Experienced Crestron programmer and CI industry operator, Cliff Stammers, takes a look at the intriguing world of Immersive Technology

As technology develops it naturally affects everything we do, both as consumers and as suppliers. And one corner of our industry that’s been illuminated by such technological development in recent years – one which is undoubtedly benefitting from the light being shone into it – is the corner where all the creativity hides. There’s some very clever stuff going on there, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about it.

For many of us, when we were first interested in the AV industry, it provided us with a blank canvas upon which we could express our ideas. Back then the term ‘multi-media’ was en vogue and this was a heady phrase filled with all the promise and possibility that this new multi-faceted discipline could provide. Multi-media was a playground where we could run freely and allow our ideas to flourish.

Immersive Technology contains many of the elements of old school multi-media and provides many modern AV companies with a whole new world to explore, both commercially and creatively. This term refers to a variety of simulated environments that do not physically exist outside of an electronic world. The governance of these places relies heavily upon the imaginative acceptance of its inhabitants, and to have the capacity to suspend one’s own reality is going to be very important when exploring these technologies.

If I say, ‘Virtual Reality’ to you then it’s likely you’ll know precisely what I’m talking about and I’ve no doubt that most people will instantly think ‘Playstation’. But – believe me – there’s a whole lot more to VR than simple entertainment. It is fast becoming a fantastically effective way of getting information across to an audience that is highly engaged, and subsequently more receptive.

There is huge scope for those who understand AV and automation to move towards immersive experiences too

One of the companies leading the way in this field is Shoreditch-based, Inition. I spoke to Adrian Leu, it’s CEO. He explained how his team is creatively harnessing the benefits of Immersive Technology and how it goes about doing it.

“Many of our clients ask us to provide them with engaging and informative ways to get their message across to their customers,” Adrian told me. “This can quite often be at exhibitions and other such trade events where their target audience is gathered.” I was curious about the type of client he was referring to and speculated that the market was driven by the retail industry.

“Sure, retailers are a large contingent of who we work for, but our clients number among them British Aerospace, Tata Group, Honeywell …” So, what is it that Inition provide to these customers?

“We provide Virtual and Augmented Reality experiences that offer interesting perspectives. We have a team of creatives who will build a software 3D model using Nuke, for example, and this then gets handed on to another team of developers who will write code that affects that model in some specific way using authoring programs like Unity 3D and Unreal 4. As a company we write in many languages, but mostly we are concerned with C#, Python, HTML etc.”

I was lucky enough to be invited to take a tour of the Inition Demo Facility. It was amazing; a real eye-opener to see what can be achieved using these fascinating methods. The VR experiences are the headline grabbers, which began with me scaling the spire that adorns the top of the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai! I jumped (well, tip-toed) over the edge of the building. Fearlessly. You can see this for yourself, check it out on the Inition Website and look for Mission 828.

Something a little closer to home featured The Shard in London, and by deploying HTC Vive trackers with stereoscopic headsets and DMX-controlled wind machines, a true immersive experience was created.

One in which the victim (sorry I mean, participant) was placed on a stripped back construction site made of narrow wood and steel girders. And there, high above the 90th floor of the pre-completed building, you can experience the sheer joy of attempting to precariously make your way from edge to edge.

Inition provides some really impressive experiences at its London HQ

“There is so much more to come from this type of technology,” promises Adrian Leu. “We haven’t even touched on Augmented Reality yet, where three-dimensional imagery is overlaid on a real-world environment, or De-Augmented reality, which isn’t here yet – where imagery in front of you is taken away! That’s one of the next things coming along.”

I asked Adrian how this type of image-overlay could be deployed considering that products like Google Glass have not really caught the imagination. “I agree,” he says. “But the development of contact lenses that accept this type of technology is already underway. That’s when we’ll see seismic shifts in how we view things. Quite literally!

“These types of technology are going to change the very way we interact with products and people and the very environment that surrounds us. It’s now up to the individuals developing these things to make sure that it is done responsibly and ethically, in the same way that pioneers of almost all technology in the past have always done.”

One thing is very clear, there’s a lot more to come from these audio-visual advances, and our industry is well placed to capitalise on it. As AV technicians and software developers we already have an innate understanding of what the ‘Immersive’ companies are trying to achieve, and it’s very exciting. Looking in to the future should be easier now than it’s ever been: all you need is a VR headset.

What new immersive experiences are on the horizon?