The global virtual reality market is on track to generate $26.89 billion in revenue by 2022. Considering that 2016 earnings barely topped $2 billion, the growth trend is encouraging, to say the least. Also encouraging are the VR market trends that show how virtual reality technology is maturing. From VR video to treating dementia, it appears that mainstream adoption is on the way.
In this post, we look at seven virtual reality trends that will help to shape this nascent market in the year ahead.
1. 360 VR Video
Attempt to define VR, and you quickly find that it is a moving target. If not moving, at least expanding. As VR encroaches upon more and more areas of our lives, yesterday’s definition frequently falls short of explaining what VR has become.
The Future of Video
360 video falls into the periphery of what VR was once thought to be. Computer graphics are minimal, the user’s ability to affect the outcome of the VR experience is limited, and interaction with other users doesn’t happen—at least not yet. But it turns video into an immersive experience, and gives us a taste of what movies will likely be like in the not-too-distant future.
360 degree video records the scene using multiple cameras embedded into a single device, providing an exciting new way to view content. Rather than being limited to watching the scene from a single perspective, 360 video allows you to pan around and see everything within a 360 degree radius, and to even look straight up or down. Many 360 videos are already available on Youtube, but VR video can be hosted on a number of platforms.
Viewing 360 Video
Viewing technology for VR videos is still in its infancy. For now, native Youtube videos can be viewed on VR headsets only by using an app. Apps are available from 3rd-party vendors, and Youtube offers one of their own. A great advantage of 360 video is that content may be also be viewed on desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets. Simply by moving the device, or scrolling the screen, you can change your viewing perspective of the scene.
More VR Video on the Way
Entertainment creators are busy at work, creating an ever-expanding library of movies, documentaries, and even live events for VR video. 2018 will see both commercial 360 video content, and DIY 360 content creation solutions, at affordable price points.
2. VR Content
A recent market research report identifies the huge growth potential of the VR content market. According to the report, the VR market is in the midst of a surge in demand, driving market value from $147.5 million in 2015 to $41 billion by 2024.
Stepping up to meet that demand is an increasing list of providers.
Mainstream VR Content Providers
The most user-friendly VR content is showing up on Youtube, where 360 videos can be viewed on desktop, tablets, or smartphones. Youtube host a growing library of 360 content, created by both amateurs and professionals.
Like Youtube, Facebook 360 provides a free platform for users to share VR content. A diverse range of VR content is available, and Facebook strives to make all content easily accessible through its own Oculus Rift, or through Samsung’s Gear VR. We will discuss how Facebook handles VR content in a moment.
You may not have heard of Littlestar, but here you will find a growing library of generic VR content, including documentaries, music, movies, sports, and gaming, to name a few.
Protozoa Pictures, the production company responsible for Black Swan, made history at the 2018 Sundance festival when CityLights acquired the company’s 3-part VR series, Spheres. While the exact figure remains secret, the purchase price is said to extend into 7 digits. Not bad for a medium that has never gotten much traction at Sundance. The move signals CityLights’ intention to enter the emerging VR market with professionally-produced content. After a 7-figure throw-down, we expect to see great things from CityLights in the year to come.
VR Gaming is poised to be the next great thing in the computer gaming industry, and 2018 will see a serious focus on VR gaming from a variety of developers.
Weather you talk about VRMMORPG or a simple shoot ‘em up that grosses $1 million per year, where there are games to be played, there is money to be paid.
Gaming company Valve has signaled its intent to create its own VR games. According to PCGamer, Valve has expressed its commitment to enter the VR game market, and is reportedly working on three titles of its own. Whether we see the first of them in 2018 remains to be seen, but their announcement definitely proves that the big boys are getting into VR.
Neat Corporation has indicated that Budget Cuts is nearly ready for release, and that they are “super happy” with it. Like many Neat games, Budget Cuts is a quality single-player game with enough challenges to make it thrilling, but without the over-complexity some games present. In this VR game, you explore a facility riddled with robots, and you simply kill them any way you can. The soon release of the title is further evidence that VR game development is hot.
Turner Sports and Intel repeat last year’s success providing NBA games to fans through the medium of virtual reality. Select games from Marquee NBA and TNT Matchups are being offered through the 2018 Conference Finals.
Fans have two options for experiencing games in VR: NBA League Pass, or NBA on TNT VR. By purchasing the NBA League Pass, fans can experience the games in full VR using the Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream View, PlayStation VR, or the Windows Mixed Reality viewer. Season passes range from $6.99 for a single game to $39.99 for access to all select games. NBA on TNT VR offers free access using the Gear VR and Daydream View, but the user must authenticate themselves through their cable subscriber credentials.
Across the pond, the Sydney Sixers, BMW, and Catalyst VR partnered last year to offer cricket fans a 360-degree experience. In 2018, they continue the program, allowing fans to experience the game from the view the batter would have as they faced the bowl.
These two examples represent how VR is being embraced by national sports leagues, and by individual teams. As spring and summer bring sports back into the lives of fans across the globe, VR will increasingly be there to put fans on the field and on the court.
