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It’s time to walk the plank – no really!

Recently the Edinburgh Creative Team took a little field trip across the road from our office to Ocean Terminal shopping centre. But scouting for New Year's bargains wasn’t our aim. Instead we visited a Virtual Reality Arcade called E-VR. Billed as the future of entertainment, VR has been around for a while now but seems yet to find a niche beyond gaming. We were curious to find out what the latest technology, trends and applications are as well as having a play with the latest games.

VR Language Learning

Gaming is naturally the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about VR but the possibilities go far beyond that. The team at E-VR have been developing and new VR application called Loqui that offers VR language learning. The application claims to offer a new way to brush up your Spanish or Mandarin in a natural and intuitive way. And when you see how the app works it’s hard to argue with this conclusion.

Instead of learning in an abstract environment imagine dropping right into a Spanish marketplace, hearing Spanish spoken around you, seeing Spanish written on signs and then learning by hearing people around you speak. Loqui is an exciting first step into creating a learning environment that could help thousands of eager students whether at school, college or at any age. All it needs is the right level of investment from a future thinking organisation.

Great Customer Experience

The research and thinking that go into an app like Loqui applies equally to any VR experience and as you’d expect good content and UX are key factors for success. The fewer barriers there are for people getting started interacting with the VR world the better. If it isn’t obvious how to move, to touch or pick up objects or if the world doesn’t react to the player then you are going to lose people’s attention within seconds. And despite what you might expect games that allow people to go at their own pace and explore are often the most popular.

This is borne out by the success of Job Simulator. On the face of it spending your leisure time pretending to do menial tasks in an office sounds like sheer madness. But I defy anyone not to enjoy throwing things at Boss Bot and mindlessly making cups of coffee while trying to get that elusive promotion. The joy of Job Simulator is that you can interact with absolutely everything around you and you can do anything or nothing. There are prompts and tasks, but you can ignore them at will.

What’s next for VR

Despite suffering somewhat from being an innovation buzzword VR has the potential to solve a wide range of problems across industries unrelated to gaming. An area ripe for VR application is education in museums, zoos and art galleries. The tourism industry hasn’t picked it up as readily as you might expect but with people in China and Dubai eagerly embracing the technology the possibilities for shopping experiences are exciting. The financial industry too has been surprisingly receptive to the idea of the technology for visualisation of complex data.

But as our host at E-VR said, “talking about VR is like singing about dancing”. In other words, to understand the possibilities you actually have to experience it yourself.

For any doubters out there, I can recommend Richie’s Plank Experience billed as a psychological experience to test your mettle around heights. Surely, I wouldn’t be fooled by this I thought, calmly looking at the cartoony graphics of a city street around me. But as soon as I hit the button on the elevator, a sliver of the outside world just visible through a crack in the doors showing the ground slipping away, I felt my confidence wane. The elevator doors opened… onto… nothing. I felt my hands get sweaty. Fighting panic, I took a small step out onto thin air before freaking out and hitting escape from the game. I still feel a bit sick thinking about it.

So, there you go. As far as your brain is concerned VR is just R.

The possibilities are endless…