Welcome to Reality: ARVR Innovate 2018

It might be unassuming on the outside, but ARVR Innovate contains entire worlds –  virtual worlds that is. Now in it’s fifth year, the conference is the only one in this country dedicated to both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – and has quickly gained a global reputation as one of the best places to see the latest developments in these exciting fields.

The overall aim of ARVR Innovate is to raise public awareness of these potentially transformative technologies and help professionals in the sector grow and develop their work. And it turns out the Irish AR/VR sector is in rude health, as our visit to the conference proved.

Talking Virtual

The main stage at the RDS played host to a huge variety of fascinating talks over the course of the day – with speakers from companies like Alibaba, Audi, and Microsoft. But it wasn’t just the big names making virtual waves, we managed to catch Liam Ferris from Kainos, who demonstrated some of the company’s work on a safe driving technology which captures a vast array of data about where we direct our attention when we’re behind the wheel.

Following that, Andy O’Sullivan, Principal Software Engineer at Liberty IT, brought us through the fascinating uses he and his team have made of Apple’s ARKit. ARKit, which is a set of software development tools to enable developers to build augmented-reality apps for iOS, has already opened up the field of Augmented Reality to even more developers – and an even wider global audience. Expect to see a lot more it over the next year or so.

Worlds of Possibility

One thing that clearly came across at the conference was the sheer range of disciplines in which AR and VR are making their presence felt. Although many of us associate the technologies with gaming, innovative designers are finding new and exciting ways to harness the unique properties of this rapidly developing tech.

In the Startup Zone at the RDS, a vast range of companies demonstrated their wares to interested attendees. We got the chance to try out an augmented/mixed reality medical application from Sentireal, which allows users to view 3D models based on digital microscope data. Each medical model can be manipulated in real time – allowing trainers to highlight particular elements to their students and allowing for faster and more accurate disease diagnosis.

Elsewhere, there was a steady stream of attendees waiting to try out Vstream’s collaboration with Audi International, a mixed reality application that allowed users to go beneath the hood of a real car in the exhibition hall and interact with virtual models of the technology inside.

Gaming was present at the conference too, in the form of a UCD-based study which measures player’s physiological responses to the VR gaming experience. And it’s fair to say our heart was racing after a few white-knuckle laps of a futuristic racing game in full VR mode.

From garden design to tourism, children’s education to immersive storytelling, everywhere you looked in the exhibition hall there were companies demonstrating new and different applications of VR and AR. It’s fair to say that the future is bright for these technologies in Ireland.

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