Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are expanding creative experiences beyond gaming and entertainment

By Ramone Param, Associate Director, Equiteq.

We recently attended Worlds Fair Nano in New York and experienced some of the exciting innovations that are being developed in the space of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). These immersive technologies are rapidly evolving and have been mentioned as capabilities of strategic interest by many of the prolific buyers of digital consulting firms that we are in dialogue with. VR involves creating digital worlds through headsets and AR encompasses enhancing reality with digital content. Mixed Reality (MR) is a term used to describe AR effects being used in VR headsets or smartglasses. According to MarketsandMarkets, the global AR and VR market is expected to reach $151.3bn by 2022 (growing at a CAGR of 70.4% between 2016 and 2022).

Benefits of Immersive Technologies in Brand Engagement and Design

Immersive technologies have already broadened their applicability from gaming and entertainment. According to a recent survey by GfK, the top three activities that customers expect to undertake using VR include education, design and communication. We also expect these trends to have a significant impact on advertising, travel and shopping.

Those companies that effectively use immersive technologies to engage customers will have an advantage over competitors as they develop electronic empathy with their prospective and existing clients through linking virtual, physical and emotional realities. Some commentators suggest that AR has the potential to bring a physical presence to online shopping, where brands may begin to develop virtual spaces where customers can try on clothes or test products.

In design, VR also enables designers across industries to accurately design complex projects with customers before they go into production. AR then permits clients to preview and experience their designs in real-world spaces.

Augmented Reality Technologies

Mobile AR gaming was formally introduced into the public sphere with Pokémon Go, which was developed by Niantic and has earned over $1.2bn in revenue and over 750m downloads since it was launched in the Summer of 2016. More recently, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Apple all highlighted AR at their annual developer conferences.

Facebook, Apple and Google’s major projects in the space offer mobile AR software as platforms. In April of this year, after Facebook’s F8 conference, Facebook launched their AR Camera Effects developer platform, which allows developers to request for access to the closed beta of the platform’s AR Studio tool. This enables developers to create their own 3D digital objects that can be placed inside photos or videos on Facebook using the platform’s location, object recognition and depth detection capabilities. In June, Apple released ARkit, which gives developers access to its camera technology and allows them to develop effects for their own apps.

By the end of Summer, Google had responded to Apple’s ARKit with its new software development kit called ARCore, which enables Android developers to create AR applications. At Google’s I/O developer conference in May, CEO Sundar Pichai also announced its new visual technology called Google Lens, which is focused on object recognition and is expected to be enhanced by ARCore.

Virtual Reality Technologies

A notable VR system is Oculus Rift, which was acquired by Facebook for $2.3bn in 2014. Shortly after the acquisition, Oculus Rift partnered with Samsung to develop Gear VR, a headset that turns your Galaxy smartphone into a mobile theatre and gaming device. According to the Steam Hardware and Software Survey for August 2017, the number of Oculus Rift VR headsets associated with users’ computers rose by over 8% on the prior month. Nevertheless, HTC Vive is still considered to be the market leader in VR headsets. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive also compete against Sony PlayStation VR and Google Daydream View. The VR headsets produced by these vendors put a screen a few inches away from your eyes, which show a virtual world that changes as your head moves, due to an array of sensors inside the headset. The major players in this space have been announcing price cuts, which have boosted growth in VR headset sales over 2017.

Mixed Reality Technologies

Microsoft’s HoloLens was first revealed by Microsoft in 2010 and released in early 2016 as the first untethered holographic computer and head-mounted display. As part of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality project, Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, and Lenovo will be selling Microsoft-approved headsets from the end of October, which will enable users to run a virtual version of their actual desktop and control it through the headset.

Google Glass was widely considered a MR shortcoming. Google updated these MR smartglasses with Google Glass 2.0, which were released in July. The technology focuses on streamlining work by providing contextual information directly on the job site for industries like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare where workers can use a wearable device while their hands are occupied with job tasks.

Meta’s Meta 2 is an innovative headset focused on practical applications by projecting holograms onto glass eyewear attached to the user’s head, which they can interact with using their hands. Samsung are developing Monitorless, their upcoming smartglasses, which provide remote desktop viewing capabilities. Magic Leap is developing Magic Leap One, a pair of MR glasses, which they have raised over $1bn of funds for from the likes of Google and Alibaba.

Conclusions

VR, AR and MR will eventually represent new major technology disruptions that will transform brand engagement, creative services, as well as operating models across industries. This creates both challenges and opportunities for owners of consulting businesses. We will continue to closely monitor the latest trends in this space and would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about these developments in the context of your service offering.

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