That’s a wrap for 2017….
Though we didn’t reach the pinnacle of VR that The Guardian or other sources predicted, 2017 still closed with major updates in the VR/AR/MR/etc. space. This past year we saw an explosion in content, as well as updates in existing hardware. Some of the most notable outcomes were the Magic Leap announcement and the introduction of ARKit and ARCore. TechRadar even claims that we’re in a ‘second wave’ of virtual reality. From both an entertainment and enterprise perspective, the market seems to be in a prime position to continue growth an expansion.
2018 is here and is already filling up with pertinent announcement and product releases. Everyone and anyone is making note of what’s coming and how it might change the game (perhaps most significant will be standalone VR headsets).
In the midst of announcements regarding both updated software and hardware, comes further proof that VR/AR is far more versatile.
One of the biggest fears of eCommerce (and missteps for many CPG companies) was that consumers wouldn’t buy things that they couldn’t feel. This assumption, that we need kinesthetic senses to make that leap from the shopping cart, to check out, to purchase was proven unfounded (I mean, where do you buy most of your goods/media content/clothing?). And yet, eCommerce companies are still looking for ways to integrate a deep sense of reality within the shopping experience. Enter Amazon, which has submitted a patent for a VR mirror that dresses you in virtual clothes. It’s not a far cry from the dream mirror of every girl, as shown in Clueless.
In other news, the cost-prohibitive Hololens still is one of the main HMD (head mounted displays) in the current market. We’ve discussed medical uses before but Nomadeec created a Hololens program to assist first responders and doctors for making tough decisions.
Furthermore, VR experiences as a form of preparation are continuing to arrive (recall the simulation Walmart created for Black Friday). In one example, VR simulations are becoming part of programs for juvenile inmates who are about to re-enter society as adults.
Last but not least…Ready Player One
While hype has already begun for the VR film of the year (i.e. the photoshop snafu of Tye’s leg), 2018 brings us even closer to a film that will likely change the public’s perception and consumption of VR/AR. When we think about VR representation in media, we consider content such as Black Mirror, the Matrix, Tron, etc. While these shows and films laid groundwork for actual technology, Ernest Cline’s novel feels much more familiar. It takes concepts and hardwares that already exist, products that are on the shelves and intensifies them in a grim reality. Like most of our peers, we too are waiting for the ball to drop.
Health and Fitness
Ok, ok, it’s not VR/AR related, BUT, the FDA just approved an EKG reader compatible with the Apple Watch. While knowing your heart rate is helpful (a key feature on many fitness trackers), more focused data will certainly affect the potential audience of smart watches. This could perhaps increase the purchasing presence of older consumer groups, as well as insurance deductions. This release and approval sets a tone for FDA approved medical devices on our persons which will surely impact other extensions and devices.
Furthermore, a new study from Tel Aviv University suggests that VR can help improve brain functionality in patients that suffer from Parkinson’s. By coordinating a virtual experience with a treadmill, it combines cognitive rehab with motor functionality.
In, what I’d call, a highly anticipated use case for Medical VR, a doctor in France has performed the first VR assisted surgery. While surgeries have been broadcasted in VR before, this is the first occasion in which the surgeon wore a headset during the surgery to project 3D images onto the patient, as well as a way for him to connect to SMEs in other countries.
Last, but not least, stay fit by using this little guy to lead you around. He may lack muscle tone and (probably) some bones, but he’s having such a good time!
The Holidays, a prime time for nostalgia
Nothing gets more meta than playing a retro game on a retro gaming system, as a game. EmuVR released videos of their experience, which is essentially reliving your teenage years (for better, or for worse). The experience allows you to return to “your” childhood home, and simulates that game playing ritual of the past. I wonder if within the mocked up bedroom, there will be food trash, clothes on the floor, etc? Based on the amount of detail they’ve poured into it so far – I wouldn’t be surprised. Retro is clearly in (self-promotion plug: Starfox).
In other VR/AR News…a quick run down, bullet style.
