Virtual reality becoming a virtual bonanza for Ottawa developers
A view of Thread Studio, a virtual reality studio for designing t-shirts by Ottawa-based Shopify. Nov. 23, 2016
Published Wednesday, November 23, 2016 11:33PM EST
Get ready for a virtual explosion of virtual reality.
Experts say advances in technology, and the proliferation of consumer headsets, means the immersive visual experience will soon affect everything from how we play to how we shop to how we learn.
At a panel discussion hosted by IGDA Ottawa Wednesday night, local developers talked about how they envision the future of VR, and much of that future is being shaped right here.
One of the panelists was Justin Wilkinson, Lead Developer with Ottawa-based Simwave Consulting. They have developed a 4D VR simulation of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It’s intended as an educational display. Wilkinson says the same technology could help people coping with PTSD. He says the possibilities of virtual reality are virtually endless. "We're trying to do it for museums. Some other people are doing it for the purposes of helping to train doctors for scenarios that they normally wouldn't be able to practise in," says Wilkinson.
Over at Ottawa’s e-commerce giant, Shopify, developers are working on using VR to enhance online shopping. One of their first projects is Thread Studio, a VR studio for t-shirt designers. "We're looking at it from a commerce perspective, so how can VR help the shopping experience, but then also how can it help our merchants create and conceptualize amazing products," says Daniel Beauchamp, Head of VR at Shopify.
They are proving that VR isn’t just for gamers anymore, but that doesn’t mean game developers are being left behind. Ottawa’s Steel Crate Games has put out the heart-stopping collaborative game “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” in which a team works to diffuse a virtual bomb. Steel Crate is hoping to capitalize on the proliferation of gamer VR sets. "I guess the exciting thing about VR right now is that you can actually go out and buy these things,” says Steel Crate Co-Founder Allen Pestaluky. “And that's just happened within the last year."
Not only is the technology to play VR improving, so is the technology to create it. Ottawa’s Brinx Software markets Masterpiece VR, a 3D modelling program that allows anyone to create their own virtual reality. "It takes 270 hours for an Algonquin student to learn the basics of this. We have this girl, she's about 8 years old, and within one minute she can start to model," says Brinx CEO Jonathan Gagne.
That’s not to say VR doesn’t have its limitations. The experts agree we are nowhere near duplicating the holodeck on Star Trek anytime soon. But they agree that, from teaching to shopping to gaming and beyond, virtual reality is set to change the way we see the world.