Last year at a technology event in Atlanta there was a panelist who had a startup in the VR space. His description of his technology sounded quite impressive. Never mind the fact that his credentials were impeccable. He had a number of patents in CGI technology, some of which he developed for Microsoft. Anyway, far be it from me to walk away from this, I engaged Richard Oesterreicher to learn more about his technology and his company Hexxu. We've been meeting for just about a year now and I've been introducing Richard to investors and advertising companies in my network. So what so special about Hexxu and why am I so excited about the near future possibilities of AR/VR?
Most of us have experienced AR and VR in some form or another. Virtual tours of real estate properties, video games, Google Glasses, Oculus Rift, the technologies and markets are growing exponentially. This year's CES was dominated by AR/VR products. The future of healthcare, entertainment, the military (despite the call for more aircraft carriers) will likely rely heavily on AR/VR. The experience will seem more and more lifelike and the line between reality and artifice will continue to blur. Which brings me to Hexxu…Their technology allow for the scanning of objects using multiple cameras and proprietary processing software, to the point where you really can’t tell the difference between the image and the real thing. This is particularly true of people. I’ve seen the scanned images and they can’t be distinguished from the real person. The detail is amazing. And these images can be manipulated,
, and reconfigured. The viewer can insert themselves into any position around an “actor” and become a part of the scene. Imagine scanning football players before a game. 30 seconds of scanning and a setup of cameras positioned in key areas around the stadium is all it takes to then be able instantaneously (okay a seven second or so delay) to recreate that game and allow viewers to place themselves at any point on the field, see what the players and referees are seeing, be the ball, etc. We saw some rudimentary technology at this year’s Super Bowl. It will only get better. The same is true for videos, movies…the viewer will be able to walk around the set, perhaps even interact with actors. This is going to put some interesting challenges in the hands of directors and set designers. They’ll need to consider the fourth wall as viewers have the freedom to move about and look in any direction. This accurate scanning will also allow for something I’ve longed to see for years. The ability to resurrect long dead actors, capture the youthful prime of older actors and mix them together in creative ways. Ever since Steve Martin’s “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and Woody Allen’s “Zelig” Hollywood has longed to resurrect Bogart and Hepburn into the 21st century. Video games, one of the driving markets for VR, will undergo a revolution that makes today’s animation look like 1970’s Asteroids.
I think the real benefit of this coming of age of AR and VR will be in “real life.” Imagine the ability for doctors and nurses to experience a surgery with enhanced VR. It’s already happening and it will only get better. Experts can advise on and take part in complex robotic repairs beyond the imaging that they work with today. AR will allow workers (assuming they aren’t robots) to see labeled parts and instructions in real time and placement. Of course the military has been using AR/VR for years in their drone warfare programs and who knows what technologies they have that we aren’t yet privy to?
With the addition of tactile technology (and that’s in the works as well) we may never have to leave the house. And that’s actually something concerning. Already there is reason to worry about issues of youthful obesity, kids (and adults) who play video games or watch TV instead of experiencing the real world. So there may be some bad to go with the good. So what does this mean for business? Six Flags recently premiered a ride that includes VR viewers so that the drop experienced by the roller coaster is enhanced by the perception that the rider is falling off a 100 story building. But will you really need the physical roller coaster in the near future? Connected VR may just make amusement parks obsolete. And movie theaters? I remember when they used to have patrons sign petitions against “pay TV” (cable) worried it would make them obsolete? Will this be the real thing? And there is one industry I haven’t mentioned (this is a family blog) that is an early adopter of technology, but if anyone is going to get on the bandwagon look for the porn industry to be a first mover.
The bottom line is that AR/VR is undergoing a transformation from a curiosity to a technology led by companies like Hexxu that will ensure that it will be part of everyone’s life in the very near term.