Perception & Reality: AC interviews Alvin Wang Graylin of HTC Vive
Let's have a quick show of hands. Who would love to experience the Star Trek holodeck?
The holodeck is an enclosed room in all starships where the master AI computer projects fully interactive worlds in seamless virtual reality (VR). In the fictional Star Trek universe, starfleet personnel use holodecks to recreate or simulate settings and events for training and recreation.
The holodeck is a powerful metaphor that's often cited as the end-state for VR circa 2017. But rather than a feature of a starship, some of the first attempts a working holodecks are VR cafes in China, which serve as arcades where people can experience high-end VR without the hefty start-up costs. Another area for holodeck-like user experiences are micro-apartments that aim to house some of the tens of millions who inhabit China's rapidly evolving mega-regions.
While the idea of walking around a primitive holodeck to experience the Apollo moon landing is certainly compelling, the reality is that VR is becoming mainstream through education and enterprise applications according to Alvin Wang Graylin, China President for HTC Vive. He is currently Vice-Chairman of the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance (IVRA.com), 200 company president of the $15 Billion Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance (VRVCA.com) and oversees the Vive X VR accelerator in Asia.
Alvin spoke about how VR is poised to re-shape how people experience city life in China. It's no surprise that the amount of physical space per capita and the cost of living in some of the Chinese mega-regions is quite expensive. In that environment, people can't afford to buy a traditional house.
Therefore, more single people and couples are opting for micro-apartments that cover the bare essentials. They have a very small footprint relatively speaking, often between 250-400 square feet. But with VR, these small spaces can transform into an immersive waterfront property, or a mountaintop view, or a large loft depending on the tastes of the occupant. Considering that southern China hosts over 300 million migrant workers, many of whom have just a bed and a few square meters of personal space, an AI-powered virtual space isn't simply a luxury. It can be a key ingredient for making a small space more livable.
Aside from the ability to use VR to provide sensory escape from a small living area, these same migrant workers can access VR to access immersive education. If they can put on the headset and be transported to Harvard or MIT, they turn themselves from blue collar to white collar. This makes high quality education available around the world, from the slums of India to Nairobi.
The upshot is that VR technology and VR culture are advancing steadily. While the current growth areas in China and abroad tend toward gaming, it's equally clear that advances in B2B markets, real estate, education and enterprise applications are following close behind.
[editors note: this interview was conducted via Skype with some audible clicks during the first 3min before the signal evened out]