The future beckons …
Virtuality — the fact of existing, but not in a way that is physically real, or a thing that is imagined or considered rather than being real: The Greek philosophers believed that perfection only exists in virtuality; any attempt to produce something in reality leads to imperfection.
The digital computer games industry is substantial and growing, with global video game revenues reaching over $150 billion in 2020. This number includes console games, PC games, and mobile games, with mobile games claiming the largest share. The industry has been experiencing steady growth year-over-year, with factors such as the rise of eSports, the expansion of mobile gaming markets (especially in Asian countries), and advancements in technology (like virtual reality) driving this trend.
According to Statista, the global video game market will reach nearly $385 billion in 2023. Growing at an annual rate of 7.89% percent, the market is expected to approach $522 billion with 3.1 billion users globally by the end of 2027.
The Live Streaming Market, on the other hand is expected to reach $4.26 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 22.4% during the period to 2028. The rising popularity of live streaming technology for better brand engagement and reach to consumers, and the increasing adoption of smartphones coupled with faster internet, are expected to drive the growth of the live streaming market.
What is the connection?
As technology evolves, the lines between interactive media (games) and passive media (movies, TV) have blurred. For example, narrative-driven games can sometimes feel like interactive movies. The TV streaming and filmmaking industries are intimately related to the digital computer games industry in several ways.
Intellectual Property Adaptations: Several video games have been adapted into movies and TV series and vice versa. A prominent example of this transfer is the “Witcher” series on Netflix, which was adapted from a book series that also inspired a successful video game franchise. Sometimes, movies or TV series will have tie-in video games to promote the release of the film or show. This can help both industries by tapping into the established audience of the other.
Talent Crossover: Many professionals, such as writers, actors, and composers, work in both the video game industry and the film/TV industry. As cloud gaming becomes more prevalent, the potential for further integration between video game streaming and TV/film streaming platforms keeps growing.
Interactive Movies: There’s been a rise in ‘interactive movies’ on platforms like Netflix, where viewers can make decisions that affect the storyline. This is a blend of traditional film and video game mechanics. A notable example is “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch”.
Both industries are major players in the entertainment sector, and as technology continues to evolve, the line between them will blur further still, leading to even more collaboration and crossover.
The rise of Virtual Reality
The concept of Virtual Reality (VR) in order to provide immersive experiences using digital imaging close to the viewer’s eyes has now been under intense development for this last decade. The exact trajectory VR will take is hard to predict with certainty, but it’s clear that both the technology and its applications are rapidly evolving. The continued growth and innovation in the sector suggest that VR will play a significant role in shaping the future of various industries and our daily experiences.
Advances in technology will allow for even more immersive VR experiences. This includes better visual fidelity, more realistic haptic feedback, and improvements in spatial audio. As a direct result of the maturity in technology and competitive forces, the cost of VR hardware will decrease and this will make it more accessible to a wider audience. Headsets are becoming lighter, more comfortable with longer battery lives, wider fields of view, and improved tracking. Standalone devices that don’t require tethering to a powerful PC (like the Oculus Quest series) are expected to become more popular due to their convenience.
Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education academic staff from both the business and computing departments foresaw the potential of mixed reality and embarked on very exciting and leading-edge research and innovation in the development of content. The research team is developing serious games, using cultural heritage to test the technological ability to represent tangible aspects of heritage in terms of space and artefacts, and the experiential ability to represent the intangible aspect of heritage in terms of rituals, skills and practices.
The research team at Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education, tackles the varying overlaps in the problem space. The 360° video presented below was shot from the VR experience produced as a result of the ReLive History research project financed through the MCST fusion programme. This involved curators from Heritage Malta to provide the archaeological facts regarding the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. The hypogeum is a UNESCO world heritage site selected for its importance and sensitivity to damage by visitors. Substantial Unity® development was necessary to build the environment from a laser scan point cloud provided by Heritage Malta. Using ray tracing techniques the team illustrated the play of light and shadows in the underground complex, emanating from the upper layer awash in different sunlight direction and intensity. The non-player character (NPC) included, using motion capture (MOCAP) suit technology to achieve the movement flow, is of a Neolithic man using period tools made of stone and wood, to show how the rock face was hewn to result in such beautiful architecture. The next phase of the research is to provide interactive digital narrative between the NPC and the gamer’s avatar with the introduction of AI. This will be done to provide for a realistic conversation between the two elements of the experience. Other individuals are now also working on the development of transmedia artefacts that will help form the world for the gamer.
Integrating imaginary with real environments
The industry is now set on integrating VR headsets with Augmented Reality (AR) to allow users to switch between fully immersive VR environments and overlaying digital information on the real world.
Platforms like Facebook’s Horizon (now under the umbrella of Meta) aim to create large virtual spaces where users can socialize, collaborate, and engage in activities together. This social aspect of VR could become a significant component of its appeal. Tools like Spatial and others offer virtual workspaces where teams can collaborate as if they are in the same physical room. As remote work becomes more common, such VR solutions may gain traction, and boost the social revolution of work.
The applications for VR/AR technology
VR is already being explored in medical and therapeutic uses in pain management applications, exposure therapy for phobias, and cognitive rehabilitation. This trend is expected to continue, with VR offering novel treatments and training methods in the medical field. Which leads to the vast potential in using VR for educational purposes, from virtual field trips to interactive lessons on complex subjects. Industries such as aviation, military, and medicine are using VR for training simulations, providing a risk-free environment to train individuals in scenarios that would be dangerous, expensive, or impractical in the real world.
Beyond gaming, there’s potential for VR in movies, concerts, and other entertainment mediums. VR will allow the viewer to watch a film from a varying perspective other than the fixed one the director had in mind.
The shopping experience in virtuality
The prediction is that the use of VR to enhance the online shopping experience will be one of the bulwarks of the rise of the VR industry, offering users to “walk” through virtual stores, try clothing items on avatars built as a reflection of the shopper, and even experience products before purchasing. These worlds will add the exciting twist that physical shopping malls are not able to provide.
Where will all this lead to?
Like any emerging technology, there will be discussions and concerns about issues like privacy, data security, the potential addictiveness of living in another fantasy world, and the resulting impact of spending extended periods in virtual environments. These ethical and societal concerns are real, and must be dealt with by academics through extensive research to lead the technology in the right path.
Is this the world you want to participate in?
It is highly likely that readers will be consumers of this new era of creative computing, but some forward looking individuals will want to participate in this emerging and financially rewarding industry.
Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education offers a portfolio of undergraduate (MQF level 6) degrees, in conjunction with the world-renowned University of London to prepare the human resources who will be developing the content for this new exciting industry. This mesh of games, movies and immersion media provides the potential for students from diverse backgrounds and skills to make the most of their passions into this industry to solve any aspect of the problem space that must be covered.
The Institute’s creed is based on quality education, excelling in teaching and research in multidisciplinary fields. The core belief is that academics should be practicing what they teach, and students are allowed freely to participate in such research and innovation projects.
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