When most people think of pioneers of Virtual Reality they picture the concrete jungle or Silicon Valley, but the truth of the matter is that Cardiff is the seat of some of the most intriguing developments in VR.
In November, BAFTA Cymru hosted an event that brought the most prominent minds in local VR development together to discuss their goals and where they hope things could go from here.
These applications ranged from educational to medicinal; the proposed possibilities being seemingly endless.
Orchard, one of the presenting companies, tackled what I believe to be one of the most important issues in the development of not just VR, but also Mixed and Augmented Reality and, indeed, most emerging technologies: convincing the public of its potential. Buying a full VR headset can be heavy on the wallet and extremely confusing to set up. Sometimes be difficult to take the leap if you’re not quite convinced it’s not just a very expensive gimmick. Orchard are here to help with that. In St David’s Shopping Centre right up until Christmas Eve, they have a room set up where people can try a number of VR experiences to explore its potential. These range from a trip on Santa’s sleigh to a snowball fight game controlled seamlessly with just the headset; no large empty space required so it would be easy to set up in the living room. These short but poignant experiences showcase the potential of VR whilst only taking up five minutes of your day.
There were also presentations from the BBC and Lexicon, discussing the potential for VR to be used for education both at home and in the classroom; highlighting the potential of interactive activities for young children, and the endless experiences that can be simulated using a VR headset.
Speakers from Cardiff University also explained the way in which they were using VR to treat ‘visual vertigo’ with safe visual therapy, and also hearing impairments using binaural audio.
All of this is happening in Cardiff, not Silicon Valley. Cardiff is an underappreciated seat of technological development allowed by its outstanding universities and researchers as well as its rich cultural history allowing for the exploration of uses in the arts and education. But this is only just the beginning. The next step is to get Virtual Reality out there; in houses and schools so that its full potential may be realised. I own an HTC Vive and a PS VR, and every time I put them on I fall in love all over again with the potential that is laid before me. I urge everyone to try out Orchard’s experiences in St David’s if they get the opportunity, and try out the HTC Vive and the PS VR in GAME if they’re passing by. VR is real, and it’s incredible.