2016 is fast drawing to a close. And while many will be glad to see the back of it, for those of us who work and play with Virtual Reality, it has been a most exciting year.
By the time the bells ring out signalling the start of a new year, the total number of VR users will exceed 43 million. This is a market on the move, projected to be worth $30bn by 2020. If it’s to meet that valuation, then we believe 2017 will be an incredibly important year in the lifecycle of VR hardware and software development.
VR will be enjoyed by an increasingly mainstream audience very soon, and here we take a quick look at some of the trends we expect to develop over the next 12 months for that to happen.
1. VR Headsets V2
In 2016, we witnessed the release of a number of VR headsets from the likes of Oculus, HTC, Samsung, and Google.
In 2017, we reckon this trend will continue - and on a much grander scale.
Not only will we see new devices hit the stands from Razer and FOVE, we’ll also witness a widescale adoption of the Google Daydream View. And we believe this will prompt those more ‘established’ names in the world of VR to respond with a second generation of headsets to compete. Namely, Oculus Rift with ‘Santa Cruz’ and the HTC Vive 2, both of which will offer better immersive experience at (hopefully) lower prices.
2. Same Game, New Players
Virtual Reality is a great big pie that will only grow larger. So far, we’ve seen Facebook (via their purchase of Oculus), Google, HTC, and Samsung claim a slice.
But this leaves a number of major tech companies conspicuous by their absence. Will we see Intel, Apple, and Amazon make a move into the VR sphere?
In a word, yes. Intel, with Project Alloy (more on that shortly), is already muscling its way in, while Apple continue to recruit VR & AR experts; clearly someone has something up their sleeve in Cupertino.
And Amazon (along with other ecommerce giants such as eBay and Shopify) will be acutely aware of the need to diversify their platform and embrace VR when it comes to online shopping.
3. More Than Just Sound & Vision
The improvements made to VR headsets suggest the industry is moving closer to perfecting the visual and auditory aspects of experiencing a virtual environment.
However, to truly achieve immersion, the other senses must be satisfied. We’ve seen VR app developers experiment with haptic feedback using gloves and handheld controls, and in 2017 we expect more time and resource to be spent on developing inputs for touch and smell.
4. VC VR Investment
VR has already experienced rapid growth, but - if forecasts come to pass - the real growth is yet to occur.
In line with this growth, we’ve witnessed a steady increase in AR/VR investments, and that will undoubtedly continue to rise in 2017.
Seasoned venture capitalists will have already spotted the mainstream potential of Google Daydream. And as VR transitions from a novelty ‘nice-to-have’ piece of tech to a ‘must-own’ over the next 12 months and beyond, it’s likely that revenue-focused Series B rounds will be more frequent.
5. Unity and Unreal Grow - Space for One More Big 3D Engine?
When it comes to developing Virtual Reality games, Unity and Unreal Engine are the big two 3D engines from which developers typically choose.
We fully expect they’ll grow and improve as the VR marketplace evolves, but does this leave space for another to emerge and compete?
We are not here to talk about the ever-growing, all-encompassing world of VR applications. Instead, we shall focus solely on choosing the best Virtual Reality gaming platform - Unity vs Unreal Engine...
We think so, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the likes of CryEngine and CopperCube to see how they position themselves going forward. And it’s not unlikely that one of the big players, such Google, Facebook, or Apple will develop their own proprietary 3D engine.
6. Strategic Alliances Form
We mentioned Project Alloy earlier, which is Intel’s “an all-in-one virtual reality solution.” It’s set to revolutionise the way in which users experience VR thanks to its completely wireless HMD (head-mounted display), while it will also bring Augmented and Virtual Reality together with its ‘merged reality’ mode.
However, what caught our eye was the news that Intel would be collaborating with Microsoft in order to optimise Windows-based content on Intel-based VR devices.
And this surely won’t be the only strategic alliance to form as the big guns of hardware and software position their pieces on the VR chess board.
The race is on to develop a VR standard, and it makes sense that companies such as Intel and Microsoft come together to share their expertise. We expect to see even more of these types of relationships emerge in 2017.
7. Social Activities Transform
It’s not just home entertainment that will be fundamentally changed by the emergence of VR; sports, shopping, theme parks, you name it - Virtual Reality will leave an imprint on just about every social activity possible.
And when it comes to social media, we believe we’ll see more from Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in 2017. Zuck demoed his vision for social VR in 2016, and reminded us why Facebook paid $2Bn for Oculus Rift.
