What do a zombie-fighting game and the ability to change the look of your apartment with the push of a joystick button have to do with AV integration? Not much at first blush, but a lot more than you think when you hear the story behind the distribution agreement between Stampede Presentation Products and VR Studios.
Kevin Vitale, executive vice president of international operations at Bellevue, Wash.-based virtual reality development company VR Studios, calls the deal with Stampede, which was announced just before InfoComm 2016, “the perfect match of leadership in this industry.”
“Stampede has always demonstrated an interest in pushing the boundaries,” says Vitale, a nod perhaps to the push before and since InfoComm 2015 by Stampede president, COO and owner Kevin Kelly to push for drones in commercial AV settings.
A VR Studios board member heard about Stampede during a discussion on drones, then attended the NAB Show in Las Vegas to find out more about the company and how they could potentially work together, says Vitale.
At InfoComm 2016, Samsung showed off its Gear 360 camera, which will start shipping in July. The small camera can be attached to the bottom of a drone to film more than 15 hours of footage, says Don Logan, director of Samsung Business. Drones are most commonly used in jet propulsion labs to examine and record the intricacies of missiles and planes, and for USDA food inspections, says Logan.
Vitale sees commercial AV applications of virtual reality in arcades and gaming centers, commercial and industrial facilities and simulation applications, such as training for military newcomers, first responders and medical professionals. He also expects virtual reality to become an increasingly-important part of construction and architecture, including designing data centers, conference rooms and office layouts.
The gaming world, says Vitale, drove some of the requirements for virtual reality platforms today to bring them to a level that can cross over to the commercial world.
“We’re not selling a headset; it’s a platform with an entire ecosystem,” he says. “In the current technology, you can see it. With this, you experience it.”
Kelly touts virtual reality as a way for integrators to save both time and money through cameras, often attached to drones, and other tools that are used to create high-fidelity virtual reality experiences.
“The technology is there to be integrated with and interacted with,” says Kelly. CAD drawings can be incorporated into virtual reality platforms, he says, “almost as a reality check.”
Retail could become a prime hot spot for virtual reality applications, says Kelly.
“The level of customer satisfaction goes up dramatically when you’re that much more confident in what you’re buying,” he says. Kelly believes AV and virtual reality have more in common than many people understand.
“Our industry needs products and pieces that are highly technical so these categories have the very same needs,” he says. “Our industry needs new technology if it’s going to keep moving forward. That’s where we add the most value.”
Vitale sees the incorporation of virtual reality into AV as a way to “add strategic value to the integrator and the end user.” Kelly adds, “I don’t know how many end users know this is a potential solution for them.” For integrators, it could mean recurring revenue through ongoing maintenance fees, he says.
Those who dive into virtual reality won’t be doing so without a significant upfront expense, says Kelly, noting the systems can run anywhere from about $75,000 to $150,000 and up. He knows that price tag will scare some people off, but he expects the interest to continue growing in incorporating AV and VR.
“There’s a portion who embrace and a portion who don’t think it’s for them,” says Kelly. “There are always early adopters, like we found with drones. We’re here to educate them on the technology and the opportunity. It’s a phenomenal opportunity to leverage something integrators are already doing.”
Here’s a look at what VR Studios plans to bring into the commercial AV space and other applications of virtual reality: