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Head of 360, AR and VR at Orchard Media and Events Group, Glenn Hapgood, speaks with Luke Owain Boult about the possible implications of the technology.

How did you first get involved in VR?

I am a sci-fi enthusiast (yes, a geek) and anything future tech excites me. I first got involved as a hobby and a gamer and then I was the Operations Director at a conference and exhibition company. One of the events I ran was a Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Show. This really showed me how much the technology had grown and I wanted to be part of the grass roots development of the industry, get my hands dirty and be involved – so I joined Orchard Media and Events Group. I consider myself lucky as I’m in my dream role. I am a father of three wonderful children and one of the best things about being a parent is seeing the wonder on their faces when shown anything new. In my job – I see that look on everyone’s face when we show them this technology.

What exciting developments are happening with VR?

Where do I start! The most exciting part is the fact that we’re at the beginning of a journey. If you compare where we are now to the mobile phone industry, then we are at the Nokia 3210 stage. That was released on 18th March 1999 – look how far mobile phones have gone in 18 years. We’re going to see this sort of leap in technology in the next 4 to 5 years with VR.

2017 was always touted as the year of VR and, so far, it is living up to expectations. We’re now seeing 360 filming and VR everywhere. There are over 610,000 360 videos on YouTube alone – and the big three social media platforms have all adapted to use this type of media. It’s only going to grow stronger.

The most exciting thing I’ve seen personally is a company I came across who have developed VR technology so that a surgeon can perform an operation in VR from one location while a robot carries out the actual operation in elsewhere.

And how did you get involved with AR?

It was a natural transition. VR takes you into another reality while AR brings things into your reality. I have a largely sales and marketing background so I can see many marketing benefits in this technology so I just had to be involved.

What can it be used for?

Marketing, education, training, healthcare, engineering – the possibilities really are endless.

To give you an example, a doctor in the US created an AR model of a child’s heart to effectively plan a pioneering surgery technique. He was able to view the heart, but effectively move around the heart from every possible angle. This meant he could plan the operation in extensive detail and ensure there were no surprises.

How do you think the technology will be used?

With general consumers, I see it as a tool to broaden horizons and experience things that you would never normally experience. Orchard 360 are hopefully filming an expedition to the North Pole and creating a VR experience of this. Not many people would ever have the opportunity to travel to the North Pole but VR can allow them to experience it as though they really are there – as long as they stand by an open freezer when watching!

Big brands will be using this technology more and more but we are in a chicken and egg situation with AR. Not enough AR content is out there in the mainstream to really appreciate it.

Air New Zealand are experimenting with Microsoft HoloLens-equipped flight attendants who could identify passengers through facial recognition, calling up details about their destination, allergies, and even the time since they got their last beverage. It can even try and assess your mood!

What’s your role in AR and VR?

My role is to provide options for our clients and advise them on what might be possible. It is a new technology and so many companies want to utilise it but do not know where to start. I help and support them from the creative beginnings all the way through to showcasing their end experience. I create, play, deliver and see the joy on people’s faces when they experience it – how good is that!

How can people use AR and VR technology themselves?

You can use it on most smartphones made since 2015! You can use YouTube, Facebook, Google Cardboard Viewers or if you’re prepared to spend a little more money, then buy some of the VR headsets out there plug in and broaden your horizons.

We’ll be hosting a number of events for people to go along and try out this technology in Cardiff in the run up to Christmas so anyone can experience it!

What’s the best way of learning to use the technology?

Play with it. Within this industry we have been making it up as we go along. That is how technology moves forward!

What do you think the next big thing in the field will be?

When we get to the stage where the technology can all be put into a normal looking pair of glasses, sun glasses or even a contact lens. We will be walking down the street and you will be video chatting with your friend, finding a good place to eat, reading your emails and catching up on the score of the local game all in one field of vision! Be prepared for plenty of people walking into each other. Maybe a new innovation would be to add in a proximity warning!


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