Artificial or technically constructed realities have been held up in recent years as the way ahead not just for entertainment technology but also for presentations in the commercial/enterprise/industrial and education sectors. How this is now being realised was discussed at the third XR Summit, held during ISE 2020.

Introducing the half-day conference, futurist Amelia Kallman observed that at the 2019 event the concept of XR – extended reality, a term covering virtual, augmented and mixed realities (VR, AR, MR) – still felt new. “Last year there were more questions than answers, like we were trying to convince ourselves that indeed XR was more than just a gaming solution and we were in the right place. This year I can assure you – you are definitely in the right place.” She cited the integration of eye and motion-tracking, as well as AI, into XR as big innovations.

In the keynote ‘Immersive XR: Pushing Creative Boundaries’, Hilary McVicker, VP of business development at visualisation design and engineering company The Elumenati, outlined how the technology was a way to relate to a space. “Immersive XR connects the digital world with the physical world,” she said. “It can bring people together – in entertainment it’s more fun to be with others; with commercial/corporate it’s better to work with your colleagues, and in education it can make decision-making and learning quicker.”

The integration of VR and AR into corporate culture was examined by Jan Pflueger, founder of high-tech start-up consultancy advisXR, who advised “listening to colleagues to find where the pain points are,” and focusing on real problems. “Address your target group and develop your vision,” he added. “The question is: is it possible to implement the solution into the entire presentation and what is the long-term potential?”

Erson Ersoy, Head of Network Planning solutions with Turkish telecom giant Turkcell, commented that there were still barriers to XR, but that combining it with 5G would take it to the next level. “5G will provide the external catalysts of high-speed connectivity, low latency and network splicing [for bandwidth],” he said. “More interactivity will improve the consumer experience, engage them and win their loyalty.” Ersoy added that XR and AR were also providing new tools for Turkcell’s engineers in operating and maintaining the network, such as virtualised site displays.

Broadcasting and media are other sectors being targeted with XR, which was discussed by a panel featuring developers and creatives. Virtual production techniques including immersive environments and augmented graphics are being used for major sporting events, but panellists thought this could go further. “From my filmmaking and gamer background I saw an overlap between the two that could involve holograms and other technology for storytelling,” said XR creative and consultant Nina Salomons.

Michael Al-Far, Creative Director of multimedia design agency MalfMedia, called XR “the answer to a lot of things”, adding, “Just playing content on a screen is not enough anymore, it’s got to be immersive.” XR is also changing production techniques. UK developer White Light is aiming to replace greenscreen with its SmartStage system, which combines VR and AR to produce real-time composite imaging. WL’s Technical Solutions Director Andy Hook observed that the two biggest challenges for expanding XR into broadcasting were the skills gap and luring technical staff away from the gaming sector and high-tech companies such as Google.

What might be in the offing for virtualisation rounded off XRS in the Future of XR panel. Adam Price, Sales Manager of interactive content specialists DBpixelhouse, predicted that gaming engines would deliver more than existing operating systems, adding that the technology was becoming more powerful.

A common theme of the XRS was technology catching up with fiction, specifically Voxon Photonics’ 3D volumetric technology making the Princess Leia hologram message a reality. Pieter Van Leugenhagen, co-founder of magazine and VR learning platform VRTL, commented that the demand for holographic experiences is increasing, not only in entertainment but also education, and in the oil and gas industry. Rosh Singh, MD of innovation studio UNIT9, highlighted the part binaural and other 3D audio systems – such as Usomo and ambisonics – play in XR, but concluded that 5G would give a big boost to both VR and AR.

XR Summit took place on 11 February 2020 at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. See you next year at Integrated Systems Europe 2021!