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NZ VR/AR launched in Wellington

Some of New Zealand’s top innovators in the booming virtual and augmented reality sector have joined forces in the newly-formed New Zealand VR/AR Association.

Over 120 people turned out for the association’s first event, held in Wellington last night, with around 30% being women – an encouraging percentage compared with many tech-focused events.

Jessica Manins

Jessica Manins

Foundation members include Wellington-based virtual and augmented technology company 8i, Massey and Victoria Universities, along with a number of emerging New Zealand companies, such as Auckland-based Imersia and recently opened Christchurch HTC room-scale virtual reality experience space, The VR Room. The association’s also in discussions with Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) about links with its AR/VR Garage in Auckland, and working towards an MOU with the NZ Game Developers Association as there’s an increasing amount of VR and AR work in game development.

New Zealand VR/AR Association Executive Director, Jessica Manins, said yesterday, “We’re all amazed at the potential of this emergent industry, which is predicted to be worth NZ$205 billion globally in five years. Spring-boarding off the game and entertainment industry could see the sector rivalling wine as a NZ$2.5 billon export industry for New Zealand within a decade. It’s vital that we connect nationally and build a robust platform for collective offshore representation.”

The demonstrations on offer at last night’s event were all running on different platforms. For consumers it’ll take some time to see if a dominant player emerges and whether content creators start offering platform-exclusive titles. VR/AR has much wider applications than entertainment, and there’s plenty of work going on in other fields too. At the recent Big Screen Symposium Tribeca’s Opeyemi Olukemi’s presentation touched on some of the work being done in the health field.

As Google’s Noah Falstein observed in his recent presentations at NZGDC and in Wellington, VR and AR are very much evolving fields. There aren’t clear rules or roadmaps, which is both exciting and challenging. There remain some significant UX hurdles to overcome. New product releases, such as the PlayStation VR’s last week, are regularly accompanied by negative reactions (this writer’s was nausea) as well as praise for the quality of the work and the new frontiers being explored.

The Green Fairy creator Alejandro Davila at the NZ VR/AR event

The Green Fairy creator Alejandro Davila at the NZ VR/AR event

Last night Conical’s Alejandro Davila presented his virtual reality film The Green Fairy, the (non-VR) trailer for which is below. Aimed at children aged 5-7 years, the film has been showcased at Westfield malls around the country during the recent school holidays.

Green Fairy trailer

NZ VR/AR will represent and promote NZ’s virtual, augmented and mixed reality sectors nationally and internationally. It has also secured the rights as the national chapter of the global VR/AR Association, which has 12 chapters in North America, the UK and Asia. It aims to accelerate growth, foster research and education, develop industry standards, connect member organisations and promote services of member companies.

Manins also said the association plans to host an international VR, AR and mixed reality conference in March next year in Wellington. The NZ VR/AR Association is naturally keen to welcome new members in the meantime, including virtual and augmented reality innovators and those working or interested in the industry.

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