Virtual reality is advancing rapidly. Wearables are becoming less clunky, image resolution is clearer, and the applications in which the burgeoning technology can be applied are numerous. With much of this rapid growth taking place locally on the Eastside and in Seattle, this year’s IMMERSE Technology Summit at the Meydenbauer Center drew in more than 1,000 attendees, all eager to learn, engage, and experience everything VR has to offer.

Chris Donahue, senior director for Alliances AMD provided Immerse attendees with a sneak peek at the future of VR, highlighting how the advancing technology will provide users with access to new experiences (think virtually swapping your gender) and allow for breakthroughs in various fields, like healthcare. For example, Donahue shared an anecdote about a recent Duke University study that used VR to help paraplegics move limbs and even walk again.

Donahue said there are many different fields in which VR can be applied, and he’s looking forward to seeing where that goes. “I’m excited about taking that technology and adapting it for other uses.”

Dr. Sonya Kim also spoke. She’s a board-certified physician who is using VR to increase the quality of care for seniors through her company, One Caring Team. Kim said when seniors become lonely, they tend to stop taking adequate care of themselves, leading to health issues that could have been prevented. For seniors who spend most of their day isolated at home, VR provides a way for them to experience something familiar or a new experience all together, positively impacting their overall health.

Morning presentations concluded with a keynote presentation from Elizabeth Baron, virtual reality and advanced visualization technical specialist for Ford Motor Company. Baron, who has spent 20 of her 28 years at Ford in VR, shared how the auto company is using VR to change the way its vehicles are engineered and manufactured, noting that VR eliminates the necessity for prototypes.

Following presentations, Immerse attendees were set loose to meet and mingle with industry leaders, peruse the more than 50 exhibitor booths, and attend breakout sessions covering everything from how UW’s CoMotion Labs is building an inclusive AR/VR ecosystem, to challenges and solutions for creating and distributing VR video content.

IMMERSE Technology Summit continues through this evening, culminating with a Shark Tank-style competition and cocktail reception.