Virtual reality has become… a reality.
(Photo credit to Matt Thomas, SimWave Consulting)
I tried virtual reality for the first time.
It’s funny when you hear so much about something, your expectations begin to build. It’s a natural human reaction to sway one way or another based on the general buzz of the populace. It’s called influence and the influencers are out in full force when it comes to virtual reality.
There is a lot of hype around this new technology. Deservedly so? It will take years to determine if the hype is warranted. All I can say is don’t make any sort of assessment until you try the technology yourself. Pictures and videos that attempt to depict the experiences that virtual reality create simply don’t do the tech justice. VR isn’t just a new technology, it’s not about what it can show you, it’s about the experiences that VR can facilitate.
“You want to go to Mars? We can take you to Mars” says Matt Thomas, head of business development at SimWave Consulting. It’s a quote that’s become semi-famous for Matt but perfectly expresses SimWave’s vision for virtual reality.
SimWave Consulting develops apps and virtual reality software to create immersive and exciting experiences. Their parent company, SimFront Simulation Systems was creating military simulation and training programs but wanted to expand from the military market. The company knew they had the expertise to do virtual reality and even helped Kickstart the Oculus Rift back in 2012. Thus, SimWave Consulting was born and according to Matt, it’ll be something special.
“VR is going to take over the world. In terms of marketing, you can take anyone anywhere and create many different brand experiences. VR can facilitate training and simulation without having to spend so much.”
I asked SimWave about some of the projects they are fired up about. The company is currently working towards 2017 when Canada will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. SimWave Consulting is looking to put 50 virtual reality booths in museums across Canada. These booths will have tailored historical experiences based on their locations which could be anywhere from Ontario to Nunavut.
Now, when I say “virtual reality booth” it might take some explaining to get an accurate visual. In fact, when I went to visit SimWave I was expecting to put on a helmet and play some a VR port of Minecraft. What I didn’t realize was the full 4D experience they’re busy developing as Matt explained.
“In these booths we’ll be able to simulate the wind in your hair. We’ll be able to control hot and cold and we’re currently working on incorporating smells into the booth.”
My first experience with VR was SimWaves Vimy Ridge simulator that drops you into the heart of the 1917 battle. In a flash I found myself surrounded by my brothers in arms. I could see the enemy in the trenches as bullets whizzed by my head as indicated by bursts of air from the VR booth. Bombs began to drop and my brothers fell one by one. Bomb after bomb I was bombarded by blasts of air, a rumbling floor and images of the world crumbling around me.
It was a great dive into the shallow end of what VR can offer. It was an experience that history buffs like my grandfather would have loved; it would have been a dream come true to him. In fact, VR is a technology that can do just that, attempt to make dreams come true. So I decided to ask Matt what VR experience would make his dreams come true.
“I’m a huge fan of worlds like Lord of the Rings, World of Warcraft and even just medieval times. It’s a little nerdy but I would love to dive into an open world role playing experience. There are no open worlds happening right now, no full experiences. So that’s something you could say would make my dream come true.”
I thought about the same question myself. My favourite superhero has always been Superman. I don’t know if it’s because he’s an all-powerful being, the idealism that he represents or his resolve but I know for a fact that being able to fly and smash things would be an absolute dream come true. So if you’re reading this and thinking about creating something new for VR, keep Matt and I in mind and go ahead and create that open world RPG superhero game for us. Thanks in advance.
SimWave is currently working on creating the experience of being a train engineer for a CN steam locomotive. You’ll be able to drive the train, stick your head out of the window, play with the knobs and buttons and feel the heat from the coal burning in front of you. You’ll be able to try out their demo this April or experience if for yourself at the Science and Tech Museum here in Ottawa in 2017. Until then, I suggest to keep following SimWave because I foresee them making SimSplashes in virtual reality for years to come.
(I’m so sorry for this joke. I’ll see myself out now.)