Richard Lane is a RAAF veteran with big dreams to use augmented reality technology to help others. And with the help of Prince’s Trust Australia he is doing just that through his small business, Virtulane.
Wonderment lured RAAF veteran Richard Lane into the field of virtual reality.
But it was a desire to help others that inspired him to launch his own immersive technology production studio.
“I don’t think it’s the technology that really drives me, it’s more of a question of the wonderment behind it,” he said.
“And there’s those bigger questions about it, like how can we apply this, not just to get some coin or sell a product, but to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Richard and his wife, Teressa, started the business, Virtulane, in 2020 while their four children were home schooling during the Covid pandemic.
Virtulane creates virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality solutions for clients, which could be anything from animation projects and 3D modelling to immersive environments for training, education and wellness.
“I see so many applications across the use of these technologies because they can be tailored, and they can be tweaked,” Richard said.
“They can be integrated into so many different things, whether that’s a senior citizen in a home going on an escape to a beach because they can’t leave the home, to a patient in a hospital under palliative care just having a last couple of good experiences.
“And they’re low cost. But because it’s new, people don’t want to be the first, particularly in Australia.” Richard, however, isn’t afraid to be a pioneer.
He is passionate about pushing the boundaries of this emerging industry to see how the technology can make a difference.
The 45-year-old spent 26 years in the RAAF, enlisting in 1994 as an aircraft technician before commissioning as an aeronautical engineer in 2000.
Towards the end of his career, Richard was searching for a creative outlet, and he found it in augmented reality.
“I was really seeing how defence, in my role in CIOG (Chief Information Officer Group), was working with vendors … employing some of these virtual reality technologies, primarily, as well as mixed reality and a HoloLens,” he said.
“That was bound by the projects I was working with and the teams I was assisting, but I could really see the application of that to the wider community outside of purely games or purely a training perspective.”
After undertaking study and training in the field, Richard launched Virtulane in June 2020.
“Should I have sort of launched then? Probably not,” he said. “In hindsight it was a bit accelerated.
“But it was that excitement you get … and there’s something tangible.”
While Richard stumbled a little at the start, Prince’s Trust Australia was there to help steady him in the world of small business.
In 2020 Richard took part in the Trust’s Enterprise Programme, which helps veterans and defence spouses launch and grow their own small businesses.
“It was really great from a connection standpoint,” he said.
“The skills that you can learn and the people that you’re meeting are definitely beneficial.
“And then all the events (PTA puts on for alumni), whether they’re physical or virtual, we really connected with the mentors.”
Richard said one of his valuable takeaways from the course was to outsource where possible to focus on his business rather than the business of doing business.
“There is that can-do attitude that we have in defence,” he said. “And while we can do it, is it best to do it?”
Heading into 2023, Virtulane is focusing on two key areas – wellness and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).
Richard and his team, which now includes two trainees, have developed a headset with olfactory and immersive technologies that can be used in workplaces to aid mental health, wellbeing and resilience.
Richard dreams of making this technology available on Australian Defence Force establishments.
Check out Virtulane: https://www.virtulane.com.au/
Prince’s Trust Australia is a national charity that helps young people prepare for the rapidly changing world of work, inspires veterans and their families into entrepreneurship and self- employment, and champions resilient sustainable communities. Register for a Prince’s Trust Australia Enterprise programme: https://bit.ly/3weVjrw