Diving deep into virtual reality

In this picture taken on October 10, 2016, a visitor wears virtual reality goggles at the FireEye booth during the Singapore International Cyber Week 2016 in Singapore. (AFP Phot0/Roslan Rahman)

Just as the term suggests, Virtual Reality (VR) technology combines both "reality" and "virtual" experiences using a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored by a user. The user becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.

While some may be unfamiliar with this technology, VR has in fact been around for decades. However, this fact is changing rapidly.

More and more businesses around the world have commenced the usage of VR for expansion purposes. Some big names include Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – who acquired VR company Oculus for two billion dollars in March 2014 – and companies like Google, Samsung, and Sony that are manufacturing VR headsets for consumers.

Uses of VR in Southeast Asia

Without a doubt, VR technology in the Southeast Asian region is also simultaneously expanding although it is a few steps behind compared to the West. Some notable VR companies in Southeast Asia include Philippine-based online real estate platform ZipMatch, Malaysia’s first VR theme park, EXA VR Park and Singapore’s Hiverlab which creates content and software, but extricates itself by focusing on the power of immersive storytelling.

On the other hand, there are also businesses in the region that benefit from the use of VR. AirAsia for one, used VR with their launch of Asia’s largest 360 VR production to-date, in celebration of ASEAN’s 50th anniversary. Their VR campaign featured hundreds of VR-Ready 360 scenes from all 10 ASEAN countries, across dozens of cities and key attractions to expose people to the hidden locations in the region.

Another example would include the National University of Singapore which deploys a VR simulation environment to aid in the learning of human anatomy. In short, whenever an experience is too hazardous, impractical or expensive, VR can be the answer. This technology can help industry experts in terms of education and applications. For example, VR can be used by trainee medical surgeons and fighter pilots to take virtual risks to gain real-world experiences.

Other industries that can benefit from the emergence of VR are retail, real estate, and of course, entertainment. The entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar industry where consumers are always keen on innovation and new technologies. As for real estate, agents are already using virtual reality to show people round properties. The current technology will also have a huge impact on architecture and home improvement planning.

Types of businesses that can benefit from VR.

What is the future of VR on Southeast Asia’s economy?

According to Ariel Talbi, Asia Pacific Managing Director of TaKanto, a virtual reality production company, “it is too soon to identify a significant impact on the economy as the VR technology has just started to be embraced by businesses and brands in the region.”

“At the moment it is mostly used as a marketing tool rather than a business tool, however there are some strong indications that several companies are exploring ROI-generating usage of this technology,” he elaborated in an email correspondence with The ASEAN Post.

As for the future of VR technology in Southeast Asia, there are high expectations as there are currently different experimental VR technologies that could help with mass adoption.

“At the moment the VR content creation ecosystem in Southeast Asia is growing nicely and being recognised globally as a force to be reckoned with. Several VR Game development studios are also releasing impressive experiences – so all in all I believe we are heading in the right direction. Generally speaking, the future of VR as a whole would probably be influenced from the US and China markets and fueled by the likes of HTC, Google, Samsung and Facebook,” Ariel added.


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