ONCE the word gets out about the new virtual reality lab he's curating, 17-year-old Mackenzie Reardon expects a line of youngsters to spill out the door and down the street.
Sunshine Coast Council has partnered with co-working space and business incubator Spark Bureau to provide a community-driven space where local youngsters will have the opportunity to explore the world of virtual and augmented reality and develop skills for future careers in the technology industry.
Virtual reality is not something you can explain to someone, Mackenzie says - you have to try it to understand how cool it is.
The Bright Sparks Lab launched yesterday at the Ocean St venue.
"There's been a lot of interest," Mackenzie said.
"My mates mostly are like 'oh, when can I come in and have a go?'."
Needless to say, his mates were first to test out the facilities - and they were "blown away by how realistic it is", he said.
The space is now open to the public every Wednesday afternoon, Mackenzie said.
"Virtual reality is hard to explain because it's a very experiential medium," he said.
"You can't explain it - you've got to just come in and try it yourself."
The young entrepreneur was a runner-up in last year's Sunshine Coast Generation Innovation Challenge and has also launched his own business.
Live streaming gear with microphones was available, along with podcasting, video capture facilities and high-speed internet that makes it possible to stream to multiple platforms, he said.
"The future of VR is looking great with many different applications coming out every day that can solve a lot of real world problems, such as education where the younger generation can now use VR as a new way of learning on a whole new level," he said.
"Our current games range from adventure and action to strategy and building, multi-player simulation and education and video and storytelling.
"I will be running a 3D painting competition soon where students will be invited to paint a real live mural on the wall in Bright Spark Labs based on their 3D creation. We hope the students will make this space their own and love entering the world of VR."
Spark Bureau CEO Zach Johnson said virtual reality and live streaming had enormous potential for growth over the next 10 years.
"The Sunshine Coast is a hub for innovation and digital entrepreneurship and here at Spark Bureau we are helping businesses tap into emerging and future markets" Mr Johnson said.
"There are many compelling applications for virtual reality that will continue to evolve at a rapid pace like gaming; training and simulation; immersive educational experiences; art and film; and remote presence for social networking, meetings and medicine.
"So I applaud Sunshine Coast Council for helping to give the local community and particularly our young people access to virtual reality technology and a glimpse into the future. Utilising this technology will help to equip local youngsters with some of vital skills that will help open doors to exciting future careers in technology."
Economic Development Portfolio Councillor Stephen Robinson said council was committed to exploring new, innovative digital technology to drive entrepreneurship and innovation on the Sunshine Coast.
"There is huge potential for future growth in the application of virtual reality to solve social, economic and environmental issues within society and your council believes it is critically important to invest in initiatives and programs like the Bright Sparks Lab that will fuel an entrepreneurial and innovative environment here on the Sunshine Coast," Cr Robinson said.
"An important part of providing this new virtual and augmented reality space will be teaching our community and particularly our young people how to make it work for them and we'll be doing that with Spark Bureau running a program of after school virtual reality workshops and demonstrations.
"Your council is extremely proud to support this and many other initiatives that support and strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystem like the Mayor's Telstra Technology Awards, Startup Weekend and Startup Weekend Youth and Coder Dojo.
"By investing in and supporting these programs and initiatives we want to provide our future generations with the opportunities to develop the skills, qualifications and knowledge that will be so important to tapping into the careers of the future."
The Bright Sparks Lab is free to use and will be open to the public on Wednesday afternoons from 3pm to 6pm
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