Beyond Reality

UniSA’s Prof. Mark Billinghurst and Prof. Bruce Thomas provided an insight into the future of VR and AR at their lecture ‘Beyond Reality 2027’.

The landscape of the subject is undergoing rapid change, supplemented by a market flooded with first generation VR devices. Whilst these show a huge measure of progression from early non-commercial devices, the diversity of sensory VR & AR applications in future devices is already becoming apparent, no longer only driven by sight and sound, but also smell, touch and taste.

The advent of ‘empathic’ computing will allow a deeper understanding of the experience of individuals, observing how they engage with space and tailoring it to suit their specific needs. It could be effective as a means of engagement and as an evaluative design tool.

The core message was that VR is less driven by achieving a ‘score’ and more about creating experiences, which is perhaps why the games industry hasn’t come to terms with it yet. Games need to become more intelligent in how they respond to individual users using this empathic approach to design. It becomes less about creating a generic experience, ‘one size fits all’, ‘games for the masses’ approach.

Landscape Architecture has much to offer designers of digital spaces. The design of most landscapes will include a brief on who the users are and this creates parameters. In an aged care facility for dementia patients for example, the design of the landscape requires understanding of the disease. The sensory experience of the residents is impaired and details of the design sometimes have to be made more obvious. There is also a need for a range of spaces demonstrating sensory stimulation and sensory calm.

Reminiscent design also plays a role. For example if an individual has had a passion for cars in the past or was a mechanic, the presence of a car and a tool bench will create the opportunity to gain a meaningful sense of reminiscence and fulfilment as they tinker away.

A range of new experiences also helps create the new neurological connections that can improve cognitive function, making up for the existing connections that have been irreparably damaged. This is where games can be tailored for a generation who may have had little or no exposure to games.

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