Virtual reality is both literally and figuratively a ‘game changer’.
And one young passionate tech head is hoping to take advantage of its potential in Ballarat.
Rhyan Cook opened Oasis VR in December 2017.
He has worked to set up four cutting edge wireless virtual reality gaming experiences at his Sturt Street gaming space.
The upstairs shop also offers 3D printing and other computer services.
Now Cook wants to build the virtual reality experience to appeal to people of all ages and abilities in Ballarat, and take advantage of the potential for technology to assist in education and aged care.
Cook first used virtual reality technology for gaming in 2012 on an early version of the Oculus, one brand of virtual reality technology.
He was immediately excited by its potential. Since, technology has rapidly changed and improved.
No one knows what to expect until they get in there. It just blows them away.Rhyan Cook, Oasis VR
According to Cook, wireless technology is now the biggest factor when it comes to complete immersion in a virtual world.
That’s why he travelled to China last year to be one of the first people to bring cutting edge wireless technology in Australia.
Most other virtual reality gaming centres in Australia still offer an experience where complete immersion is hindered by a heavy and bulky backpack of equipment.
With wireless technology, almost nothing in reality is noticeable once in the virtual world.
Users at Oasis VR put on a headset which covers the eyes with a screen and hold light controllers in both hands. A small battery pack is connected by a belt around the waist.
A square space is marked out with tape on the floor to limit movement. The boundaries are reflected in the game as virtual walls.
Watch the video with Oasis VR founder Rhyan Cook below.
Cook says it’s hard to understand what a virtual experience is like until one enters the world for themselves.
“You could look at what he is playing right now or I could show you a video online, but it just doesn’t do it justice,” he said.
“Until you jump in and check it out it is completely different. Everyone who has tried it has had a blast.”
Virtual reality programs take users into a virtual world, in either a gaming or experience sense. The technology can take users to any location in the world. Or they can create their own world, using programs like Tilt Brush.
Oasis VR offered a Tilt Brush gaming experience during White Night Ballarat. The program allows users to create virtual paintings in the game and manipulate shapes and designs by creating movement with music.
Since opening, Cook has been working to build up membership numbers and has continued experimenting with a long held interest in 3D printing.
Those wanting to experience virtual reality can book in for a one off session or join Oasis VR as a member.
Cook emphasised gaming in virtual reality was nothing like gaming on a couch.
“One of our members reckons he has lost five kilograms in two weeks from playing. He comes in, puts his gym shoes on and goes crazy.
“I know if I try a new game and there is a lot of ducking and weaving, the next day my legs will feel like I have been to a gym.”
Oasis VR offers free gaming sessions to anyone aged over 65, in the hope it will open the elderly up to trying the virtual experience.
“Mitch’s (member) grandparents came in once. They put it on and loved it,” he said. “The first time my Dad tried it he played for hours. Now he says he wants to go on at home…
“No one knows what to expect until they get in there and it just blows them away.”
Virtual reality is a relatively new business venture for Cook. He admits starting Oasis VR was a risk.
As well as VR, he has continued to follow one of his biggest passions – 3D printing.
He has helped schools set up 3D printers and design their own syllabus for its use in education.
“3D printing is still one of my biggest passions because I see that as transformative in education for students,” Cook said.
“For example, these printers I have cost $650, but I also have printers that cost $150. The students get the educational syllabus, they put the printer together and see how it works.”
Cook told of a time when he broke his hand and used a 3D printer to make a cast.
“The cast I originally had was not very comfortable. I ended up scanning my hand and 3D printing a cast. I talked to the hand therapist and they absolutely loved it. It egged me on to go further.”
Cook is excited by the potential for virtual reality to make an impact in a number of sectors in Ballarat. He says the technology could be transformative for so many.
He has been in contact with staff at aged care facilities who are interested in providing a virtual experience for their residents.
“They could experience a totally different place they can no longer go with Google Earth virtual reality. If you want to go to Paris you can go to Paris and be in the streets,” he said.
“For schools it would be amazing to visit the world by putting a head set on, and they could use education games for example in physics and art.”
It is virtually unlimited.Rhyan Cook, Oasis VR
Cook also sees potential for use of virtual reality technology in real estate, to allow buyers or renters to virtually inspect homes.
“It could apply to anything from real estate to virtually inspecting warehouses, training for CFA staff and police, safety inspections and training for doctors. It is virtually unlimited.”
Cook said what Oasis VR will look like in the future is unknown, but he is hoping to build the virtual reality experience to appeal to the wider Ballarat community.
He plans to begin creating his own unique gaming content and transform the space to reflect his initial vision of a lounge and cafe type area where people can play and ‘hang out’.
In the meantime, he will continue to keep up to date with the newest technology.
“There is more technology that will come out,” Cook said.
“There are gloves so if you are touched in virtual reality you also feel it in real life. It’s just a matter of time before that becomes a bit more mainstream just like the wireless adapters we had to travel to China to get.
“You can scan yourself using a 3D printer and put yourself into a game. One of our DJs has done a live DJ set in virtual reality. You can do any sort of live performance in the game.
“What you can do is unlimited.”
HEALTH SECTOR TRIALS VIRTUAL REALITY
“Not so far in the future, doctors might prescribe a virtual beach vacation to calm aches and pains...
“Psychiatrists might treat social phobia by inviting patients to a virtual dinner party. Hospitals may immerse children in a fantastical playland while they receive chemotherapy.”
These are the possibilities of virtual reality outlined in the Medical Journal of Australia on September 17.
Studies reveal virtual reality has the potential to reduce pain, manage anxiety and improve mental health across a range of conditions.
The availability of low cost and portable virtual reality technology is supporting a new discipline called therapeutic VR.
The medical journal report found providing an immersive, multi-sensory and three dimensional environment can help control pain, provide a positive distraction during routine procedures like dental work and inserting an intravenous drip, and can help treat anxiety disorders.
A study conducted in a Los Angeles hospital compared a three-dimensional VR pain distraction experience to a two-dimensional high definition nature video. It found a majority of patients using VR experienced greater pain reduction than those watching the nature video.
Not so far in the future, doctors might prescribe a virtual beach vacation to calm aches and pains.Medical Journal of Australia
But it remains unknown exactly how VR works to reduce pain perception.
“Most proposed mechanisms attribute the benefit to simple distraction. When the mind is deeply engaged in an immersive experience, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to perceive stimuli outside of the field of attention,” the report said.
It revealed VR could also be used for psychiatry, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and helping patients to challenge their phobias.
Researchers are now studying the role of VR in stroke rehabilitation, autism and dementia.
“In the United Kingdom, geriatricians are using VR in nursing homes to awaken the spirits of older people with dementia. By transporting patients to exotic destinations and engaging them with immersive games, researchers are uncovering latent personality traits,” the report states.
While research is continuing in the field of therapeutic VR, the technology is being used to train and prepare paramedics to respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
Watch the video about VR training for paramedics below.
Edith Cowan University is using VR to train paramedics to respond to mass casualty events.
Paramedics must interact with characters in the virtual world, assessing their vital signs and breathing rate. They are asked to decide the order of treatment depending on the severity of their wounds.
Live simulations have been used to train students in the past.
ECU paramedic lecturer Peggy Dykstra is undertaking PhD research on the use of VR for paramedic training.
She said student’s immersion, performance and satisfaction with the VR simulation would be compared to a live simulation.
“This will tell us if VR can be used as an immersive and cost effective way to train for mass casualty events,” she said.