During the presentation in Portugal, SAPO TEK had the opportunity to talk to Anne-marie Enns about the event and the state of AR / VR technology.
What is your background and how did you get in touch with AR / VR technology, as well as the idea for the event?
I was an event producer for 20 years, but in 2012 I made contact for the first time with technology in general with the production of a big hacking meet up in Vancouver. After that, I was offered a place in the production of a VR consumer event in 2016, with a company called Archiact in Vancouver, which I was connected to for two years. After that we worked to turn the event into something more focused on companies, more focused on B2B than on consumption, than what we have been doing for the last four or five years at the VR / AR Global Summit.
Why a more focused on B2B?
When we did the first consumer event, VR was something new. So we had about 5 or 10,000 people at the event, who had never experienced VR. The first two years were very good, but afterwards we felt that we were dying, as it was no longer new, in addition to the fact that the content and video games were not keeping up with technological developments. So Archiact decided not to hold this event anymore, focusing only on producing VR games.
With your bno, I took the idea and turned it into what is currently the VR / AR Global Summit, a business event. And it became very popular, even though games and entertainment were not excluded, but it also had hardware, solutions, software, immersive art, education, training, and others, covering almost the entire spectrum. In the last year we already had user cases, good practices, how to use technology to practice good actions, bringing renowned companies and organizations, such as NASA, to the event.
Do you have any idea how much the AR / VR market is currently worth?
I don't have the exact numbers, and I don't want it to be badly registered, but at the last event in Vancouver, we noticed a big difference with the launch of the Oculus Quest, with a large number of people using and showing business user cases, because wireless and Light. The price of the equipment has also gone down, which facilitates its access. There are many solutions in the training area, but there are also many video game producers who have switched to the training business side, because the business is where the money is. They say the industry can become multibillion dollar and create thousands of jobs.
Do you think the technology is still in its infancy?
It all depends on where you are. Funny that Portugal has been at the level of Vancouver for five years, but much more creative. Vancouver is the second largest technological ecosystem in the world, behind So Francisco, but although it is not exempt from its problems, it has seen a huge investment by the government. Countries like Portugal, which are starting to open innovation hubs and train people, and bringing universities on board, so they have a greater advantage than starting from scratch.
Portugal has already started to invest and has more advantages than other companies in Europe, due to the low cost of living, innovations, and it is important to show these projects on global stages, what they have to offer. like the Vancouver event, which showed the world what local businesses and start-ups had to offer.
And why did you choose Lisbon for the event, the first city outside Vancouver?
Yes the first and I chose Lisbon for several reasons. Culture and innovation here are fantastic, magical creativity. There are so many things that are being done here that you don't even dream of in North America, and are far ahead of other places. It is also a very beautiful destination to attract people, very appealing. There are many events taking place in northern Europe or in Germany and the Netherlands, but there is something magical happening here. There are already made products here, but also pitches with good ideas.
What is the practical future for AR / VR systems for you?
Be quite common when training people. I have seen it used extensively in education and in the medical field. It will be interesting to see distance training in the future, even though people need that physical contact, which is why mixed reality solutions exist. But in terms of training their jobs, systems like HoloLens have been used in more technical learning, such as defense and aerospace. In terms of culture it is very important, as I know that last year we had speeches by specialists who trained soldiers about to go into battle on cultural approach, so that they are sensitive and attentive to cultures. UNESCO has used it to showcase historical cultural sites, poverty and climate change. They are using VR as a means of telling stories, and I think they will have a big role in journalism to document stories.
What will 5G introduce in AR / VR systems?
I think it will be a game changer, when we work with speeds without lag. If we have the technology, the speed and the content, we will have a perfect experience. Headsets continue to evolve, we have already reached the wireless generation, and will continue to change to be less intrusive, such as smart glasses, which are easier to use.
A virtual reality experiment recently appeared, in which a mother interacted with a virtual version of her deceased daughter. Do you think that the future of VR can pass through interactive memories?
I saw it, and it really bothered me, like me, I think that nothing replaces the real touch, and the real emotions. I think it can work for some people as an escape mechanism, but I think it draws a very thin line, and I was not comfortable seeing that experience. I do not consider this to be a major innovation provided by VR. Brain surgery is an innovation, not this. This bothered me, at the typical level.
The industry is waiting for Apple's word on its vision for AR systems. Do you think that Apple can democratize augmented reality technology, as it did in the past with the iPhone on smartphones? What can industry add?
There is a lot that Apple can do, but above all a great design, with a focus on comfort and simplicity, and that is interesting to use, despite the fact that these are Steve Jobs' characteristics. I still don't understand why they are taking so long, and being something from Apple, people will certainly buy. So I think it will bring millions and millions of people to this technology.