A GROUND-BREAKING event offering visitors to Oxford a glimpse into the brave new world of virtual reality (VR) is set to take place next month.
The first in a series of Oxford Virtual Reality Conferences on cutting-edge developments locally and further afield is set to take place in Rose Hill at the end of March.
Organiser Derek James, a multimedia consultant from Blackbird Leys, is hoping the event will shine a light on how VR could change a variety of industries forever.
The 54-year-old, who formerly worked at Blackbird Leys Community Centre, said: "The world we live in now has changed. It's a whole different ball game.
"I'm doing this because at the moment all of the attention is being focused on technologies that are arriving in two to three years' time, but not the things being done now.
"The event in March will take speakers from different areas to give people tasters of the potential for it in medicine, in education, in sports, in film and in music."
VR involves using computer-generated simulations to give users experiences that feel close to real life, using equipment such as headsets or gloves fitted with sensors.
It has rocketed to fame through the video game industry but also has uses in medicine, treating disorders such as phantom limb syndrome and PTSD, and education.
Headsets can cost from £13 for a cheap model that connects to a smart phone up to £549 for the Oculus Rift platform or £3,000 for the Microsoft Hololens.
Mr James said: "People are trying to make a lot of this stuff at the high end but I believe there are lots of things you can do at the lower end; everybody has a smartphone.
"The profits are not as big but from a community standpoint, if an education organisation can impact the way it's teaching, it's a good result."
The first event will begin in Rose Hill Community Centre at 9.30am with a workshop, The Magic Carpet Club, showing how VR can improve children's maths skills.
Visitors can also listen to talks on VR in reality TV and documentaries, the growth of Oculus and improving Olympic-level sporting talent using VR.
Dr Xue Zhang, a martial arts expert and self defence instructor from Cowley, will discuss the potential of VR to mentally prepare and train the body for certain sports.
He said: "If you hook an athlete into sophisticated machinery and tell them to mentally run a 100m race, it activates every single muscle involved in that run even though they're lying there not doing anything.
"Is it possible to learn martial arts in that way? Yes. If you are able to visualise it in the mind, for the most part you can get there in the body."
Dr Zhang, who has been teaching martial arts for 12 years, said he would consider incorporating VR into his own sessions and the event could prove to be 'fascinating'.
He said: "People have talked about VR and there have been some studies, but I think a formalised conference is going to be very rewarding."
Members of the public and professionals from all sectors who would like to attend should call Derek James on 07472 372 272.