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The Future of Training? 3D Immersive Technology

By Dawn K. Kennedy

There are many available "Virtual Reality" hardware devices available on the market. These capabilities are most often seen with a video game application, or an immersive "tour" to visit far off places. But the content behind the experience is the key, and the software powering that content is maturing in some incredible ways. At InfoComm, I saw a true immersive technology in a NASA space walk simulation, where the movement of a joystick controller mimicked the actual response the astronaut would receive in space. The team which developed the software used actual NASA manuals during development and applied the actual physics known about how things move and react in frictionless space. I gave it a go, and launched myself out into the netherworld. Honestly, I would never make it as an astronaut.

The experience, however, got me thinking about the first responder disciplines. If you can absolutely match the physical properties of material in training through VR, then students can practice skills before heading to the academy or the field. Imagine extrication where the vehicle materials bend, cut, and move as they really do, based on manufacturer data and material properties. Imagine training in arson investigation where the speed of combustion can be matched based on materials and known properties.

Already medical professionals are utilizing virtual reality to train doctors and nurses on the latest, sometimes even experimental techniques. In other fields, police and military are taking a hard look at how they can keep soldiers and officers safe during training, as well as giving them the ability to practice or simulate dangerous situations. These are just a few of the immediate thoughts that "popped" into my head. I am positive the field could come up with many, many more.

The power of virtual reality is that it immerses audiences in 3D and 360 views that envelope your entire field of view. Turn your head right, you literally see objects and spaces that appear and accurately track to the right, because the view within the software "pans" and moves with you. I cannot possibly describe the technology with any justice. Freeman, the company which developed the content for the InfoComm experience demonstration has a short video with applications:

These applications won't be limited to the bulky headsets. First, companies like Facebook and Microsoft are developing technologies that will dramatically slim down these headsets, but a related technology called augmented reality can nearly be deployed to millions of smartphones and tablets already. While not quite as immersive as VR, think of the "augmented" part of AR as the real world 2.0. You may have already experienced this technology on silly social applications like SnapChat and Facebook Camera.

Soon, applications will be available that will allow first responders to pull up blueprints of a building and overlay it on-top of a real world view, providing an almost X-ray like vision into a dangerous environment. The same thought can apply to other emergency medical techniques. EMTs may soon carry around apps that walk through step by step procedures for treating a patient, while guiding the technician on exact techniques.

"We're only at the beginning of AR and VR technologies. As the technology matures, these virtual experiences will be more and more realistic and naturally interactive," says Wilson Tang, Vice President of Digital Experience at Freeman. "We're heavily invested in this technology. So much of our current lives already revolve around computers that we barely make the distinction between our virtual lives and our real world lives. Imagine how much it will change our lives when VR experiences feel just as real as the real world."

But much like every new medium, Freeman is emphasizing the importance of content. It's not enough that you can create virtual worlds if you cannot tell compelling stories or environments that are meaningful to the audience.

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Wilson Tang
VP, Digital Experience

Wilson is a storyteller who brings brand's narratives to life through integrated media. A creative, digital, and media whiz, he loves to discover new ways to engage audiences through video and film, apps, blogs, articles, and, of course, real world experiences. With an extensive history in designing, producing content, and creating experiential marketing solutions for clients that range from major media and technology organizations to Fortune 100 brands, Wilson brings a multi-dimensional creative engagement strategy to all of the client programs he touches.

He's created websites for Google; shows for CBS; live restaurants for Chipotle; apps for BP; videos for ExxonMobil, projection maps for USA Today; events for the Boys and Girls Club; presentations for Yahoo!;and much more. And, on top of all that, he's an award-winning filmmaker with prizes from multiple festivals, including the Directors' Guild of America. But Wilson doesn't just create things because they are cool or pretty – everything he creates ties back to his clients' goals and objectives. Because for Wilson, it's all about creating new experiences that inspire audiences to action. "You know those moments in your life that you can't simply describe in words, can't be capture by a single photo, can't be expressed in a single song… those are the moments that I aim to create. If I could do anything in the world… I'm not sure. I just love to tell stories, and it's what I get to do with my life now. So I'm home."

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