UK’s virtual reality tech sector needs industry-agreed standards in order to take off

BSI, the business standards company, has published a report calling for the creation of best practice guidance to grow the nascent virtual and augmented reality sectors.

Virtual and augmented reality is 3D, computer generated imagery which mimics reality.  Augmented reality famously gained widespread awareness amongst the public in 2016 with the arrival of the Pokémon Go game.

The UK is a strong player in the global markets for gaming, video content creation and broadcast – as well as the supporting R&D, education/training, and design and innovation sectors. BSI’s new report, The Requirement for Standards in the VR and AR Sectors, cites the pivotal role that standardization will play in moving virtual/augmented reality technology from the niche to the mainstream.

Standardization could bolster health and safety in the sector, both to protect the user from injury and to safeguard the industry from litigation from users who may have been injured whilst using virtual reality but did not follow safety guidelines. The report suggest that a consumer and enterprise user framework could include guidelines for a safe set-up of the technology; recommends safe immersion periods; user age limits; and content warnings.

Establishing ‘content capture’ best practice guidance is also a key near-term priority for the UK virtual reality industry in order to facilitate the industry in creating high-quality content. With the industry still experimenting with content production processes there is a golden opportunity to establish industry leading best practice. Such standards could cover the following areas: frame rate; resolution/pixel count; audio; compression; file format. Simplifying the terminology used by the sector is a further goal of standardization, with too many acronyms currently being used. 

Industry focused guidelines could extend to content design and production, with standards for a virtual reality headset design, including guidance for weight and display.

With global virtual reality revenues forecast to reach over £6bn by 2021, investment in new technologies to support the continued growth of these sectors is critical in order to ensure the UK is not left behind in the dash to capitalize on virtual reality. The report emphasizes the importance in facilitating development of standards for the teaching of virtual reality in order to ensure that the seeds are planted for a strong local talent pool for the UK tech sector. Establishing UK universities as centres for excellence for the teaching of virtual reality related courses is also cited as a desirable goal.

Anne Hayes, Head of Governance and Resilience at BSI, said: “Virtual reality has jumped from the pages of sci-fi novels to a burgeoning industry with real-world possibilities. This new report highlights the critical role that standardization will play in order for the UK’s technology sectors to fully realize the benefits of virtual reality. Finding areas of common ground for best practice guidance around virtual and augmented reality is in the mutual interest of the industry and the public who will use this technology.”

Futuresource Consulting and the DTG were commissioned by BSI to produce this report.  Research for the report included interviewing over thirty key players from across the design and medical sectors; content capture and production houses; broadcasters and video content distributors.

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