The speakers were pioneers in their field, including Jarnail Chudge, who's worked in design and user experience at Microsoft for 15 years; Greg Williamson, a Senior AR, VR and creative consultant for the Soluis Group; and Tom Chapman, Principal Engagement Manager / Principal Programme Manager at Microsoft.
The event was hosted by Chris Dines, founder of the business network and Workspace partner, Knowledge Peers.
Held at The Print Rooms, next to Southwark station, the evening was a perfect opportunity for Workspace customers from across London to network and discuss a branch of technology which is sure to have a profound impact on how we do business and how we live our lives.
The star attraction both before and after the event was the exclusive demonstration of the Oculus headsets. The Workspace team and all event guests were invited to experience the virtual reality recreation of Barcelona FC’s indoor basketball arena, courtesy of Soluis.
Whilst wearing the virtual reality headset we were transported onto the basketball court itself and had the ability to try and shoot some three-pointers – try being the operative word!
It was an incredibly immersive experience and one which certainly whetted the appetite of guests ahead of the evening’s discussion.
There was even a demo of the Cities Unlocked augmented reality with Microsoft’s Jarnail Chudge, which shone a light on the brilliant work the #CitiesUnlocked team have been doing for the visually impaired.
During his talk, Jarnail Chudge talked to the audience in great detail about the #CitiesUnlocked project, an audio guide for the visually impaired, developed in collaboration with the Guide Dogs (Chris Yates, a manager at the charity was at the dinner) and Future Cities Catapult.
Many of the Workspace businesses were there because virtual reality is something which they want to implement in their businesses - the global tourism photography provider Magic Memories were there in full force as well as the fintech company Nutmeg.
Our speakers talked about the effects that these new technologies will have on New and Growing Companies, whether they deal with other businesses or are more consumer-facing.
The three speakers also revealed the moment in their careers where virtual reality really struck a chord with them:
Tom Chapman: "The things we talk about are the big things... the things that really touch me emotionally about the #CitiesUnlocked work are the small things. When we went out with Chris Holmes, the Paralympian and member of the House of Lords... we were travelling on the bus back from Reading, he was smiling. He added: "This is the first time, I've been able to tell you guys something about the journey that you don't know.
"I can now start a conversation and it's not something from inside my head. It's a small thing but it's the tiny things that touch our lives which will show us virtual reality has reached a level of maturity."
Greg Williamson: "I saw a couple of weeks ago, the Framestore's project Field trip to Mars. They too a yellow American school bus and turned it into a VR experience. They took, I think, some NASA data and recreated a Mars landscape and using the games engines they made it so that when the bus moved, you moved in Mars. All the windows were video screens. The kids' reactions were incredible. It was a great way to engage them in science."
Jarnail Chudge: "It was one of the very early experiences we had at CitiesUnlocked. We were waiting at the bus stop - the bus came up the hill and turned left. The person with sight loss waiting at the bus stop knew - due to the sensors placed on the bus - before any of the sighted people that the bus was right around the corner. And they would get up and all the sighted people would be bemused and then the bus would come around the corner and they'd think what is she on? These experiences that you wouldn't ordinarily think matter, matter hugely."
Virtual reality is at a turning point and could make a huge impact on the UK economy in the near future. Sir Mark Walport, the government's Chief Scientist, mentioned in his report in May of this year: 'If the UK wanted to make a strategic play in the sector, now would be the time with many big firms investing.'
We've continued the conversation about the potential opportunities open to New and Growing Companies here. Stay tuned, the future will be here sooner than you think.
If you’re a Workspace customer and you’d like to come to our next quarterly Business Insights Dinner, keep your eyes peeled to our Events calendar, which is packed with insightful workshops and seminars held at many of our business centres each week.
Here’s what a few of the guests at our latest Business Insights Dinner had to say about the event:
“A good opportunity to meet Workspace staff and other tenants,” – Elizabeth Dabell, Cornish Archiects
“Fantastic line-up and well-hosted event. Fantastic networking opportunity – and the wine was delicious,” – Adrian Fletcher, Blue Saffron
“Knowledge Peers and Workspace combined to provide an enjoyable and very informative insight into current activity in VR/AR. I not only learned a lot, but discovered areas where our automated content recognition technology can complement the work that has been done so far in using VR to improve facilities for partially sighted people and give them greater independence,” Mike Edwards, Audible Magic