The expert, Prof Matthias Husinsky, on the potential of VR and AR applications in the field of architecture, and where we will be in 2030 in terms of the digital transformation.
Finest Interior Award: Virtual Reality (VR) und Augmented Reality (AR) are booming and becoming increasingly available to the masses. How do you explain this trend?
Matthias Husinsky: In terms of the concept, we are not dealing with a new kind of technology here, because there were prototypes for AR and VR applications as far back as 40 years ago. What’s new in this case is the fact that the necessary technology has now become affordable for the wider public as well, and so it’s available to users outside academia and industry. Compared to screen-based media, the experience is much more encompassing, because you can be completely immersed in virtual worlds (VR) or you can add a virtual level to reality (AR, MR). Mankind has always found narrative stories fascinating and making them come alive with the help of new media has always been successful.
Immersive technologies are also actually taught these days. You run the Augmented and Virtual Reality Master’s Course at the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences in Austria. What does this advance mean for society?
What ‘advance in society’ means is a philosophical question which cannot be discussed in just a few words, and also, it’s still difficult, at the moment, to predict how norms in society will be changed by this new medium. It can be assumed that there will be changes in the medium term because every new form of media technology has had a broad impact on society.
To what extent will modern VR and AR technology affect our daily lives in the future?
I anticipate that it’ll be predominantly AR technologies, in the form of HMDs (head-mounted displays, or glasses), that become as widespread and popular as smartphones are today. It is not possible to predict the timescale in which this will happen – it could be 5 years or 20 years. AR technologies have an enormous application potential in everyday life and the professional domain; I see VR technologies, on the other hand, being used primarily in the entertainment sector or for special applications, when the illusion of complete immersion in another world or place becomes necessary.
Sectors such as architecture are experiencing a transformation because of VR and AR. Where do you see the dangers with this, and what is the potential?
I see enormous potential for the architectural sector, because it’s possible to visualise things that are invisible. Whether it’s to be able to gauge the impact a building will have, as early as the planning stage, or to be able to detect errors early on. During construction, as well, deviations from the plan in reality can be quickly identified, or hidden elements, such as pipelines, can be integrated directly into reality and visualised. Studies have shown that, particularly with construction processes, the probability that mistakes will be made during the implementation phase is lower, if AR support is used in the process.
In what other areas of life will VR/AR applications still surprise us?
There will probably be no area of life that AR technology, in particular, does not penetrate, so I’d actually be more surprised if the technology were not used in some or other area of life.
Are we as humans made for dealing with virtual reality or even augmented reality anyway?
Human beings are extremely adaptable: what was still seen as science fiction a short time ago will become part of normality in the space of a few years.
In your opinion, how real can the virtual world become?
This question can be answered on a number of different levels. Seen from a purely technical perspective, it will still be some time before reality, with all its sensuality, can be simulated in an indistinguishable virtual environment. As far as media reality is concerned, we are already seeing today, with current technologies, the extent to which people construct a reality for themselves using information conveyed by the media – but that is nothing out of the ordinary. AR and VR technologies, then, just constitute an additional medium for doing this.
Where will we be in 2030 in terms of AR and VR?
I believe that AR glasses will no longer be anything out of the ordinary in 2030. The thing that does cause me concern is that these technologies depend heavily on constantly registering their surroundings. This might mean that a private sphere becomes the exception for us. We will be playing information about our lives into the hands of providers of social media platforms, to an even greater extent than we do today. In this respect, it’s the responsibility of policy makers to find and implement proportionate regulation to preserve the rights of individuals.
About Matthias Husinsky
Matthias Husinsky is Lecturer in Media Technology, Digital Media Technologies, Smart Engineering and Digital Healthcare degree courses at St.Pölten University of Applied Sciences. He is concerned with immersive technologies and their application for work processes in industry, healthcare and the media, working primarily as the interface for data from the Internet of Things (IoT).
Photo: FH-St. Pölten / Photo Kraus
Architects need to gear themselves up, if they too are to continue to play a part in the future.
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