The founder of virtual reality studio CATS PEAS, Alex Rolle, is a pioneer in immersive storytelling and her work has won numerous international awards. The English language specialist was one of the speakers at the Vodafone Business Conference and was in Porto talking about the most effective strategies for using virtual reality, in order to take full advantage of its distinctive features. Alex Roll describes herself as a “Virtual Reality Maker,” which means she creates narrative-driven experiences, or projects that tell and come to life in virtual reality. The expert believes that within three to five years, virtual reality glasses will begin to enter our daily lives.
Why do you think it is important to hold conferences like this at this time, which Alex considers a turning point?
I think it’s more important now than ever, because we’ve often had misconceptions about the purpose of this technology. A lot of people, to this day, think it’s just for video games, or we see people using it to try roller coasters, and it’s important to spread the notion that there are many other use cases for the technology. I strongly believe that this technology will be the future of hardware. Let’s wear a pair of XR glasses on our faces while we interact with our smartphones now. It’s time for people, especially businesses, to take this seriously. Because it will affect every part of our lives.
In terms of business, what is technology?
I think the easiest area to see practical benefit at the moment is in the training sector. A lot of the work I do with companies is focused on soft skills training. How cool would it be to have a face-to-face conversation with a manager who should be talking about a promotion, or to navigate a sales conversation, and to be able to practice that and feel like we’ve already done it? That we are already face to face with someone, as close as possible to a real scenario but in virtual reality? Soft skills training is a great way to prove its usefulness. Also diversity and inclusion, so important. She spoke about an experience she had with Jeremy Dalton and the PwC team called In My Shoes, which allows us to be in the body of Sam, a black fellow PwC going through his daily life, and experience some of the subtle assaults that fellow ethnic minorities tell us about.
Well, we can hear about him, okay we can watch a video of him, but to really feel it, being in an elevator with someone changing their body language, we feel it in virtual reality. This is your strength. Training is a great area, but we’ll see that expansion. This is the area where you can get the best return on investment at the moment, but we will see that eventually expand to all areas of the business.
What makes this medium different and unique?
I think it has to do with existence. This medium gives us a presence that we don’t feel when we watch a video – we know we’re watching a video. Even though it was filmed from a first-person perspective, we don’t think we’re that person. When we hear a song, we feel the emotions but we’re not there, we can’t see the whole story. While virtual reality leads us inward. Instead of talking about storytelling, we talk about living stories, because we are living a lived experience. In such a way that our brain records the things we experience in virtual reality as if they were memories. this is the difference. We do something, we don’t watch or listen, we do it ourselves. This is a big difference from other media.
When will we see this in widespread use? Does that happen when we have simple glasses instead of big devices?
Yes, I think the biggest drawback now is the hardware. Nobody wants to wear a huge computer on their face for hours at a time. The most unique answer is that it will be when Apple enters the game.
When Apple gets into the game, people take notice, it’s a fact. Because they make things that are not only cool but user-oriented. Right now, the devices we have that serve it up, do their job, but it doesn’t really elevate the user experience. When Apple comes into the game, when it introduces smart glasses, when we all interact with spatial content on a daily basis, the discussion ends. This would be equivalent to all the smartphones in our pockets.
Do you say two, three or four years?
I’d probably say we’re going to start seeing technology approaching glasses in the next three years, and I think it’ll be five years before we get to the level of simple, lightweight glasses. And five to ten years to see the equivalent of an iPhone. We had our first iPhone, which had internet, messaging, and an iPod, great. But look what it can do now: It has Netflix, YouTube, we can use it to create augmented reality filters, we can see what the kitchen in our house would look like. We can do all of these things. This is where the glasses will be in five to ten years.