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VR Observer was fortunate enough to sit down with Mark Miles, founder and CEO of Render, a leading UK VR agency. Mark is a pioneer of VR technology and over the last year, he and his team have worked with Airbus, HTC Vive and BNP Paribas, among others.


VRO: Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background and what brought you to Virtual and Augmented Realities (VR/AR)?


MM: My background is in multi-media design and skills development. I was working with a local company building computer-based training using Macromedia Director to teach people to use logistic software MS Office, the applications we used created very flat 2d graphics, one day a friend of mine was selling a PC with 3D Studio for DOS on there and the rest as they say is history.

I have always been drawn to an interactive space because it presents the artist or designer a canvas of unlimited size on which to create content. I first started to play with VRML and publishing primitive shapes and viewing these and feeling that there was the potential to use interactive content to great effect. After VRML came Cult 3D which allowed you to publish online and offline interactive 3D models of products that you could navigate around in real-time.

I moved on from skills development to work for a company set up from ex Sony Computer entertainment guys who wanted to take real-time from games for education, the result was Kar2ouche an educational platform still used in schools to this day, it went on to win numerous awards and was nominated for a BAFTA.

After Immersive education I worked for Gerry Anderson at Pinewood studios on the CGI version of Captain Scarlett that lasted for near 2 years and I have never had such an amazing time with a team of around 150 animators creating some amazing content that still stands up today after nearly 12 years.

We played with pre-rendered CGI over the next 10 years whilst in the background looking at web based interactive 3D as the pull from the VRML days was still ever present in the back of my mind. When the first dev kits came out for Oculus and the Vive we had already a lot of assets we had produced for clients and for us it was a case of repurposing assets to allow an entirely different platforms that allow businesses to allow their customers to easily experience their products. Interactive is now at the point with AR & VR that we can tell exactly the types of stories with content that we have been striving to do the past 15 years. Our 15 years in using and understanding CAD has been the best foundation as we completely understand how industry can use this.


VRO: How would you explain what Render is doing to someone who has never heard of VR/AR?


MM: To me quite simply VR and AR allows you to experience your USP. If print allows you to read, video allows you to listen and watch content, AR and VR allows you to experience content. The narrative is non-linear which means that the story unfolds and is discovered by the user instead of passively being seen or heard on a click and play.


VRO: What has been your single greatest challenge?


MM: Educating industry as to what VR and AR can do, because people have a mixed response when they think of VR. We were at CES in January with HTC Vive and outside on the main halls we saw so many companies all competing to create the lowest cost headset that you place a phone in and to a lot of people this is what they think VR is. Of course this is only a option of VR and so many of the headset manufacturers go under within a year because there not much in the way of a differentiator in their product whereas HTC, and Google, and Oculus and Microsoft are seeking to adapt on each of their platforms and remain to be innovative.


VRO: Tell us how you addressed it, and what you learned as a result.


MM: Creating purposeful content and case studies is the best way to educate your audience and for us to share what we are doing in industry to deliver enterprise applications has seen a big shift in mind set in our audience. As well as showcasing what VR and AR can do we are also educating industry to the value of their own assets so that they can find an entry point to a more immersive and interactive platform by looking at what they have done to date and understanding the value of their assets that they hold and looking at how they can make the shift to VR and AR platforms


VRO: What is the most surprising thing you have learned observing people interacting with VR/AR? Lessons learned?


MM: The VR effect, is when people feel that complete immersion, even though they know they are in an office or exhibition, in any given situation there is still that apprehension if they find themselves flying in a cockpit of a plane or stepping out from a helicopter. It doesn’t matter how many times they do the same experience it’s like their senses are always completely tricked, I love it to see people’s reactions when it feels real!


VRO: What do you see as the future of VR/AR, and how will Render play a part in this?


MM: To me my personal benchmark is the real world, to be able to recreate content that looks as photoreal as the world around us is a real driver for me, we are still optimising and really creating experiences as thought we are making computer games and still using the same workflows as studios but for enterprise we need to look at different ways of working that takes a degree of the manual optimisation and preparation of the model out of the equation to make this more attractive.


We will be looking to develop bespoke applications for enterprise and industry so that the front wrapper and variables are contained within an application. We will enable users to change content, to customise experiences dependant on the audience and we will deliver immersive applications for industry that allow their customers to easily experience their products, process, and services.


VRO: Tell us how these innovations are redefining a new world of experience and the potential they have on our everyday lives.


MM: I simply think AR and VR are amazing visualisation tools to allow us to see and interact with in an entirely different way. I think that we are simply scratching the surface with VR and AR at the moment there are some bottlenecks and workflows that need to be revisited and when these hurdles become overcome it will clear the path for a new wave of content.


I think VR will play a big role in unifying large global businesses to reduce silos between divisions of these businesses, and allow people to interact in a way that shares information and knowledge and make informed decisions far more quickly than we do today, I especially think VR will disrupt conferencing and events and we have our own thoughts and applications centred around this that we are developing.


VRO: What excites you most about VR/AR?


MM: The most amazing thing is that the ingredients that make VR have been around for years, imagery, audio, 3D scanning and 3d modelling. And the technology to create this. When the dev kits and game engines came out at a price point that was easily accessible it allowed me to rethink who we combine these ingredients to make an entirely different applications and experiences.


VRO: Am I missing anything? Is there something you wish people would ask you?


MM: I don’t think there is any problem people having to ask me anything as I could talk forever. We are going all out to create content that we can share that educates audiences as to what VR can do and the benefits across industry. In essence this answers the question of “What does VR and AR mean for me and how can I use this in my business”


We speak to a lot of marketer’s and a lot of people think that VR is a throwaway piece of content because they are comparing this to a film for a campaign which is completely the opposite because the potential is more huge than that and is more far reaching across different areas of a business.


Originally published in The Observer