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New Zealand businesses extending reality through innovation

A new reality is here and it’s growing fast. According to the NZ XR Market Report, by 2025 we can expect the augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) industry to grow to more than $40B USD globally. With Apple entering the market with their long anticipated headset, things are about to get very interesting as products and the very concept is embraced by more than just early adopters. Here in NZ, the sector makes up a small piece of the Tech Industry pie, but is rapidly growing and there are some amazing New Zealand start ups that are leading the charge when it comes to extended reality (XR) innovation. 

What are XR, AR, VR, and MR? 

XR, or "extended reality," is a term that has been gaining popularity to describe the latest wave of immersive technologies that are changing the way we interact with the digital world. XR encompasses a range of technologies, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). All of these technologies aim to create a seamless integration between the physical and digital worlds, allowing users to experience digital content as if it were part of the physical world.

XR is all about creating immersive experiences that are as close to real life as possible. VR is perhaps the most well-known example of this, as it involves wearing a headset that completely blocks out the real world and transports the user to a fully virtual environment. With VR, users can explore new worlds, interact with digital objects, and even socialize with others in a virtual space.

AR, on the other hand, is all about enhancing the real world with digital content. With AR, users can use their smartphones or other devices to overlay digital information onto the real world around them. This can be as simple as scanning a QR code to access additional information, or as complex as using AR glasses to create a fully immersive experience that overlays digital content onto the physical environment.

There's also MR, which is a blend of VR and AR that allows users to interact with digital content in a physical space. With MR, users wear a headset that allows them to see both the real world and virtual objects simultaneously, creating a hybrid experience that is both immersive and interactive.

XR has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with digital content completely. Rather than simply viewing content on a screen, XR allows us to fully immerse ourselves in it, creating a more engaging and memorable experience. This has major implications for a wide range of industries, including entertainment, education, healthcare, and more.

New Zealand XR businesses making waves

Here in New Zealand, we're fortunate to have several companies leading the way in the XR space. Waxeye is a creative technology agency out of Auckland that creates immersive VR and AR experiences for education and NZ government agencies and trusts. Recently, Waxeye created an innovative and immersive AR app that allows students to discover the stories of the ANZACs and experience the events of Gallipoli in a new way. With the Gallipoli app, students can explore what it was like to dig trenches, take cover from enemy fire, and feel the adrenaline rush of battle, making history come alive in the classroom or at home. The app demonstrates the power of XR in education, providing an immersive and informative way to connect with historical content.

Waxeye, Gallipoli AR app

Eight360, an XR & engineering company out of Wellington, has developed a one-of-a-kind motion simulator that provides users with a fully immersive VR experience. The NOVA is a spherical motion platform that can rotate freely in any direction, providing a full range of motion that perfectly matches the user's movements in the virtual world.

With the NOVA, users can experience virtual reality like never before, with a sense of movement and presence that is unparalleled in the XR industry. The NOVA's design is based on the principles of flight simulators, providing a realistic and immersive experience that can be used for everything from entertainment and theme parks to military training and flight/driving simulation.

Eight360 founder Terry Miller in NOVA prototype

Ovrcome is a Christchurch based XR company that focuses on using VR technology to help people overcome anxiety and other mental health challenges. The company has developed a range of VR-based therapy programs that provide users with immersive and engaging experiences to help them manage their symptoms and develop new coping strategies.

Ovrcome's VR therapy programs use a combination of exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, which have been shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders. The programs are designed to simulate real-life situations that trigger anxiety, such as public speaking or flying, and provide users with a safe and controlled environment in which to confront and manage their fears.

Along with some amazing startups, Christchurch is home to The HIT Lab at the University of Canterbury, a research center focused on exploring the possibilities of XR technologies in various fields from education and healthcare to entertainment and tourism. The lab's research covers a wide range of topics, including computer graphics, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence, with a particular focus on creating innovative and effective XR applications.

One area of research at the HIT Lab is the use of XR in healthcare, exploring how virtual and augmented reality can be used to improve patient outcomes and medical training. The lab has developed a VR system to help patients with chronic pain manage their symptoms, as well as a telemedicine platform that allows doctors to remotely consult with patients in a more immersive and engaging way.

Watch this space

XR is an exciting and rapidly evolving field that has the potential to transform the way we interact with digital content. From VR to AR to MR, the possibilities are endless, and we're excited to see what the future holds within New Zealand and globally. We're fortunate to have a thriving XR community that is pushing the boundaries of what's possible, and we can't wait to see what they come up with next!

Written by Sam Piane
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