VRUPPLE Interviews Director of SEEDTECH

As part of our ongoing series of interviews with the leaders of the UK’s nascent virtual reality sector, we chat with Tristan May.

Tristan is a director of SEEDTECH – a family run design company based in Malvern, Worcestershire that specialises in photorealistic 3D visualisation, animation and simulation.

The company is also involved in computer based training, instructional design and e-learning with a focus on the delivery of fully immersive interactive environments and virtual reality.

VRUPPLE: A bit of background on yourself. How did you get to “here”

Tristan May: I started a career in Graphic Design back in 1998 and rapidly moved into Instructional Design and e-Learning roles due to the fact that I was effective in breaking down and converting complex real world systems processes and procedures into digital training applications. I taught myself 3D graphics and regularly incorporated these features into computer based training. In 2013, my work expanded to encompass virtual reality (VR) with the first Oculus Rift development kits and I have been delivering these applications ever since.

Define “here” – what is it you do / who for / what applications of VR are your particularly investigating?

I am the director of a UK-based company called SEEDTECH (http://www.seedtech.co.uk). We build bespoke training systems for companies all over the world. In regard to VR, we are focused primarily on construction, military, security and aerospace.

What is currently exciting you most in your work; what milestone breakthroughs have you recently achieved?

The most exciting aspect of our work is R&D. SEEDTECH is constantly dreaming up new ways to visualise data and create immersive experiences. We have recently made a breakthough in bringing elements of our applications to mobile platforms. You can view one of our demos if you paste the following link into your desktop, laptop or mobile browser window: 3d.cl3ver.com/9tFym

What is the biggest challenge you face?

At the present moment, the biggest challenge is educating the world about VR. It is widely discussed but rarely experienced. We spend a great deal of time introducing people to an entirely new level of digital interactivity. Only after some awareness of the possibilities have been established are we then in a position to discuss potential requirements.

How do you envisage the next five years looking – firstly for your own work / company and then a broader look at how VR will impact UK business?

Over the next five years, we expect SEEDTECH to thrive based on where we currently sit in the market. We have been running intensive R&D for over two years to gain a strong foothold in both the public and private sector. Interest has rapidly increased in VR in the last quarter alone and we are now speaking to all sorts of major organisations globally about proceeding with development of the new technologies. Over 2017, we will be buying in a lot of VR peripherals and motion capture devices to further the various experiences we are building for training. It will be 2018 before we really focus on augmented and mixed reality products although we are already developing the support for these devices in our applications.

In the next five years on the world stage, I believe we will see hybrid headsets that will be able to provide a full range of augmented, mixed and virtual reality experiences. We will certainly see wireless devices. Personally, I  believe that augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR) are likely to overshadow VR as the mainstream form of next generation technologies. VR will have its place but I imagine it will likely be used for huge open spaces that allow users the freedom to walk around fully immersive synthetic environments on a one to one scale. In the longer term, these headsets may challenge the way in which people work, learn and play. Desktops and laptops as they are today may vanish as the processing power, mobility and functionality of these devices increases.

What is your opinion on VR in the UK at present, in terms of content quality, use, awareness and progress?

Virtual reality is still in its infancy here in the UK. The industry desperately needs some form of standardisation as it moves forwards. Various VR groups are off building their own applications without any serious checks and balances in many cases on the implications of introducing these technologies to the general public. We are no longer dealing with passive impressions. They are fully interactive, emotional experiences and they intrude on the subconscious in ways we have not seen before. Children are especially vulnerable and with the introduction of Playstation VR in 2016, these environments have become far more accessible. There are also major incompatibilities with the human body and VR that have to be adhered to in order to minimise simulator sickness.

What do you believe to be biggest barrier to mainstream VR adoption; how / when will this be surmounted?

The biggest barrier to VR adoption is the simulation sickness. There have been clever implementations in the software to minimise this but it has not been eradicated by any means. It is a barrier so significant that I feel that it will likely determine the course of VR as an industry. From the perspective of our company, we are looking at large specialist environments and not products that will end up in use at the office or home.

If you could have one (VR-related) wish, what would it be?

A world without wires!

Finally, the VR-infused  world of the future… Dystopian nightmare or endless world of wonder – reasons to be cheerful?

I am very optimistic about the future of virtual reality. Despite its challenges, human beings are looking at an entirely new level of interaction with their creations. The possibilities are truly endless. For the longest time, we have been on the sidelines looking in. All of this is set to change in the most exciting ways imaginable.