PRINT 18’s VR Experience Takes Attendees Where They’ve Never Been Before
Think stepping inside a running printing press is truly impossible? Think again! Thanks to virtual reality (VR) technology, which can take any larger-than-life scenario and turn it into an accessible experience with the help of a state-of-the-art headset, PRINT 18 attendees can watch rollers roll and gears turn in a fully immersive exhibit-floor VR experience. This interactive virtual pressroom, which showcases the inner workings of big iron offset and digital printing presses, is developed through a partnership between the Association for PRINT Technologies and Clemson University’s Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics.
The PRINT 18 Team spoke with VR experts Bobby Congdon, assistant director, and Nate Newsome, research associate in virtual reality, about the technology and what users can expect from this new PRINT 18 feature.
PRINT 18 TEAM: How did you team up with the Association for PRINT Technologies to develop this experience?
Bobby Congdon: The Association reached out to us because we have created similar experiences in consumer behavior settings. They thought it would be an interesting way to view the presses that can’t always be brought to the event because of size and cost. Now, we can bring them virtually.
PRINT 18 TEAM: What can PRINT attendees expect?
Nate Newsome: What we are creating is a virtual reality experience in which users put on a headset and “walk” into a running press, in a 20’ x 20’ booth (847). Users will be able to walk around and, through the use of handheld controllers, interact with the inner workings of that world to fully explore the space like never before. The idea is to demonstrate some of the new features the press manufacturer wants to showcase—whatever makes it unique and special.
BC: By walking through the press, you’ll be able to see the ink rollers and the substrate moving through the press simulating print—to view the internal press mechanisms you can’t see in real life.
PRINT 18 TEAM: What makes the PRINT event the perfect opportunity to debut this VR experience?
NN: PRINT has always been the proven stage to debut the “What’s New” in printing. There are several facets to it: Manufacturers of large machinery are able to show off the insides of machines that people typically aren’t able to see. It would take a lot for a manufacturer to shut down a press for training purposes. It’s easier, safer and much more cost effective to do that virtually. While VR started within the gaming industry, we are starting to see more and more industries incorporate it, especially for safety trainings. Now that the gaming industry has gotten VR down to a more affordable price point, it’s easy to acquire a headset and controller. The technology is there; the next piece is developing the content.
BC: Over the past few years, we’ve noticed that a lot of companies are doing video demos in their trade show booths, but a lot of them are not fully executed. It may be a 360-degree video, for example. What we are doing here is creating a fully immersive VR simulation that is fully modeled with high-quality visuals and interactive experiences.
PRINT 18 TEAM: Can you explain the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality?
NN: In VR, all the content is virtual—you are looking at a screen through a headset. In augmented reality, you’re looking at a transparent display that puts visual images into the real world. You’re seeing that a lot with smart phones now—mixing the real world with the digital world. What we are doing is showing elements of the real world. You are fully immersed in a digital environment with virtual walls around you.
PRINT 18 TEAM: What does the future hold for VR?
NN: There are tons of possibilities. VR has been around for a long time. What’s new is that it’s cheaper and more advanced now than it’s ever been. You can see things and hear things and reach out and experience virtual objects. There is so much potential for education—particularly on the use of heavy equipment. Rather than simply watching a training video, you can actually get inside the inner workings of the machinery and witness safety implications without any dangerous consequences. The possibilities are endless.
The VR Experience will take place in the RED HOT Opportunities area (Booth 847) on the PRINT 18 exhibit floor. Each experience lasts five to seven minutes; no prior experience with VR is required.
For more on VR and augmented reality, attend the “Augmented Reality 2.0” session Monday, October 1 at 9:00 AM, Room S102CD.