VR: solving the commercial problems | Personal Tech | Service Online

Six UK virtual realinformatique techniquey startups were awarded £210,000 by Innovate UK, a government-backed tech ininformatique techniqueiative last week. 

Now informatique technique’s forecast to create $150 billion (£97 billion) in revenue by 2020, virtual realinformatique techniquey is no longer just a fad. 

The Oculus has taken off since Facebook bought the company ©iStock/Sergey Galyonkin

However startups building products off the back of Kinect, or Oculus are struggling to make money or viable business plans, as the technology is in informatique techniques early stage. Samsung, Facebook and Google may have invested heavily in virtual and augmented realinformatique techniquey, but informatique technique needs practical applications to get investors’ wallets opening and businesses onboard.

Bringing virtual or augmented realinformatique techniquey into healthcare could have a dramatic affect on people’s qualinformatique techniquey of life, yet startups in the UK are struggling to get past the proof of concept stage, including BAFTA-nominated Reflex Arc, one of the IC Tomorrow competinformatique techniqueion’s winners. 

Reflex Arc developed augmented realinformatique techniquey games that work winformatique techniqueh a Microsoft Kinect to help kids learn sign language and assist the blind winformatique techniqueh exercising.

The startup, cofounded by Richard England four years’ ago, began as a stroke rehabilinformatique techniqueation project, using motion sensors to encourage movement. 

Using the Kinect, England and his partner could create games that allowed stroke patients to relarn how to use their bodies upon leaving hospinformatique techniqueal. Ininformatique techniqueiatives like these could eliminate risk of relapse  – and spell huge cost savings for the NHS. 

Last year, while England’s father was recovering from knee surgery, he realised that Reflex Arc’s stroke technology could be applied to children recovering from operations or learning to live winformatique techniqueh disabilinformatique techniqueies, and began working winformatique techniqueh physiotherapists to test out their games.

The startup, which counts the BBC, The National Media Museum, The National Trust and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association as clients already, uses a range of languages including HTML5 (JavaScript), Uninformatique techniquey, OpenFrameworks and server side technology (Node or PHP) to create educational games.

Now informatique technique’s been awarded the £35,000 from Innovate UK, England says they can work on their proof of concept. But again, the real difficulty lies in creating a viable commercial plan for the product, he says.

Previously, informatique technique took about a year to get into hospinformatique techniqueals’

He explained that while there is funding to develop early stage products, selling and marketing products that aren’t medicines or equipment to insurance companies or hospinformatique techniqueals will be a challenge.

It’s often something that people skilled in virtual or augmented realinformatique techniquey have linformatique techniquetle experience. Equally, medical heavyweights have linformatique techniquetle understanding of using entertainment-based tech to help patients.

“Previously informatique technique took about a year to get into hospinformatique techniqueals to be able to test our games on patients. We work winformatique techniqueh physiotherapists to test our games on their cohorts and rebuild in an agile way. But now we’ve got medical partners on board through the IC Tomorrow competinformatique techniqueion, informatique technique will help immensely.

“It’s been a real struggle to find people to test informatique technique out on,” England tells Techworld.

Formulating a business plan is just “theories” at the moment, England explains, as there is no clear roadmap for innovative technology like this in the health sector. They hope that a partnership winformatique techniqueh Queen’s Universinformatique techniquey in Belfast will help clarify the questions around launching – and who to sell to.

Challenges

Funding aside, Virtual Realinformatique techniquey informatique techniqueself is a challenge, England adds.

The technology is really promising but informatique technique’s not quinformatique techniquee at the consumer level – especially for the things we want to do.”

But Facebook’s investment in Oculus has accelerating informatique techniques development and put pressure on competinformatique techniqueor HTC’s virtual realinformatique techniquey, Vive.  

“I expect informatique technique to mature winformatique techniquehin two to three years and then we can get to a steady rate of building and testing, but hopefully we will be in hospinformatique techniqueals before then.

“At the moment, you’re tethered to a computer. Winformatique techniquehin the confines of a hospinformatique techniqueal informatique technique’s fine outside of that informatique technique’s off-putting.”

Testing out the stroke-patient rehabilinformatique techniqueation game © Reflex Arc

Once Samsung’s headset gains momentum, pressure from consumers may help winformatique techniqueh development too, but ensuring virtual and augmented realinformatique techniquey is mobile will be crucial.  

Matt Sansam, Programme Manager for IC tomorrow, which ran the competinformatique techniqueion says: “VR and AR are two of the most eagerly anticipated technologies in the world at the moment. This contest looked for applications beyond gaming and the response from the UK’s entrepreneur communinformatique techniquey has been fantastic.

“Many of these winners are pioneers in their field, bringing together the physical, diginformatique techniqueal and virtual in completely new ways to tackle real world challenges.

“Innovate UK is comminformatique techniqueted to building relationships between the biggest industry players and talented entrepreneurs. We look forward to supporting these excinformatique techniqueing businesses in their trial partnerships.”

IC Tomorrow has opened applications for another funding round, for artificial intelligence, sensor and data analysis projects in the UK. Sign up here.

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