What happens when wet meets tech? Well it can be really productive, as we found at two conferences. The two events, one in Devon and one in Cornwall, were a meeting of minds, connecting the marine sector and the creative industries, particularly those working in immersive technology. So, what do we mean by immersive tech? Well, it’s those technologies such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. These all come under the umbrella term of Extended Reality.
Extended Reality or XR
The definition of XR is ‘a term referring to all real-and-virtual combined environments and human-machine interactions generated by computer tech and wearables’. Or in other words, it’s where immersive technologies merge the physical and virtual worlds. This can be by either blending the virtual and “real” worlds or by creating a fully immersive experience. But what are the wearables? Well, that refers to things like VR headsets. Right, got it? Ok, good.
Anyway the predictions for the use of XR are phenomenal. By 2022, the XR market is expected to reach a value of $209 billion, which is eight times what it is today. This growth signals a role in our lives that is beyond our imagination’s ability to grasp. The marine and maritime industries in the South West recognise the potential of XR to help their sector continue to develop and grow, hence the two recent events.
Marine Industry Meets Immersive Technology
Plymouth University’s Marine Station hosted the first of the conferences: Immersive Marine Technologies. This was a a particularly fitting venue, with views across Plymouth Sound. Hosted by the Marine Business Technology Centre, speakers here included Professor Bob Stone, surely the “godfather” of virtual reality. He’s been immersing himself in VR tech since the 90’s. More recently his team have been capturing 400 years of maritime history in Plymouth using XR tech. Also on the bill was Digital Plymouth’s own Gavin Jones. Digital Plymouth brings together our diverse and talented community of digital businesses and organisations in the city and enable us to share knowledge and learn about the amazing things that are being created.
Next up was the Cornwall Marine Conference at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall, the most prestigious of venues. It was all was about marine industry and new technology cross industry learning. We heard from Stephan Norman who described how the huge amount of data generated in the marine sector can be used to help drive innovation. Soundview Media was invited to exhibit its groundbreaking accessible VR tours to the assembled marine industries. This was an opportunity for them to ‘take the plunge’ and try out the immersive tech. The industry reps were able to learn about the possibilities for using immersive (XR) technology within their business.
A Match made in Devon (and Cornwall)
The South West marine and maritime sector is booming. It’s a massive employer with more people working in these industries than any other English region. Developments such as Plymouth’s new Oceansgate have helped, as it brings together marine businesses with the desire to create a world class hub. This is a fitting vision as we head into 2020 and celebrate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of The Mayflower on its voyage of discovery to America.
Combine these industries: the marine sector with immersive technologies and there are a huge number of possibilities. Although the collaboration is in it’s it’s infancy, there really is the potential is for a match made in heaven.