According to the New Zealand Productivity Commission’s latest report on New Zealand, Technology and Productivity, technology is the lifeblood of productivity (and income) growth. It can have many positive effects on work, including better job matching, augmenting labour, more effective monitoring (in high risk areas for example), and reducing costs. The problem is, as a nation we’re simply not adopting enough of it. 

But hold the smartphone caller, one aspect of visual technology which is starting to make an impression on Auckland businesses is the emergence of augmented and virtual reality. Confused about your realities? Jono Bishop, Project Manager (Creative Technologies) for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) explains.

“Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial and immersive environment that is created with software. Usually seen through a head mounted display that fully covers the users vision, this environment is presented in such a way that the user suspends disbelief and accepts it as real space. VR is used for applications where fidelity is important, interactions are complex, and people and settings are remote, as it can completely change its user’s surroundings.” 

If you’re confused, have a look at what you can do at Mt Roskill based experiential gamers Virtual Reality Studio.  

When it comes to augmented reality (AR), Jono says, “This is a different concept where virtual objects and images that you see in VR are put in a physical environment ‘augmenting’ it. This can be quite a powerful addition to any environment, as additional data can be superimposed onto physical objects making everyday interactions easier. AR also has one other benefit, unlike VR which places the individual in a headset, AR users can experience content in the same space allowing for more powerful shared experiences. 

Anyone whose kids play Pokémon Go on the weekends will have first-hand experience of how augmented reality works.”

Reality bytes

AR and VR are becoming increasingly used to help reduce costs and time for training

While it’s all well and good having fun and playing games, what benefits does this technology have for businesses and organisations? One company that has invested in VR is the airline, Jetstar. Since its launch in 2004, the Qantas owned company has carried more than 250 million passengers. With services flying from Auckland airport, the budget carrier flies to national and international destinations. 

Health and safety is an integral part of Jetstar’s operations, which is why the organisation worked with Auckland based company Staples VR on a virtual training simulation for Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 aircrafts. The training module helps staff to identify risks and hazards while performing maintenance work around aircraft, such as fuel, working at height or hydraulics systems. 

Early reports suggest that the VR software is proving to be successful with shorter learning periods – 30 minutes compared to 3 - 3.5 hours – improved learning with built-in assessment, better recording and reporting of the training, and reduced access required to real aircraft and hangers.

The company is so impressed with the VR training, it is currently developing an AR version for iPads that can be deployed to all maintenance workers.  

Augmented reality does history

Closer to home, Method Studios has partnered with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to launch Auckland Virtual Tours, an augmented reality walking tour taking visitors on an immersive and enriching journey around Bastion Point – all from a smartphone application.

The app combines augmented reality, geo-tracking, 360 video, narrative audio, historical photos, and information on native birds and plants in the area. Take a look at the app in action and see how this ground-breaking technology is bringing Māori culture and history to life.

Potential for virtual brilliance

Jono Bishop is delighted that Auckland businesses are already working with AR and VR technology, commenting, “The benefits for enterprise outweighs the investment costs. This technology allows users to do more with less resources, enables them to take less time to complete a task, prevents errors, reduces task interruption, and leads to consistency and cost savings when used for training purposes.” 

New technology in this area continues to be developed, from VR operations at Starship Hospital that allows children to ‘virtually’ go through their medical procedure to help alleviate fear, through to Skills for Industry a virtual-reality, job-site training and assessment experience. Created by the Joy Business Academy and the Ministry of Social Development in collaboration with Civil Contractors New Zealand, the site provides learning experiences for job seekers and employers to boost employment and fill skill shortage gaps in the construction industry. 

Jono concludes, “Don’t be put off by the sometimes long and complicated information surrounding AR and VR. Think about exactly what you want the technology to achieve and talk to one of Auckland’s many expert creative technology businesses to bring your ideas to life.

“In my experience, companies don’t realise the potential of what augmented and virtual reality can do, and once this is understood, the sky really is the limit in terms of the opportunities that this kind of technology enables.”

Keen to find out more? Get in touch with Jono.

Tāmaki Makaurau is becoming future ready.

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