Reality Check: VR Technology Revolutionizing Wide Range of Industries

VR Technology Revolutionizing Wide Range of Industries
Mackevision “virtual promoter” technology lets users explore menus using hand gestures. Photo by Trever Long

Bluewater Technologies specializes in “experiential marketing.”

That’s a high-tech approach to engaging consumers utilizing a variety of methods including virtual reality (VR) technology.

“We’re fluent with capturing and distributing content to the various channels available for VR consumption … since you can view the content through a browser or completely immerse users into the environment using a headset, there really is no limit to where you might find this technology being used,” according to a company blog.

And there is no limit to the possibilities in Oakland County, where a number of companies are making significant advancements in the growing field of computer-generated 3D images and environments. While VR is slowly becoming more common in computer gaming and entertainment, the technology promises to be a game-changer in research and development, health care, defense and more.

“It’s mind-boggling,” says Doug Magyari, CEO and CTO of Immy, a privately held Troy firm developing a new kind of VR headset. “Everybody thinks this is out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Silicon Valley, but the answer is no, this is out of Oakland County.”

Immy developed its compact, lightweight headset as an alternative to the clunky, uncomfortable “face bricks” used in most VR applications. Looking more like a set of sports glasses, the Immy headset was developed for the military and uses no lenses other than the viewer’s own eyes.

Also in Troy is Mackevision, a Stuttgart, Germany-based visualization company with 11 worldwide offices. Acquired by Accenture in January 2018, Mackevision designs and produces image and film material, as well as interactive applications and computer-generated imagery. The company’s visual effects were honored with an Emmy Award in 2012 for the second season of Game of Thrones, and it received a second Emmy nomination in July 2018 for its “Outstanding Visual Effects” work on the Netflix series Lost in Space. Mackevision also produces award-winning campaigns for automakers including Porsche, Chrysler and BMW.

“We combine creativity, technology and a great story in order to provide new digital customer experiences for our clients,” Mackevision CEO Armin Pohl says.

Rick Darter, co-founder and CEO of Rave Computer and member of the Automation Alley’s Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Advisory Council, estimates that some 300 companies in southeast Michigan are working in the virtual and augmented reality sector. He’s also developing a master’s program in modeling and visualization with Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

“There are hundreds of companies engaged in these activities operating locally,” Darter says. “Michigan has incredible depth in these technologies. Applications that relate to engineering can be huge for Oakland County.”

Those include training, health care, agriculture, engineering and sales, education and nearly anything else that can be visualized. Darter says he recently viewed a prototype technology to create full body scans of customers to preview and create custom-designed and fitted clothing, while auto dealers are looking at immersive VR experiences to promote their cars.

PixoVR in Royal Oak offers virtual reality training, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance education. The company says VR is more effective, comprehensive and quicker for employee training than traditional methods.

“Virtual reality is extremely valuable in training and in industrial enterprise applications, where augmented reality or mixed reality is far more beneficial than what’s done now,” says Magyari of Immy. “There’s a lot to it, and this area certainly has an opportunity to be a leader.”

This article first appeared in the 2019 edition of Oakland County Prosper magazine. Written by Brian J. O’Connor.