Have you heard the news? We’ve partnered with leading AR and VR experts Realities Centre at our soon-to-launch West London workspace, Huckletree West. They’ll be schooling our members in the latest in immersive tech – and we can’t wait!
We caught up with CEO and co-founder Thomas Géré ahead of their launch showcase at Huckletree West to talk about our partnership, the future of VR and how Huckletree West members can live out their Minority Report fantasies…
Hi Thomas! How would you describe Realities Centre in a nutshell?
“It’s the first European incubator space dedicated to immersive technologies, augmented and virtual reality, and it’s been open since late last year. We’ve done 15 events, mostly trying to focus on verticals that are really getting traction and where there’s potential – instead of doing general events on VR. We’ve looked at health tech, AI, VR prop tech and many more; and we always combine it with a hackathon so we can actually create value and help developers to start up projects.”
What was your journey to founding Realities Centre?
“Basically, I have an engineering 3D CAD/IT and business background from a long time ago working at some big American corporates! I’ve launched a few tech startups in IoT, AI and I still have a clean-tech business. I’ve used some of my so called 3D skills on that too!
In the last few years, I saw a lot of changes in 3D/VR spaces because there are a lot of consumer & enterprise focused devices coming out, thanks to smartphones technologies, and events that are very general – but no real place that’s dedicated to innovation and helping startups. It makes sense to have a space to help put corporates, developers and startups together and help the ecosystem actually grow. That’s where the idea came from.
We started slowly last year and we’ve been accelerating and partnered with Cocoon networks on everything that’s B2B AR/VR and AI. Walmart, for example, have announced all their training in-store will use VR. Sodexo are a big food company and the worldwide leader in all outsourcing of canteens in corporates. They’ve recently announced they’re using HTC Vive VR for all their training.”
Why are you also heading to Huckletree West?
“In the UK and especially London, there’s a rich creative talent industry, it’s world class – one of the leaders. We were waiting for the right circumstances and partner to run events for the media and creative community, and that’s where Huckletree came in. We’ve hosted events at Shoreditch for our Unity VR taster courses and developed a good relationship with Andrew and Gaby. It was a great coincidence that Huckletree West was in the works and a fantastic opportunity to offer this big angle on AR and VR for creatives and the media industry as it’s one of the focuses of Huckletree. It’s a perfect, logical relationship. I think we can also do a lot locally with the BBC, ITV and other media companies in the area. Really exciting!”
We’re really excited to have in-house VR studio! Which equipment will you be bringing to the space?
“We’ll have all the greatest equipment including the HTC Vive, which has the most precise room-scale VR tracking system: VR users are able to move in the space and be really immersed by being tracked by advanced sensors. We’re also going to have a mixed reality component, capturing people in VR so you don’t just see what they see, but you see them actually in the virtual space which is really fun (and useful) to watch from outside!
We’re also going to have a great computer from AMD. They’ve been very kind to actually provide a new compact VR computer that is bright electric blue and really high tech which should make experiences run super well. Super exciting.”
What kind of workshops can our members expect at Huckletree West?
“We’ll be showing members, first of all, in what’s out there in Augmented and Virtual Reality:
– What you can do with AR/VR: how you can harness those technologies to make more compelling experiences for customers
– iPhone for AR kit
– Hololens for advanced social AR experiences and how to make Mixed Reality
– How to combine VR with existing techniques you’re using”
How can our digital lifestyle focused members harness Realities Centre’s expertise to grow their business?
“I think it’s great for Foodtech for example – it’s about engaging the senses in a more profound way. In a way, you’re tricking the brain into thinking you’re seeing and being somewhere else. You can augment that experience in AR and VR. You can provide choices as well, and see how people react and engage with them in a deeper way.”
With the presence of creative and tech names including Imperial College, BBC, ITV and OneWeb, White City is fast-becoming London’s new creative hub. How do you think this will impact AR startups? Will we see a swing towards setting up in West London rather than the areas surrounding Silicon Roundabout?
“I think we’ll see them in West as well, not only due to cost, but because they want to have participation from big corporates. There are a lot of corporates in Uxbridge, Maidenhead and Basingstoke that will be very interested in working with spaces like Huckletree West that are really close to them, not as far as East London. They can see advantage of being involved with the startup and creative communities.”
Which names have recently caught your eye in the world of AR/VR?
“First of all, I’m very excited by your members. Mindwave Ventures and Dream Reality Interactive, I really like what they’re doing. In the industry, I’m quite excited by Microsoft, they’re launching a lot of VR OEM headsets that are cheaper and easier to setup, and the basis of the coding is compatible with the Hololens, it’s very exciting for content producers. They’re creating an ecosystem which is easy to access for developers and companies: easy to set up, develop and use. They’re helping the community make it easier to get adoption.
I’m excited by what they’re releasing through other partners like HP – it’s a mass market release that’s going to happen at Christmas time. We hope to be working really closely with them for our courses to show corporates how to integrate VR internally and with their customers.”
You must be excited that we have several AR/VR focused members joining the community at Huckletree West…
“Before Dream Reality Interactive was in the works, Dave Ranyard was doing a lot of stealth projects. He has a background at Playstation where he was creating amazing work and has a PhD in Philosophy with AI. It’s really good to have him in the same space at Huckletree West. Mindwave Ventures have been working on exciting healthtech projects with the NHS – focusing on tackling OCD, physiotherapy for stroke patients and lots of different things. Realities Centre has run two health and medtech events: for us, it’s a big focus. It’s really exciting that they’re in the space and offering a different angle: VR for good. It’s really exciting to have them there.”
We can’t wait to celebrate our partnership at your showcase at Huckletree West on the 7th September. What can guests expect on the night?
“Great examples of creative and media VR/AR experiences in collaboration with some famous agencies, content producers but also prestigious organisations such as Raindance. We are honoured to have Ultrahaptics who are developing special ultrasound devices where you can feel and touch objects in the air without physical haptic devices, they received nearly 20 million in funding a few months ago. They’re going to showcase experiences they’ve been developing for the media and art industries – we’re really excited. We can’t reveal other names just yet!”
What are your hopes for the future of the immersive tech industry?
“More seamless devices and experiences so it’s easy to use and adopt for everyone. More crossovers of AR and VR that will make them more useful and follow you from daytime activities to more experiential ones. For AR machine learning is going to be key in providing you with personalised information so you’re not thrown too much info about objects around you. Both app-based and location based AR from Apple & Google are going to enable lots of innovation and growth, redefining how we use our smartphones, and paving the way to eyewear-based visualisation.
For VR, when you come home, you might have more immersive experiences, think Netflix/Sky VR Headset, for some of what you’re watching at home from time to time. When you want to talk to someone, instead of Skype 2D, you’ll have Skype VR, and you’ll be talking to family members right next to you. Through Haptics, you’ll have physical contact to shake their hand or share an object together. It’s really exciting to bring people closer together; physically and emotionally, even if virtual. It’ll enable people in a global world who are more distant, to be brought closer together. That’s very exciting to me.”
Where would you like Realities Centre to be in ten years time?
“We’re developing more corporate courses and workshops so we can share with them how to make experiences and training apps themselves. We’re growing those courses and planning to open more partnerships. We’re looking into Eastern Europe and the Far East.
We’re also planning and pitching for our Vision accelerator program we’re running with big corporate ventures starting at the end of this year. We want to do 2 cohorts per year, 5 companies per cohort, in a very bespoke way. Some companies will need funding so we’ll help them grow and get traction, others that are more advanced might get special access to partners and members. Really exciting. None of those things exist in Europe at the moment – it’s really needed.”