IN one of the play rooms at a VR Lab outlet, two teenagers wear VR headgear witha pair of wireless controllers in theirhands.
One is wandering towards the wall and the other is very much like he is in the midst of sword-fighting.
They maylook weird with their antics but they are obviously engrossed in a virtual world.
This is what Datin Shireen Tan wants to bring to the public — the wonderful, borderless world of virtual reality.
The co-founder and owner of virtual reality centre VR Lab (www.vrlab.my) says VR will be the future of entertainment and education, as well as in many aspects of industry.
“Currently, most of the applications and usage of VR products are in the gaming area, but the technology is designed to complement many other industries, such as education, retail, construction, engineering, and oil and gas,” she says.
VR AGE COMING
VR is still in its infancy here.
“Games and VR experience videos are the most common form of VR content today and are easily enjoyed by consumers," says the 34-year-old mother of one.
However, moving forward, VR headsets will be as ubiquitous as smartphones.
The VR headsets that give users the feel of being in another dimension are quite expensive.
Tan is referring to the SteamVR device like the HTC Vive, which VR Lab uses.
SteamVR is a virtual reality system, with a headset built by Valve and partner HTC. The headset itself is called the HTC Vive.
Like the Oculus Rift, the Vive is a VR device that contains two screens (1,080x1,200 resolution) streaming data at high refresh rates (90Hz) to create the sense of 3D virtual reality.
Vive is built from the ground up for room-scale VR, which allows users to physically move around objects in virtual space.
With an adjustable headset and multiple eye relief adjustments, including lens distance andinterpupillary distance, Vive is comfortable and clear.The wireless controllers designed just for VR make for natural and intuitive interactions.
Although there are many affordable VR headsets in the market, the experience using them compared to Vive is different.
“You can virtually walk and touch the things you see in this new version of VR, making the experience surreal,” says Tan.
“In the not-to-distance future, SteamVR headsets will be more affordable and are expected to be an alternative to laptops. People will wear them like sunglasses.”
Currently such device is priced at RM5,000 and above.
MAKING LIFE EASIER
SteamVR headsets like the HTC Vive will make activities like shopping, buying property and travelling easier.
Tan says online retailers will be able to set up a virtual mall and let people walk in it, select and buy products like in a real mall, but in the comfort of their home.
“The same goes for buying a property. Buyers can just wear the VR headgear and walk into the ‘house’.”
Meanwhile, for travelling, one can walk the streets of New York, for example, or be at the North Pole without having to leave home.
VR application and education, construction, engineering, oil and gas will drive the technology adoption.
HOW IT STARTED
VR Lab was founded last November by Tan and her husband Datuk Jack Tang.
Tan, who has a degree in marketing from Nottingham Trent University, has been in various business ventures since the age of 18.
At 23, she started an education business called Master Mind Training Academy to provide financial education to students and corporations.
She taught students cash flow games, taking into account their dreams.
She then moved into the property business before starting the VR venture.
Her husband worked as a waiter at a cyber cafe before picking up IT skills.
“He comes from a middle income family that faced financial difficulties during his teenage years. Determined to help, he started a home-run IT business at 17 and made his first million by 23,” says Tan.
To date, Tang has founded numerous companies in various sectors— virtual reality, property management, Internet services, food and beverage, education and electrical consulting work.
“With the years in business, we foresee the potential in VR and worked with HTC and MSI for the equipment,” says Tan.
Tan aims to be more that just a VR experience provider.
“We are also into VR content creation and have an incubation centre in Sunway to develop content and applications for VR,” she says.
“In the long run, we want to be known as the pioneer VR specialist in Malaysia and Southeast Asian region and be a one-stop solution centre for everything related to VR, be it for the corporate or end-consumer.”
VR Lab has seven branches in the Klang Valley and aims to have 30 by the end of the year in places like Penang and Johor Baru under a franchise programme.