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Challenging minds with VR | Stuff.co.nz




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ProjectR centre executive Jessica Manins takes Stuff on a tour of New Zealand’s first national virtual & mixed reality hub.


MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Mixt co-founders Taylor Carrasco, left, and David Hughes are based in the ProjectR centre on Taranaki St.

MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

John Adams tests hand recognition VR for gaming.

MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

ProjectR centre executive Jessica Manins believes companies working at the hub will produce some world-first technologies that will help solve global issues.

MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

About eight teams are currently developing and testing world-first technologies at ProjectR.



Technology is often seen as a distraction from the real world.

However, it doesn’t need to be, and people working at New Zealand’s first virtual and augmented reality hub, ProjectR, want to change that mindset.

The hub’s central city office in Wellington is home to eight teams aiming to solve problems by developing and testing world-first technologies.

In one corner, you’ve got a company developing new virtual reality rehabilitation game, and in another you’ve got an augmented reality museum with rare and precious artefacts in it.

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Reality technologies are used in a range of applications, including entertainment, business, medicine, education, architecture and government.

​Virtual reality (VR) is a 3D computer-generated simulation of real life, in which the user is immersed digitally. Augmented reality (AR) superimposes digital information on the world around us, such as holograms.

Production house Mixt​, one of the companies based at ProjectR, was working on some “quite cool things with unwieldy or unrealistic equipment”, its co-founder Taylor Carrasco said.

This included the use of VR and AR to make trade shows easier to host, he said.

“Now, we can bring something like a tractor into a space, and someone can see it in real time. They can walk around it, interact with it, get information about it, change the colour, or the settings.

“This also has applications in real estate, where you want to change the way your house is being built, or you want to see it happening before it’s done.

“Or, if you have a house, you could sit there and say, ‘What would this look like with this wall gone, or what would this look like with this particular couch from this particular store? Would it fit in here? Would it look good?'”

Carrasco, who was one of the developers behind computer games Mafia Wars and Farmville, also saw a “huge opportunity” in training, services, and education sectors, he said.

He hoped to solve problems which no one had solved before.

“Right now, say you need to train someone to do something that’s hazardous or dangerous, usually you have to read a pamphlet, then hope for the best,” Carrasco said.

“But with VR and AR we can actually put them into scenarios where they are experiencing what they would experience in a real life hazardous or dangerous situation.

“We can bring experiences that are impossible to do otherwise.”

ProjectR centre executive Jessica Manins said another company working at the hub was in talks with district health boards about training junior nurses with VR.

“So they have training in a real hospital environment, you are there under pressure, you’re in first person, and you are making decisions about how much medicine you should be dispensing at that time.”

Training, development, health and safety were the main focus of corporates who were interested in how VR and AR could work for them, she said.

“The sector is realising you can do things in high risk situations, conflict, all of that is able to happen within a virtual environment that you can’t normally replicate in the real world.”

One of the biggest trends in the VR and AR sector were games being developed to promote wellbeing and aid rehabilitation, Manins said.

For example, a team of developers were working on how to take a balance board game, used for rehabilitation, to the next level using virtual reality, she said.

The hub had also been working with the Breast Cancer Foundation on a research and development project, however, Manins could not reveal the details until October, she said.

ProjectR is hosting an open week from Monday.

– Stuff




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