Lionel Chok, Founder and Creative Technologist at Virtual Reality technology start-up iMMERSiVELY, sheds light on the billion-dollar industry and misconceptions about the technology.
“I am fearful that such a mindset transcends to the consumers too, making them resistant to VR. I feel that the tech needs to be picked up by the public; if not there would be no market and with no market, how can the industry survive?”
This is it. The rapid advances virtual reality (VR) technology has made in recent years indicate proof that humanity is inching step by step to building a time machine. For all we know, we might already be able to virtually time travel using VR.
According to Deloitte Global, VR is a billion-dollar industry, largely commercially focused on video games. It’s easy to see why when advanced technologies such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the Playstation VR can easily transport users to the top Mount Everest… from the comfort of their own room.
Lionel Chok, founder of iMMERSiVELY, a creative technology start-up in the heart of VR and its similar cousin augmented reality (AR), ventured into this industry not by chance. Having lived and breathed in the traditional media industry for over 18 years, he was first and foremost a story-teller, before becoming an entrepreneur.
“Technology was about the best or most expensive cameras at that time,” he begins. “Getting to learn more about tech gave me insight into how I could use it to differentiate content, even though ideas or storylines could almost be the same.”
The creative technologist doesn’t believe that one can start a VR company without any background, knowledge, or upskill. Armed with a postgraduate degree in emerging technologies from Middlesex University, Lionel supplemented his existing wealth of knowledge in content and media together with technology. The end product? iMMERSiVELY. One of its core goals is to spread the story of how our learning process can be transformed using VR technology.
“At the moment, our competitive edge is in pedagogy. We understand that it is never about the tech alone, so we make sure that we achieve the outcome which is tied in to the original intention of learning in the first place,” he says.
After hearing about VR games sales raking in a revenue of $300 million in 2016, seeing a start-up taking advantage of technology’s prowess as an educative tool is a refreshing fact well worth immersing oneself in.
Doyenne: What can someone who has never experienced VR technology expect?
Lionel: Actually, it’s really easy to experience VR with just a mobile device. Head to the Google Play Store to look for mobile VR games or mobile VR experience, put on a VR device or even a low-cost item such as Google Cardboard, and you’re good to go.
D: Tell us more about iMMERSiVELY’s learning platforms.
L: One thing that we’d like to focus on is education because my team is made up of educators. My whole team consists of people who’ve been lecturers, tutors, trainers or facilitators at some point in their lives!
So we took this opportunity to show what we can do with VR, especially experiential learning. This is something kids as young as five or six years old can understand. In our latest deployment, we used VR to accompany storytelling of a book. At certain chapters of the book, the kids were told to put on the VR headsets so that they can experience a scene from the book in a VR environment.
D: What sets you apart from your competitors?
L: So far, we haven’t seen anyone widely contesting in the education space, though it’s only a matter of time before they do. As educators, we have the deep-set knowledge and understanding of what the students or even kids or working adults are looking out for.
D: What are some misconceptions about VR that you hope to correct?
L: One of the main misconceptions is that one would feel nauseous and giddy after using VR. But that is mainly dependent on the type of content that the individual is looking at. For instance, if you are looking at picturesque scenery, it would be impossible to have such an experience. If you are looking a VR of a roller-coaster ride, then it would be reasonable for you to feel nauseous.
Also, I once met up with a company to discuss about the costs of a VR project and they were surprised that it costs less than what they had expected. They thought that all VR projects are costly and undoable as they cost at least a high six-figure sum, but that is not true.
I am fearful that such a mindset transcends to the consumers too, making them resistant to VR. I feel that the tech needs to be picked up by the public; if not there would be no market and with no market, how can the industry survive?
D: How extensively do you think VR technologies will be integrated into our lives?
L: In around the next one to two years, I think that VR would be more integrated into our lives as more people get to know about it. With the increased discussion and attention on VR, I feel that it would grow like how the mobile app store has done such as the introduction of the Apple Store to the Android Playstore and so forth.
We need to give new technology a bit more time, so that people can slowly accept it and allowing it to reach the wider masses in the future.
Images by iMMERSiVELY
iMMERSiVELY came up with an interactive VR app for Singapore Tourism Board and is putting together a story for a telco in terms of the dramatic structure. To learn more about their exciting projects, check out their Facebook page for more updates!