In this interview we talk to Gregg Young, VR and AR expert at VRT Sandbox. Gregg explains the difference between AR and VR, and reflects on the trends and achievements in both fields.
Introduction to AR and VR
Hello, Gregg! You are a VR/AR expert at VRT Sandbox. Since when and how did you get that role in VRT Sandbox?
I started working at VRT in the Immersia TV project, this is a European project under the Horizon 2020 fund. This 2-year project is all about 360-video, multicam 360-video and sending the 360 footage to different devices. Together with other colleagues at VRT we are representing this technology on the news floor and with other VRT brands. This is how I slowly became member of VRT Sandbox. Since then we started to do a lot of VR and AR projects at VRT Sandbox as well.
What are VR and AR? Can you tell me what the diﬀerence is between the two?
Very briefly, VR stands for virtual reality and AR for augmented reality. There are a lot of semantic discussions around these topics from professionals in the field. In general, you can say that in virtual reality you enclose yourself, you step into another virtual world. In augmented reality, you put a layer on top of the real world with virtual objects. For instance, in augmented reality you can guide someone through the real world. In virtual reality, you become invisible and you step into a totally different and new world.
When was the ﬁrst time you got in touch with AR/VR?
I’ve been experimenting with audio-visual technology throughout my entire career. I remember when the Kinect came out, we hacked it and we started filming volumetric videos with it. Then, when the virtual reality boom started with the first version of the Oculus VR headset, a hackathon was organised in Amsterdam at the IDFA Doclab event. At the hackathon, we wrapped 360-video around a sphere using Unity, for me that was the first time I started experimenting with virtual reality.
How did your AR/VR passion grow since the beginning?
I think it has always been there, as a human we like to escape reality. A lot of virtual reality evangelists, including myself often refer to it as the holodeck of Star Trek. This is a virtual reality room which represents a staging environment and where you can escape reality and step into the virtual world. All the little baby steps that we are taking now are bringing us closer to the world of the holodeck.
Trends and achievements in AR and VR
What are the current VR/AR trends? Which future challenges will VR/AR face in the next coming years?
I think 2018 is going to be a very exciting year for both virtual and augmented reality. In virtual reality, there are a lot of exciting things coming. For instance, new headsets with a better resolution, inside-out tracking and higher resolution screens. A lot of new steps are being taken in innovative exploration as well, lightfield is one of them. Magic Leap is the company taking the lead in this, everybody talks about them right now, but we still don’t know what exactly they are doing. Something that I’m really looking forward to are the Haptic Suits, these suits make you feel the impact when virtual reality characters that hit or touch you.
With augmented reality, we are currently at the breakthrough. The big thing right now are the single user experiences that will have to become multi user experiences. Now you can look through your AR headset or phone and see a virtual object in real life, but someone else doesn’t see the object you see. A multi user experience will allow different people to see the same virtual object while watching through different devices.
What is your strongest achievement with VRT Sandbox?
At VRT we have virtual reality ambassadors who try to bring this new technology, that is not yet widely adopted, into the production pipeline so it can get distributed to the audience. This is our biggest achievement so far. We are invited by the European Broadcast Union to participate to the VR/AR user group and that is quite unique. It means a lot of people see VRT as a frontrunner in virtual and augmented reality. To be able to bring this kind of new technology to thousands of end users is a great achievement for us.
Which VR/AR dreams do you want to achieve within the next two coming years?
There are a lot of exciting AR projects we are focussing on at this moment. Together with VRT Sandbox we work with a lot of start-ups who are also in the field of VR/AR, we really want to be part of this community. I think our biggest dream at this moment is to make this community bigger and step by step make VR and AR available to mass audiences.
Thank you for your time, Gregg!