Democratizing Creative Expression in AR/VR Realities
I’ve always had a profound appreciation for creative expression and technology. Somehow, when both these worlds collide, something powerful emerges… (I think that we can all agree that CES is undoubtedly a prime example of this!)
Now, I may not be artist, but I am an individual with vision. Like everyone else, I dream, I imagine, and I long to bring my ideas to life. I’d willingly argue, that deep down, everyone has that intrinsic drive to express themselves freely and creatively.
However, I do agree, that this innate ability to render creative expressions isn’t given to all. Despite what most think, when I studied Engineering, it was a skill I sought out to pursue. No, I didn’t major in Art History, I didn’t study Picasso, nor do I paint, draw, or play music. My creative medium is tech. It’s how I express myself; it’s where I feel comfortable.
Similarly to Art students, I studied the past in search of inspiration. I realized that the current two-dimensional limitations weren’t innovative enough to bring my wild ideas to life. The filtered human-interface relationship I had developed with my screens, didn’t allow me to truly experience, at full scale, the immersion I was yearning to feel. So, I looked to the greats, such as Marshall Mathers, Phil Knight and Andreessen Horowitz, for inspiration and guidance. Like artists do, I tried different mediums, practiced various forms, and explored new techniques until I found a style that was undeniably me: Immersive Computing was definitely my thing.
You see, Augmented and Virtual Reality empowered me to feel new things, see new worlds in a different lens, and genuinely experience what it feels like “to be.” My senses heightened and my brain stimulated, these three-dimensional virtual environments provided me with new-found inspiration. I’ll admit, I kind of felt like Neo when he was introduced to the Matrix by Morpheus. You know, like anything you think of instantly appears right before your eyes… Well, that’s what it felt like. (Or, at least, I imagine that’s what Keanu felt… 🙄)
That being said, given AR/VR’s infancy, I wasn’t adequately equipped or artistically inclined to make my renderings real. There was nowhere to click, nothing to copy and paste, no models to build on, no templates to drag and drop from, and nowhere to turn to for instructional guidance or help. Content creation in the virtual and augmented realm was a struggle. It relied solely on those with the hard skill set to code and design — and that bugged the heck out me!
“More content, in more places” please!
Creativity in the augmented and virtual space desperately needed to be democratized and the barrier to entry had to be lifted. As industry leaders, if we want people to progress, think differently, and embrace these innovative tools we work so hard to build, we have to get the technology itself into as many hands as possible. As Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, put it, “One of the most exciting things we all can do is demystify machine learning and AI. It’s important for this to be accessible by all people.”
A content creation platform for augmented and virtual reality that’s accessible to (literally) everybody!
Luckily, with some help from the team, and industry-renowned scholars from Laval, McGill, Harvard and Stanford University, our team at OVA was able to create the (un)imaginable. We created a tool that empowers non-programmers and non-designers (aka anybody) to bring their creative visions to life. After months of hard labor, we were chosen to join the ViveX accelerator which gave us unlimited access to some of the best brains around.
As a result, we’ve been able to make the content creation process as natural and intuitive as possible. We transformed the creative process so that abstract notions can be expressed in a more physical and spatial manner, which is a fundamental shift from the traditional two-dimensional interaction we’re accustomed to. It’s amazing to think that my team is empowering people to express themselves in every way possible.
Not to mention, our technology has allowed us to create truly immersive experiences that are currently transforming entire industries.
For example, we worked with Quebec’s Police and Emergency Response team and helped them redefine their training exercises. Thanks to the immersive technology, users felt and experienced the exact same stimuli they would in real-life emergency situations. Dopamine levels rose, endorphins kicked in, and behavioral responses adapted to suit each situation. The experience we built reflected their natural crisis management reactions, without having to rely on real disasters, or without having to mobilize expensive vehicles, which always results in a total logistics nightmare. Not only are immersive training environments beneficial to the trainees who gain greater access to trainings on-the-go, but it’s also a safer alternative, and offers a more cost-effective solution in the long-run. (Not to brag or anything, but it’s for these reasons that we won the Silver Excellence in Technology Award at the 2017 Brandon Hall Group Excellence Awards this month.)
This rich virtual realm we now have access to is also transforming the healthcare industry. For instance, in 2017, OVA developed an immersive environment interface for patients affected by Schizophrenia for an Avatar therapy led by Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal. A total of 19 patients participated in this pilot project, and 15 of them proudly boast that their quality of life has increased significantly. As mentioned in an article published by Radio Canada, the results are very promising!
At the end of the day, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” and I’m proud of our team and what we stand for. We’re part of something larger than ourselves. We’re changing the way people interact with technology and we’re striving to foster symbiotic human-AI relationships that are meaningful and memorable. We’re changing the way people see the world around them and exposing them to unseen realms and beyond… Worlds they can imagine and create with their own hands. Worlds they can close off for safeguarding, or share with others at their liking. Immersive computing provides us with the unique ability to transform the world around us. Now, that’s powerful! And, everybody should have the ability to experience it!
Enough with the AR/VR stuff! Time to get back to reality… 😉 But, I do appreciate you reading my article and would welcome any comments or feedback you have. Just drop me a line or send me a Tweet! Oh, and don’t forget to give it a share if you really enjoyed it!
Stay tuned for more AR/VR articles on our blog! Cheers!
Harold Dumur - CEO, OVA