Austin tech company teases future of virtual reality via immersive ‘domes’

AUSTIN (KXAN) — While virtual reality technology isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s taking center stage as one of the main topics at the 2022 South by Southwest conference and festivals, with 50 events on the schedule. this year related to metaverse and virtual reality technology. For an Austin company, they said this wave of interest has been brewing for decades, with more immersive content and uses on the horizon.

Omnispace360 is an Austin-based virtual reality company specializing in immersive dome technology and video projection mapping. What began as immersive elements for planetariums has expanded into live sports and music entertainment, science and art exhibits, and immersive marketing tools.

Their approach is different from VR technology, which can often take the form of individual headsets as opposed to a defined or designated environment. Chris Lawes, CEO of Omnispace360, said he wanted to help create a multi-user experience where people can physically come together and interact with virtual technology in real time.

“When you’re in an immersive environment that projects light and sound, you can really get lost in it,” he said. “You’re with your friends, you’re with people and you can interact and you can see other people’s reactions and everything in real time. And there is something very powerful in that.

Omnispace360’s portfolio includes everything from planetarium domes, hot air balloon exhibits and PGA Tour domes to projection mapping at Super Bowl LIV in Miami and Super Bowl LII in Atlanta.

At this year’s SXSW, Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed his company’s plans for the “metaverse,” an immersive virtual reality system where users can engage for business, personal, and Entertainment.

As with all social media options, security remains at the forefront of concerns that VR technicians will face.

“Certainly when you engage millions of users on a shared network, you know, a lot of the security issues that social networks have right now will only be exacerbated by that,” said Matthew Fannon, chief marketing officer. from Omnispace360. and executive producer.

With a centralized VR dome, Lawes said it limits the volume of IP addresses and networks that can be threatened by hackers, compared to some single-user gear. He added that Omnispace360 has protective measures such as firewalls and technicians on site to monitor the system.

But he stressed that user safety and security is not just about the threat of potential hacking, but about being aware of the physical or psychological consequences that immersive environments can cause if not managed properly.

“There’s a certain level of confidence that you’re not going to hit them with crazy strobe lights, or something really abrupt and intense that’s actually going to be unpleasant and not be a fun, suspenseful experience anymore. “, Lawes said.

While VR technology has been widely used in games and entertainment, immersive technology has expanded beyond alternative industries.

Marketing companies are using virtual reality as a way to develop a more convenient interactive opportunity for customers to interact with products. Employers, and especially medical or first responder services, can use virtual reality for interactive training programs, while the technology has also been used as a treatment option for post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues. of physical and mental health.

Regardless of the specific use of the technology, Lawes said that, at its core, VR can create a single, unified virtual experience.

“I think there’s a lot of power in creating memorable shared experiences, and it brings us together. And I think it’s an important time in the world right now to remember that and to remember that we’re all one global people, we’re all one global society,” Lawes said. “I really believe there are ways to try, you know, to actively cultivate harmony in the world.”