Virtual reality has 'endless' possibilities, expert says

Tom McLaughlin will speak Wednesday at the University of Calgary about the applications of virtual reality. We take a sneak peek at what could be coming.

Technology will be a game changer for education, entertainment

Tom McLaughlin, the CEO of Motion Reality, says virtual reality is being used right now for training in the U.S. army and FBI. The company also won an Oscar for using the technology in films, like Lord of the Rings. (SCI screengrab)

Imagine being able to fully immerse yourself in an alternate universe you've always wanted to explore.

Maybe you're a police officer who needs training to simulate intense, on-the-ground situations. Perhaps you're a golfer looking to analyze the direction of your swing. 

Welcome to the world of immersive virtual reality — also known as "the next big thing" if you ask Tom McLaughlin.

The CEO of Motion Reality says immersive virtual reality, which places someone in a three-dimensional virtual environment, has endless possibilities for education, athletics, entertainment and job training.

"The future of virtual reality is much more than just sitting with a headset on," said McLaughlin, who will speak Wednesday on the topic at the University of Calgary. 

"It's the ability, ultimately, as our system and others are developed for the masses, to really move and experience a virtual world."

Motion Reality partnered with golf company TaylorMade-adidas to create a 3D full body swing analysis, which the company then uses for better club design and fitting. 

A golfer demonstrates Motion Reality's virtual reality golf-swing analysis program at the U of C's Human Performance Lab. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"That system was the first real-time, consumer body-analysis system," he said

McLaughlin has also worked on dozens of films, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, in addition to partnering with defence and policing organizations to provide job training. 

"The consumer perspective of virtual reality is you put on a new headset and you look at a game or some content," McLaughlin said. 

"In our world, we can immerse head-to-toe, up to 12 people in a basketball court size room and they can step into any virtual environment where they are head-to-toe full 3D characters inside a virtual world where they can run and crawl and shoot."

In the future, the cost of the technology will go decrease and become more easily available to the public — something McLaughlin said could be a game changer for education as well. 

"Our children and our children's children will actually be able to step back into history, step into any kind of educational environment where ... they are right in that world," he said.

"The applications are just unlimited."

Motion Reality's golf program uses virtual reality to create a 3D full-body analysis of an athlete's swing. (Monty Kruger/CBC)