8. VR Goes Mainstream
We’ve written previously that we expect Google Daydream to breakthrough and become the de facto standard operating system for VR.
What’s more, it’s likely that Daydream will bring Virtual Reality to the masses thanks to its affordable hardware and accessible marketplace.
As smartphones are built and released as being ‘Daydream-ready’ (a phrase we’ll all be hearing a lot more in 2017) it essentially means anyone with a smartphone will have access to Virtual Reality content.
And with VR applications such as Google Play Movies, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and countless interactive games, it’s not difficult to see why we’re certain Google are onto a winner with Daydream.
9. Hollywood Goes VR
The world’s first ever Virtual Reality cinema sprang to life in Amsterdam this year.
We expect this will be the first of many similar cinemas around Europe and indeed the world that will come into being in 2017.
Hollywood are well aware of the potential that VR represents (as this interview with director Seth Gordon attests) and you can bet your bottom dollar that more and more resource will be dedicated to cracking that potential.
Special effects and first person storytelling will come on leaps and bounds as movies seek to challenge video games as the champion of VR content.
10. Powerful Processors, Speedier Speeds
Now, with all of this new hardware and software to look forward to, it simply must be underpinned by processors that are more powerful than those we currently use.
Even the slightest hint of lag can shatter the illusion of the virtual environment, so it’s crucial computing power is keeping up with the other developments being made in the world of VR. We also expect screen resolutions to improve to provide us with a crisper Virtual Reality experience.
And as VR is adopted at a mainstream level, we should see faster networks and higher bandwidth come to the fore in order to support the hardware and minimize latency as the content is being enjoyed.
11. VR Developers in Demand - and Other Jobs Follow
The demand for VR developers has grown throughout 2016, with some major players hunting for the very best talent out there. In fact, it’s fair to say that the 3D developer will be the ‘new’ mobile developer.
2017 will most certainly see this trend continue as Virtual Reality edges ever closer to mainstream adoption. When the time comes for hiring your own VR developer, here’s what you should be asking.
And remember, with every growth industry, the technical jobs come first, and everything else follows. As more content is created and released, we reckon 2017 will see an uptick in VR-related roles such as marketing and customer service.
12. The User Base Explodes
The people are ready for VR, and 2017 will witness a massive jump in user numbers. From around 200,000 in 2014 to a projected 90 million in 2017, this represents a 450% increase.
Around 10% of the 90 million users in 2017 will be ‘hardcore gamers’, while a further 23 million will be categorised as ‘early adopters’. This suggests that the next 12 months will present the ideal opportunity to put your VR application into the hands of an engaged and motivated audience.
13. VR Creeps Into Our Everyday Lives
Beyond the previously mentioned games, movies, sports, and shopping, we’ll certainly see VR creep into other aspects of our everyday lives in 2017.
Medical training and teaching in particular will benefit greatly from Virtual Reality technologies, offering real-time feedback and valuable practical exercises without putting anyone in jeopardy.
Less importance will be placed on physical locations for training exercises or classroom lessons. We’re edging closer to a scenario of pulling on a VR headset and stepping into a learning environment, no matter where in the world we are.
14. PlayStation VR Changes the Game
We’re sure that Google Daydream will make VR accessible to an incredibly large mainstream audience, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be room for competition.
And we expect that to come quite robustly in the shape of Sony’s PlayStation VR.
With over two decades in the console business, Sony have something of an advantage over its rivals when it comes to video games. Having launched in October 2016, there are certainly plenty of titles to keep its early adopters busy (and happy), and we’re looking forward to more third-party titles becoming available in 2017 to really give us an indication as to the standard of VR video games is headed.
I think there is a world market for maybe five computers
- Thomas Watson, President of IBM, 1943
We certainly don’t wish to be quoted on a list such as this a year from now, but we can say one thing is for sure - no-one can predict precisely how VR will change our lives in the next 12 months and beyond.
The tech is changing so rapidly, and the market is growing exponentially; our final trend for 2017 is quite simply ‘unknown’.
How Can AppReal-VR Help?
2017 will be a banner year for Virtual Reality. User numbers will swell, revenues will continue to grow, and mainstream adoption is a very real prospect.
So, with all that in mind, doesn’t it make sense to get your VR app idea out of your head and into the production?
AppReal-VR can help you do just that. With our unrivalled approach and experience in custom app development, we can guide your idea from start to finish, producing a VR application that will engage your audience and make your industry sit up and take notice.
If you’re ready to make your Virtual Reality app idea a reality, contact us today.