More than fun and games

Virtual Reality experts believe technology has more business applications than just gaming, with potential applications for property development, tourism and interior decoration

Virtual Reality technology has made possible the exploration of more business applications in the property development, tourism and interior decoration sectors, experts have told Business Daily.
The statements were made during the first day of the SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 Macau computer graphics and interactive technics conference, taking place at The Venetian and running until December 8.
Themed ‘Key to the Future,’ this year the expo is showcasing innovative projects and emerging technologies for computer graphics and interactive techniques, with more than 6,000 delegates from over 50 countries expected to attend.
“This year in Macau, delegates will be inspired by top-notch research innovations, learning opportunities [and] amazing digital artwork, creative animations, and emerging technologies. The newly introduced VR showcase aims to take delegates into unbelievable, immersive virtual worlds,” stated Hongbo Fu, SIGGRAPH Asia’s Conference Chair.

Decorating a house virtually
One of the organisers and speakers at the conference’s first day of VR talks, computer graphics expert and Assistant Professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, Sai-Kit Yeung, believes that the current VR market is focused too much on gaming, leaving plenty of other business opportunities unexplored.
According to a report by Statista, the virtual reality hardware market is estimated to reach a value of US$7.3 billion (MOP58.3 million) in 2018 while the software market is estimated to reach a value of US$4.8 billion; Mr. Sai-Kit points out that many new technology applications are right around the corner.
“Even now the HTC Hive or the Oculus Rift (virtual reality headsets), the latest hardware on the market, are still focused on games. There’re many more possible applications, such as for medical purposes - by providing visualisation of interior organs - or educational purposes [like] helping students study. The most important [thing] in VR is still content, so besides discussions on hardware improvement there should be more innovation on new interactions,” Sai-Kit told Business Daily.
One of the new interactions being explored, he says, is in interior design, an application the researcher developed through SKY Optimum Technology Pte. Ltd, a start-up he founded in Singapore that focuses on developing augmented and virtual reality technology.
SKY Optimum Technology developed MagixHome, an automatic furniture arrangement technology that enables users to perform interior design modelling, allowing them to virtually “use the app to move furniture” and arrange their future house layout.
“[The application] will then provide suggestions on decoration, with professional interior designers also providing input. After that the file will be shareable with other people,” Mr. Sai-Kit told Business Daily.

Wish I were there
The researcher considers China to be one of the “hottest” markets for VR technology, with intense levels of investment activity and interest in new developments, with projects in Shanghai and Hangzhou delving into virtual reality as applied to tourism and for project developers using the technology to enable possible buyers to explore property on show.
He also mentioned how Singapore has made considerable bets in exploring new VR possibilities, such as the launch in 2014 of the Virtual Singapore initiative, a US$73 million 3D planning tool simulating the city’s growth scenarios.
The project is being developed by Singapore’s National Research Foundation, (NRF) in collaboration with French multinational software company Dassault Systèmes, with the final simulation planned for 2017.
Pierre-Yves Laffont, a postdoctoral researcher in Computer Science also based in Singapore, believes that the concept of “tele-presence” through virtual and augmented reality could even have applications in business conference calls or tourism.
“This is the idea that you can be remotely somewhere else or bring remote participants into your environment,” Mr Laffont told Business Daily.
This concept application for tourism purposes has also been presented in Macau by Virtualmente, a VR Goggle company based between Macau and Portugal, which is currently developing an immersive VR tourist guide for Macau, a concept promoted by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO).
“VR certainly has the potential as a tourism or culture tool to allow people to explore cultural heritage and experience buildings that have been destroyed for a long time,” Mr. Laffont told Business Daily.
The computer science expert is currently trying to commercialise an optical application that allows people suffering from myopia (nearsightedness) to adjust VR goggles sets to their eyesight, although he considers that it is still hard to predict how the market will evolve.
“It will be a fragmented market, and I don’t think anyone can know what will happen in the next two years. VR is not new - it has been around for many years but only this year have we seen some commercial VR goggles coming out. The [coming] years will reveal if VR really takes off and stays, or if it disappears,” Mr. Laffont concluded.