All Things Digital

Tuesday 25, July 2017


Augmented and Virtual Reality to most is usually synonymous with an Orwellian, futuristic version of events, complete with a mostly greying landscape and a lot of rain. 

However MR; an artificial environment created with software and displayed as a real environment usually by way of an oculus rift or headset has been in existence since 1968. 

The Early Days of VR 

It was in 1968 that Ivan Sutherland at M.I.T pioneered VR with a “head mounted display” that became known as the Sword of Damocles. The room-size VR machine was so heavy it required a mechanical arm suspended from the ceiling to navigate user experience. 

In the following decades, both the military and NASA became invested in VR, hoping to create combat and flight stimulations for educational purposes. However the use of V.R in training became known as “sim sickness” due to its incredibly nauseating after-effects.    

Fast-forward to the mid 1980’s and despite this barrier to enjoyment; research into consumer VR was becoming popularised. Jaron Lanier, artist and computer scientist left Atari to launch VPL Research, promoting VR goggles and gloves. However Lanier seemed to be a little ahead of his time with VPL filing for bankruptcy in 1990. 

In the 1990’s V.R ventured into recreational use with web and game developers like eMagin, Vuzix and Nintendo persevering with (still nauseating) arcade style games like Virtual Boy (which was quickly categorised as a commercial failure). 

All of the above brings us up to date to 2017, a time where VR is predicted to become the next explosive growth market. 

In the last few years we’ve seen interesting prototypes and large-scale investment from tech giants like Google and Microsoft. A recent report by digital M&A firm Digi-Capital has predicted that the combined AR (Augmented Reality) and VR industries could be worth $150 billion by 2020.

It’s Not Just About Gaming 

With tech giants investing in consumer VR to be used for a multitude of different scenarios, VR is not just about gaming. Samsung, for example, released its own consumer VR product, Samsung Gear VR, leveraging the Samsung GALAXY Note 4-8, to build mobile V.R experiences. All that’s required is to place the phone into an Oculus Rift style headset and away you go…  

A successful promotional campaign for the V.R headset saw Samsung capture the first birth to be filmed in virtual reality. The event was live-streamed across Australia so the newborn’s Father could experience it all in real-time. 

Featured in the video is Father-To-Be, Jason Larke who works as an electrical engineer, supporting his family by taking up “fly in, fly out” contracts that leave him away from home frequently.    

Samsung captured the delivery room from all angles with a unique camera filming Jason’s wife, Alison Larke give birth to their third son while Jason looked on from 2,500 miles away in real-time. The Samsung Gear V.R headset allowed Jason to look up, down and all around the room.         

Academia Welcomes VR

OnQue’s CEO, Mark Grosser and in-house tech specialist Nick Devereaux recently took a journey inside Deakin University’s Cave Automated Virtual Environment.

The CAVE VR Lab’s designer and mechatronics expert Dr Ben Horan describes “walking inside a virtual jet engine to “see” potential design flaws” as just one of the possibilities within Deakin’s new state-of-the-art engineering facility.

Horan asks potential participants to, “imagine being inside a twenty-five cubic metre area where you are surrounded by 3D virtual reality and you can see, hear and touch everything in the environment. Users will be able to move around and through models of new designs, such as machinery, prototypes, buildings, or even human scenarios, at any scale, depending on the nature of the project.”

Similarly, Sydney’s University of Technology now also boasts a ‘Data Arena’ a 360-degree interactive data visualisation facility set to change the way we view and interact with data.

Visitors to UTS’s Data Arena can stand in the middle of a large cylindrical screen four metres high and ten metres in diameter wearing Active-Shutter Glasses, which present separate left/right views to achieve a stereo-visual effect. A high performance computer graphics system drives six 3D-stereo video projectors, edge-blended to create a seamless three-dimensional panorama.

The immersive facility aims to help business, government, and research simplify complex information by allowing users in the Arena “to surround themselves in data to observe, explore, refine, improve, discover and learn”.

V.R’s Healing Properties

What else can V.R enable us to do? 

Here are a few things in the health space you probably haven’t heard of….  

1) SnowWorld 

Scientists from the University of Washington, Dr. Hunter Hoffman and Dr. David Patterson have developed games like SnowWorld to reduce the pain of hospital procedures and wound care. SnowWorld is particularly useful for burn victims, as the patient is transported into a cool and icy environment to distract and temporarily relieve them from their burning bodily harm. Clinical trials have shown dramatic reductions in pain and patients report feeling less anxious about painful medical procedures when they use VR to help them through. 

2) Knowing Exactly What Is Going On In OR 

Have you ever wanted to know and visualise what happens in an operating theatre?   

On 14th of April 2016, for the first time in medical history cancer surgeon Shafi Ahmed performed an operation whilst wearing a VR headset at the Royal London Hospital. Through his Medical Realities website and VR in OR app promising medical students from around the world, interested journalists or worried relatives could follow through two 360 degree cameras how Shafi Ahmed removed a cancerous tissue from the bowel of his patient.    

Source: Cancer surgeon Shafi Ahmed performed an operation whilst wearing a VR headset at the Royal London Hospital.

With a virtual reality camera, surgeons can now stream operations globally and allow medical students to actually be there in the OR when using a VR headset.

3) Providing Stress Relief For Chronic Patients  

At Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles Dr Brennan Spiegel (Director of Health Services Research for Cedars-Sinai Health System and Professor of Medicine and Public Health at UCLA) and his team have introduced VR as a way to relive stress and provide pain relief for the hospitals patients.

Patients are able distract themselves from pain and relieve symptoms of stress by traveling visiting incredible landscapes in Iceland, entering into an art studio or swim with whales in the middle of the ocean.

Spiegel believes that not only can the hospital experience be improved with medical VR, but the costs of care may also be reduced. By reducing pain and stress, a patient’s length of time in a ward could be potential decrease.


4) Accelerating Recovery Time After a Stroke  

For survivor’s of traumatic brain injury or stroke the earlier they begin engaging in rehabilitation the better their changes are at successfully regaining control of lost functions.   
Swiss based company Mindmaze has created MindMotionPro, which allows patients to “practice” how to lift their arms or move their fingers with the help of virtual reality. 
Regardless of whether patients carry out the actual movement or not, the app still enhances attention, motivation and engagement with auditory and visual feedback. This increased output of mental effort helps traumatised nervous system recover at an increased rate compared to if they were lying helpless in bed.   


5) Allowing Hospitalised Children to Feel More At Home  

A Dutch company is making it possible for hospitalised children to feel more at home. Through a smartphone and virtual glasses, VisitU makes live contact possible with a 360-degree camera at the patient’s home, school or special occasions such as a birthday celebration or a football game. 

Get In Touch 

OnQue is excited about the application of these MR technologies for enhanced health therapy and communications and has put together a full MR solution for use by innovative hospitals. If you are interested in hearing more about this we would love to collaborate. Please get in touch to further discuss the incredible possibilities of MR technology in engaging your audiences.  



In the last few years we’ve seen interesting prototypes and large-scale investment from tech giants like Google and Microsoft. A recent report by digital M&A firm Digi-Capital has predicted that the combined AR (Augmented Reality) and VR industries could be worth $150 billion by 2020.