Everybody has heard of virtual reality (VR), but not everybody knows how far it has come since its invention in the late 1980s. Back then, the technology simply wasn’t sophisticated enough to deliver a credible and immersive VR experience, so VR faded from the public imagination and was seen to only have a limited field of application. It was kept alive in the wilderness years by the US military, NASA and big players in film making, such as Disney. In recent years, millions of dollars in research and development have been poured into VR by tech titans like Google and Facebook – companies always searching for the cutting edge and ways to expand their business.

What is virtual reality?VR can be defined as a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way. The user wears special equipment such as a headset, helmet or gloves with sensors, to immerse themselves into this simulated world. The perception of VR gamers wearing bulky, unwieldy headsets is changing, as the design of these has evolved into something more streamlined and attractive. It’s true that in the early days, gaming was the driving force behind VR. That continues to some degree today, with hugely successful companies such as US-based ‘The Void’ offering VR gaming at its finest.

A UK tech success storyWe tend to associate the US with advances in the tech space, but the UK plays host to a number of emerging success stories. One notable example is Amplified Robot, a London-based digital development studio. Formed in 2014 by Steve Dann, the company brings together artists, designers and programmers to explore how emerging technologies like VR can be utilised in the creative industries and beyond. Amplified Robot has made leaps and bounds in this area and one of its associated companies, Medical Realities, is using VR technology to train surgeons. As a result, it’s clear that VR is not just about entertainment and gaming, but has many practical, real world uses too.

Managing rapid growthIn spite of having been around for 30 years, VR is now emerging as a technology of many applications, with firms like Amplified Robot at the forefront of this innovative movement. From our perspective, scale-up companies like these can often benefit from advantageous tax reliefs such as EIS relief on new investment and R&D tax credits relief on the development of new technologies. To find out more about these opportunities, please contact me.

By Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services, Smith & Williamson

Originally posted on Smith & Williamson