Tuesday 13 April 2021
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Virtual Reality: Promoting An Innovative And Creative Africa

Virtual Reality: Promoting An Innovative And Creative Africa


Disruptive Technology has now effectively placed itself as the epitome of all forms of digital Innovation. The whole world and Africa should embrace these technologies as they are born out of the human need to connect, engage and interact.

Virtual Reality (VR) is one such disruptive technology. Over the last few years, VR has literally changed the way customers interact with products and how employers interact with employees. In fact, VR is applicable to different forms of communication and marketing; therefore, it’s been largely misunderstood and considered a mere source of entertainment. It’s ability as a major business tool, easy to ignore.

In technical terms VR is an interactive three-dimensional, computer generated environment. Audio and Visual senses are incorporated in providing an immersive experience that provides a profound reality to people. This environment is similar to real world and also quite futuristic as it allows people to experience a not so ordinary reality.

The technology that currently supports VR makes use of virtual reality headsets (Gear VR, HTC Vive) which relay content in a mobile/digital device. Multi-projected environments are also useful in providing the simulative experiences.

“As a company, our VR journey started through our involvement in the production of a 360° narrative of the transport infrastructure in Gauteng, recording and piecing everything together provided us with a more in-depth perception of our African cities. The My City in 360° Johannesburg video is a project we will always look back and consider as the first of its kind,” says Lebohang Letsapa, director of Outpost VR South Africa and also one of the first black females to own a VR company in South Africa.

The uptake of Virtual Reality in the business space has been overwhelming, especially in customer services and digital marketing tools. Media companies in South Africa and other parts of Africa have adopted this form and also gone on to also make use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR).

Augmented Reality can also be considered a form of VR that layers virtual information over a live camera feed into a headset or through a smartphone or tablet device giving the user the ability to view three-dimensional images. AR allows more interactive experiences in realtime.

In providing her opinion on the constraints faced by VR content creators, Lebohang had this to say, “Content creators are often faced with a more ambiguous challenge when it comes to providing an interpretation of their creative efforts and how their prescribed form impacts the success of their work.  Many experiences have been shared so far and each day we continue to create more innocent and authentic digital experiences. Hardware and software constraints are still a big issue; but, the technology continues to grow and develop.”

Rick Treweek, co-owner of Eden Labs South Africa, couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm about VR following an earlier visit to Senegal with his team, “It was an absolute pleasure to travel to Dakar to facilitate a week long Augmented and Virtual Reality workshop, as part of Afropixel6 during Biennale Dak’Art. We met some really great artists and makers, shared some new skills, and learnt some new ones ourselves (our French is sounding ‘magnifique’).” Two 360° films and 7 art pieces were created during the workshop.

Dak’Art is a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years in Dakar, Senegal since 1990. It is a platform for showcasing contemporary art with cultural roots in Africa, and has over the years also given space to digital arts and technology. The event has been instrumental in promoting an innovative and creative Africa to the whole world.

The general global population has slowly adopted this technology in capturing picture perfect moments, conducting training, providing virtual assessments and also as a good gaming platform. There is just no end to what VR is capable of doing and to what effect.

Rick further emphasized the need to invest in disruptive technologies in the continent, “Africa needs to do more with digital technologies and further develop solutions that are designed to cater for African needs, perhaps this can help simplify learning or the way people in an organization relate with one another.”

Further simplifying the technology so that it manages to bridge the generational age gape can be a major positive. VR has been predominantly adopted by organisations in an effort to reach out to audiences that are tech-curious and are more invested in experiencing the products before making the choice of either buying or moving right along.

Virtual Reality has now found its place in modern technology.