Demystifying the hype surrounding VR and AR in Malaysia

  • The year of VR and AR is not here yet, be prepared to invest for the long term
  • Entrepreneurs encouraged to accept the challenge to create more content

 

Demystifying the hype surrounding VR and AR in Malaysia

 

THERE is a lot of hype surrounding Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). But in order to distinguish fact from fiction, the Global Entrepreneurship Movement (GEM) recently organised a roundtable session in Universiti Malaya that gathered a panel of some the best subject matter experts in the industry.

The panel included VR Lab co-founder Shireen Tan, Havson Group managing director Havene Liew, Streamline Media Group chief executive officer Alexander L. Fernandez and Wariscan founder Hilman Nordin while Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) vice president of creative content and technologies Hasnul Hadi Samsudin moderated the panel.

Havson’s Liew finds that both VR and AR are exciting new mediums for interactive content. The veteran game developer and VR content creator is of the opinion that though companies may not be raking in the cash now, they would need to invest in the technology for the long term to reap the benefits.

Echoing Liew’s sentiment was Streamline Media’s Fernandez who admitted that every new technology needs some hype to get it noticed. As a studio that specialises in doing outsourcing work for triple A console games, he has observed the increased demand for VR content.

Streamline previously worked on Square Enix’s Monsters of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV a VR game in 2017 that brought players into the realm of Final Fantasy.

To Fernandez, VR’s adoption is ushered by hardware like the PlayStation VR which has sold more than two million units to date, thus allowing users to experience it home.

Not limited to just the home, location-based entertainment in the form of VR theme parks and experience centres are on the rise.

In Malaysia, VR Labs’ approach has been to open several experience centres across Malaysia, of which they have nine, that have the objective of educating customers and allowing them to experience VR first hand.

Meanwhile, Havson Group through its VR development arm Dutajaya Media (DJM) said it has successfully distributed its very own EXA VR crafted experiences for theme parks like The Rift in Mid Valley Megamall.

To date, Havson has exported its EXA VR experiences to multiple countries including Taiwan, Japan, and China.

Not just fun and games

Beyond being used for entertainment, the two technologies can be used in other verticals such as education, training and property selling. Malaysian-based startup Wariscan aims to preserve Malaysia’s cultural heritage through the use of VR and AR technology. Founder Hilman Nordin’s believes that there still needs to be a lot of education to create more awareness of the technology.

Wariscan has worked with the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and the Telegraph Museum in Taiping to digitise their content. 

VR Labs is focusing on the property market with its V-Prop Touch solution that it hopes will do away with expensive showrooms and enable the viewing of new properties in a VR environment. VR Labs had secured UEM Sunrise as their first property client and has worked with them to promote upcoming projects in Johor Bahru, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“We view this as the future of property selling as not only does it saves time and money but makes it more convenient for all parties,” said Tan.

Challenges to overcome

For VR and AR to flourish in Malaysia there are a few challenges that need to be overcome. The first is the high barrier to entry due to the price of VR and AR hardware. VR Lab’s Tan explained that for many, owning VR-capable PC hardware is far too expensive hence these centres allow casual users to experience quality VR experiences.

Even new VR headsets like the all-in-one Oculus Go are relatively expensive in Malaysia.

For those in the creative industry, the hardware for development is difficult to access and expensive to buy off the shelf, as attested by pioneers like Havson who have been developing VR content since the release of the first Oculus VR headset back in 2013.

Fortunately, there are avenues for those in the industry who want to try their hand at VR development. Among them is through MDEC’s game incubator Level Up Inc in Bangsar South that has development kits of platforms like the PlayStation VR and Microsoft HoloLens.

Tan also says that interested developers can go to co-working space CO3 Social Office in Puchong where they can gain access to a Virtual Reality Hub to try out VR development kits.

The other pertinent question is the talent pool in Malaysia and whether there is enough to go around to support the development of new VR and AR content. The panel universally agreed that any new hire they take need not necessarily have a specialisation in VR or AR development.

“If a candidate has the patience and knack for software they can be a game developer. All they need is to have a strong foundation in coding and they can create,” said Liew whose company Havson has trained its own internal pool of VR talent.

Streamline’s Fernandez concurred that many VR and AR developers who work in the game industry pick the skill up as they go. “You don’t need a specialist, so long as they are willing to adapt and start making stuff that is good enough,” he said.

Though VR and AR may not have arrived just yet, there needs to be a concerted effort to creating more content to further encourage usage. Liew views the market for VR and AR to still be a blue ocean and encourages developers thinking of entering the space to make take up the challenge as they could make the next big hit.

 

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