- Sundance is adding a “New Frontier” category to showcase experiential works (including AI, VR, etc.)
- Neil Gaiman fans out there?
- TechCrunch claims VR got its mojo back (but did we ever really lose it?)
- For a converse argument, try The Economist
- You can now experience a Black Hole, if that’s of interest
- A walkthrough on how to use Maya for facial capture (‘ey beby)
- Playstation VR sets are making a killing
For non-gamer millennials, such as your writer here, AR is slowly seeping into the way we interact with technology. VR can sometimes feel like a distant future, something we see as inevitable (especially with those terrifyingly real Black Mirror episodes) but not quite here impacting the masses. But AR? It’s the future that’s already happening.
Cue the dancing hotdog.
Snapchat and it’s dancing hotdog are a critical step in understanding what AR is, in it’s simplest form, for mass consumption. In my experience, and I think for many similar to me, AR most likely found it’s way into my life earlier. But only now was it incredibly clear that I was experiencing something that was AR. Incredibly silly and honestly useless, the hotdog still made its mark.
And while Snapchat has faltered time and again, from Spectacles, to low usage (hello Instagram and Facebook stories), and disappointing quarterly sales calls, it still indicates a start to general consumer usage of AR. It introduced only a sliver of the possibilities of AR to those that otherwise wouldn’t have cared to Google it. And perhaps, that’s what is disappointing about Snapchat. Millennials, and the beloved consumer age group of <25, were captured by Snap, a ready market to blow up AR and discuss it's pros, and yet Snap squandered them. It repeatedly made a difficult to use app, with limited applications outside of its interface, and now a limited audience.
I’m not the first to write about and contemplate Snap’s failures and missteps as a tech company. But I think it’s critical to recognize that for many of Snapchat’s users, these filters are consumers largest interactions with AR. Perhaps they’ve been to Harry Potter World, played Pokemon GO for a week, but I’d argue that Snapchat’s hotdog is just as critical to mass development as AR as those gaming experiences.
Whether you like it or not, AR will soon infiltrate your life. Why not be an early embracer? The Harvard Business Review recently commented on the space, noting that our data and work is stuck in a 2D world with limited functionality. If you and I are 3D, shouldn’t our processes be, too?
AR is quickly becoming recognized as what will really take the market by storm. One potential reason in this shift is the lack of additional accessories (as opposed to VR). With ARKit and ARCore, and a multitudes of other changes in our devices used daily, AR is far more accessible. It’s way past thinking that this is a fad, destined to meet the demise of antiquated devices and services. AR is here and it’s here to stay – join us.
Continued Growth of VR in China
It was announced this week that HTC will be dropping their Google Daydream Headset. This news, reported by TechCrunch, comes as a surprise given the earlier amount of press given to the item. The partnership, originally announced in May, was to create standalone headsets which didn’t require a phone or PC. Lenovo, another partner mentioned in May, will still be producing a standalone headset, as told by Clay Bavor, Google’s VP of VR/AR. Instead, HTC is focusing on the VR market in China given the ultra competitive nature of VR providers and market fragmentation.
Furthermore, there’s a VR theme park coming to Guiyang, China. The project, which was over $1.3 billion, is set to open next month.
The park, East Valley of Science and Fantasy, seems to combine several aspects of fantasy fandom with a massive 174 foot Transformer, Aliens, Star Wars, and a castle that is reminiscent of Cinderella’s (though much more sinister and lego looking).
Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals: Expanding the VR user base?
With Thanksgiving and the holiday season fast approaching, sales and deals are making their way to you through every medium possible. Black Friday deals traditionally set up Holiday specials for the rest of the season, and VR platforms are not exempt. Across all retailers, we’re seeing massive discounts and promotions on consoles, games and more. No longer a single day, sales at Amazon are already available.
Given the increased ubiquity of VR and AR (visibility in Walmart and other retailers have helped), and especially given the introduction of ARkit and ARcore, will this holiday season help change the landscape of VR users and increase usage by a measurable amount?