3. Social VR
Like the perfect couple, social media and VR were meant to be together. And several companies are working hard to see that the marriage happens in 2018.
Facebook is aggressively developing interactive VR features for its social media platform. The platform offers an increasing array of VR tools designed to help make VR mainstream. Among the current capabilities offered, FB allows users to meet friends in
an immersive environment where images and 3D objects can be shared, and where users can see each other and converse as if in person. Using the 360 photo feature, users can share panoramic photos with others, using only their smartphone. For those who like to create their own environments, Facebook allows you to draw objects within virtual 3D environments. Users can also create and share 3D objects through News Feed.
VRChat reflects the trend toward social VR with its VR-centric social platform. Users have a host of tools they can use to customize their VR experience, including creating full-body avatars and using hand gestures. Eye tracking and lip syncing are fine-tuned to help make interaction as natural as possible. VRChat has entire VR worlds awaiting users, or users can create their own.
4. VR in Automotive Sales
Americans and Europeans love our automobiles. For many, vehicle ownership is about more than having transportation, it is about the experience that comes from driving a well-designed car, truck, or SUV. Virtual reality offers potential buyers the opportunity to explore the newest models within a 3D immersive experience, even if the particular model is not yet on the showroom floor.
Lexus VR Campaign
Lexus kicked off 2018 by partnering with Los Angeles branding agency Team One to create a VR marketing campaign. While reminding car buyers that VR can’t replace the thrill of a real test drive, Lexus brilliantly uses VR to wet buyers’ appetite.
Themed “Virtual to Reality,” the campaign allows buyers to have an immersive experience with the entire lineup of Lexus vehicles, using a custom-designed VR simulator.
Other automakers are also turning to VR to market their vehicles, and we expect to see the trend toward VR showrooms continue throughout 2018. As VR technology is improved, utilization by the automotive industry will only increase.
5. Full Dive Getting Closer
Full Dive VR — an immersive experience so realistic that one can not separate it from true reality. Although we are not there yet, such virtual experiences remain the holy grail of VR. The ability to involve all five senses in an artificial reality holds promise not only for gamers, but also for the disabled, whose limitations may prevent them from enjoying the rich experiences that are commonplace to the rest of us. Those suffering from chronic pain would, perhaps, find relief in a simulated world, where pain is non-existent. Even those suffering from extreme psychological stress might find a temporary escape in an environment of their own choosing.
True Full Dive will almost certainly involve a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI), where simulated sensory input to the brain will circumvent input from the body’s five senses. Even so, the journey from here to there must begin somewhere.
Fortunately, a growing number of companies and research institutions are hard at work laying the foundation upon which Full Dive will eventually be built.
Here and Now
Sensiks is taking a practical approach, with its Sensory Reality Pod (SRP). The SRP creates an enhanced VR experience by providing artificial stimulus of all five senses. By providing, for example, heat and synthetic odors, your immersive experience in a tropical forest can be augmented with the warmth of the sun and the smell of trees and foliage. Full Dive it is not, but the simulator monitors the user’s vitals and adjusts the stimulation accordingly. Until someone develops a VR-capable SRP, Sensiks offers the next best thing.
Closer to the heart of Full Dive is the research being done by Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink. The company’s goal is nothing short of creating technology that actually bridges the gap between computers and the human brain.
Of course, the Full Dive experience we hope for will not require temperature controller or bain implants. But at least 2018 will be the year when building blocks of FDVR are laid down.
6. Expanded VR Applications in Healthcare
The healthcare industry was an early adopter of VR when most industries were still on the sidelines. In recent years, VR has found applications in medical training, treatment of PTSD, and even live surgeries. Thanks to a recent partnership between Tribemix and Quantum Care, VR promises to provide some relief to sufferers of dementia.
The two companies have pooled their resources to create ImmersiCare, which creates VR experiences designed to calm dementia patients. By immersing dementia patients into a carefully-controlled VR experience, a 70% reduction in patient stress has already been observed.
From dementia to high blood pressure to pain management, the year ahead will be marked by increased applications of VR in the healthcare industry.
7. Cross-Platform Expansion
Two barriers to mainstream adoption of VR are the age-old issues of compatibility and distribution. Several companies see the market opportunity, here, including WebVR and Jaunt.
Jaunt has partnered with brands such as Disney, Fox, FX, and ABC News to deliver a wide range of VR content. The platform-independent service provides a high-quality distribution platform for content creators, and allows users to both create and distribute VR content without regard to compatibility concerns.
With VR gaining a foothold on a diverse range of platforms, providing a frictionless VR experience will be the goal of major providers in the year ahead.
How Can AppReal-VR Help?
VR is only now coming into its prime. As scoffers fade into the background, and practical applications capture market dollars, investment and innovation in VR technology will be strong throughout 2018.
Whether your organization is shaped by advances in VR, or drives them, comes down to one thing: who will you partner with to get the technology you need to impact the market?
AppReal-VR offers world-class outsource VR solutions to companies around the globe. We are experts in all phases of VR technology. With six R&D labs situated across Europe, we have the capability in house to take your project from concept to market.
Why not contact us today for a no-cost consultation?