – be it spatial computing or the “metaverse”. In 2020 Digital Catapult mapped the UK haptic ecosystem to uncover some of the future use cases, players and opportunities – you can access the report here.
In summary, recent developments in immersive technologies have created new opportunities for businesses to solve problems, seize new opportunities, and push innovation forward.
Why immersive experiences or solutions?
The continued development of immersive technologies has already had an impact on the economy and in many industries because they offer new and exciting ways of interacting, analysing, and creating. Here are a few examples of why immersive experiences and technologies have been applied to existing cross-industry problems.
From the military, to healthcare and sports, immersive technologies have transformed the way training is designed and delivered. The use of VR and AR has increased the speed and quality of training, and allows a more hands-on training experience which is very valuable and usually difficult to achieve in conventional classroom settings. This includes soft skills as well as technical ones, for example handling difficult situations or managing a team.
Product design and prototyping
Immersive technologies will allow product development teams to quickly and cheaply create virtual prototypes, while creating opportunities for remote collaboration. Leaps in immersive tech will continue to revolutionise product development, removing obstacles such as time, cost, and location.
Digital Catapult supported Gravity Sketch, a collaborative 3D and Virtual Reality design tool, through our Augmentor programme. Allowing teams to communicate ideas in 3D during the design process, speeding up product development, Gravity Sketch has secured £4.15 funding from VC firms and is now working with the likes of Nissan and Ford.
Immersive technologies can solve a frequent problem in online shopping: customers simply don’t know how a product will actually look in-situ, either in their living room or on their feet. This is especially an issue for big-ticket items such as furniture.
Developments in AR technology allow prospective customers to ‘place’ the desired item in their homes or on their body, making them more confident in their purchases. Companies like Amazon and IKEA are already using AR on their online platforms for this reason. ‘Virtual try on’ has filtered down to social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat – allowing consumers to try make-up or headgear on from within their social stream, driving engagement and purchases.
The advances that have enabled some immersive technologies – such as tracking and understanding the real world through a camera – can also be used for content creation. Virtual Production is an example of how these technologies can be used for content creation, particularly in the screen industry. Large LED walls can be used in place of traditional green screen post-production or even real world sets.
Digital Catapult is an important partner in the MyWorld programme, led by the University of Bristol, convening leading universities in the West of England and over 30 technology, creative and film companies to cement the region’s position as a creative media powerhouse.
MyWorld’s first CR&D call launched in April 2022 and information on the call is now available from Innovate UK.
What’s next for immersive technology?
Immersive technologies play a key role in the convergence of the advanced digital technologies Digital Catapult works with. The recent hype around the ‘metaverse’ is fundamentally driven by technological convergence whether it is about future networks, such as 5G, delivering high-fidelity and hybrid festival experiences, or ‘digital twins’ of processes or facilities that can be accessed remotely, in the virtual presence of friends or co-workers.
The future of human-computer interaction is intimately linked to the development of immersive technologies. Brain-computer-interfaces, haptic devices, and other multi-sensory technologies will shape how we interact with information and other people in the coming decades. Digital Catapult’s Immersive team is researching these areas to help UK companies identify use cases, facilitate access to experiment and de-risk investment, and more.
Immersive technology and Digital Catapult
Digital Catapult has supported tens of UK startups that have built immersive solutions, ranging from data visualisation to crime scene investigation. Through collaborative research projects, we have also published reports that give tools for thought to entrepreneurs on how to innovate new business models around immersive content and applications, and how to approach the design of their projects.
Meanwhile, Digital Catapult has partnered with leading businesses like Niantic, VIVE, Sky and Verizon to bring technology, resources, and expertise to the innovation community.
Digital Catapult’s Immersive Lab facilities provide businesses with access to the latest immersive technologies, helping them to understand how to leverage and apply innovative technologies to their business problems.
Digital Catapult has also invested in a number of physical production facilities: Imaginarium Studios – a performance capture facility, Dimension Studio – a volumetric capture and production company and, most recently, the Virtual Production Test Stage, a joint venture with our partners Target3D. These facilities allow us to not only understand the challenges facing productions working at the cutting-edge of technology, but offer a space to foster new workflows, ideas and technologies.
We have also supported the immersive ecosystem through accelerators and funding competitions. The Augmentor programme was designed to increase immersive startups’ investment readiness and accelerate their business growth.
The CreativeXR programme was designed for small businesses in the creative sector, bringing together creativity and technology to boost the early development of creative immersive experiences.
Digital Catapult also provides commercial solutions for large businesses through a number of projects and workshops, inspiring and facilitating innovation in commercial contexts.
If you’re looking to solve business problems with immersive technology, contact us for more information.
Cementing the West of England as a creative media powerhouse.
Discover all about the 5G Festival project: a world first immersive hybrid 5G powered festival