There has been significant hype surrounding emerging technologies, particularly when it comes to augmented and virtual reality (AR & VR). Despite many analysts predicting that the VR ‘bubble’ would eventually burst, the past couple of years have been revealing in terms of understanding the limitations and capabilities associated with the technology. One of the key barriers to mass-market proliferation has been the slow uptake of PC gamers to adopt VR headsets. Recent statistics from Steam suggest that less than 0.3% of players either own or actively use a VR headset. We’ve spent some time covering off the key trends associated with the augmented reality market in 2019, today we’re exploring the top virtual reality trends your business needs to be aware of.
Despite its apparent limitations, the VR ecosystem is thriving, with an estimated 1,760 VR startups working across multiple industry sectors. The long-term vision is for the technology to become a mainstream consideration, with uptake shifting from innovators and early adopters to a more mainstream audience. In order for this shift to take place, VR needs to transcend beyond niche use cases and find a place in the enterprise and consumer landscape whereby it can perform everyday tasks. If this shift is to occur, it will be driven by ongoing investment in new VR start-ups and the exploration of different use cases, both within a consumer facing context and throughout the enterprise ecosystem.
1.) Virtual Reality will become more prominent in advertising campaigns
The capabilities of VR should be of great interest to advertisers. The technology possesses the capability to provide a rich and immersive experience for prospective buyers, minimising dissonance and enabling brands and businesses to transition users through the buying cycle in the shortest possible time scale. Whilst building an entire advertising campaign solely around a VR experience might be a difficult proposition, given that many potential buyers won’t own or have access to a headset, it represents a great way to augment wider strategic marketing and advertising campaigns and might offer a neat extension to print or television media.
One example of this is the Audi Virtual Reality showroom, which forms part of an ongoing campaign to get more potential buyers back into the showroom. Over the past decade, the buying behaviour of car consumers has shifted dramatically. As information has become readily available online, most consumers will reach a buying decision in terms of car make and model, without ever visiting the showroom. This represents a commercial challenge for Audi and something that a Virtual Reality experience has the potential to overcome.
“It’s not just about demonstrating our cars in a hyper-realistic way. It’s about the overall consumer experience. Our goal at Audi is to have them leave the showroom and comment, ‘Wow, that was an incredible experience!’ and with virtual Reality technology that’s entirely possible,” Marcus Kühne, strategy lead immersive technologies at Audi, suggested. The Virtual Reality experience, designed and developed with emerging technologies agency, Zerolight, not only has Audi’s vehicles in its system but also enables consumers to understand how different customisable options might look on their cars before they make the purchase. “There are hundreds of millions of potential configurations, and this is the only way consumers could view any option they desire,” he said.
2.) Virtual Reality will enhance travel and tourism
Whilst this type of Virtual Reality use case would be classified under advertising and promotions, 2019 should witness an increased uptake across the travel and tourism sector. In terms of real-world use cases, Virtual Reality has already started to generate some traction within travel and tourism. One good example of VR within travel and tourism is the KLM application whereby VR headsets are distributed to travellers waiting to board their flight. The application is designed to provide travellers with an immersive insight into KLM’s flight services and products. Several organisations have already used Virtual Reality to provide ‘virtual tours’, most of these applications have been designed using 360 video techniques. In order for Virtual Reality to reach its optimal potential within the travel and tourism sector, VR developers must successfully bridge the gap between 360 video and fully immersive VR. This type of approach would enable travellers to explore new locations before booking.
For many travellers, both now and in the future, the potential of Virtual Reality is vast. VR has the potential to become ‘the experience that begins the journey’ and with the right technical capability and planning, there will be huge rewards for businesses within the travel and tourism sector choosing to adopt VR technologies early. If you’re a hotel, restaurant, airline or car rental service, designing and developing a Virtual Reality application is a powerful means of establishing a strong competitive differentiator and bring about wide ranging commercial benefits.
One of the core commercial benefits associated with developing a Virtual Reality offering is to create deeper customer engagement. This can be achieved through the deployment of VR products and services that provide honest and compelling representations of real-world travel and tourism experiences. Travel and tourism businesses can also develop profound and immersive VR experiences that translate and extend across multiple platforms from existing desktop and mobile applications to mobile and heads up display VR. Fundamentally, if you’re a travel or tourism operator, creating a Virtual reality experience is about underpinning existing commercial goals from a sales enablement perspective and reaching a new, technology savvy audience.
3.) Education will benefit from Virtual Reality adoption
Education represents the corner-stone of any thriving society and the way in which knowledge and expertise is transferred has been a top priority for centuries. Educational institutions are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to transfer knowledge in a smarter, faster and more effective manner. In the mobile era, with the ongoing proliferation of new devices, there is a seismic opportunity to enable new ways of learning through technology – particularly when it comes to Virtual Reality. In terms of where this opportunity will lead within the educational sector, Virtual Reality could represent the next logical stepping stone.
But what makes Virtual Reality the ideal fit for education? VR technology can be applied to the classroom environment to enhance student engagement and learning and has the potential to transform and redefine the way in which content is delivered to students. Virtual Reality technology can be used as an educational tool to create a virtual world, either based on a realistic, ‘real-world’ environment or as an imaginary scenario, that enables students to interact and learn in new ways.
The premise of adopting Virtual Reality technology within the education sector, is that immersive learning and creating a richer experience increases the motivation of each student to discover and absorb what’s being taught. The idea being that Virtual Reality can create immersive and rich experiences to the point that students need to use less cognitive horsepower whilst actually learning more about the subject matter in question.
4.) Demand for Virtual Reality Developers Will Increase
When it comes to developing great software, there has been one entirely consistent theme over the past 20 years – demand for high quality development capability will always outstrip supply. This has been the case in web and mobile technology development and in the context of new and emerging technologies, Virtual Reality is no different. As brands and businesses across different industry sectors, from healthcare and education to banking and financial services, begin to explore the ROI potential of Virtual Reality, one of the key challenges will be the ability to resource projects and new initiatives with high quality, experienced VR development talent.
It’s estimated that at the time of writing this article, there are over 1,700 job adverts for Virtual Reality developers posted on Indeed.com and this only represents businesses seeking to hire for full-time positions. This does not include efforts that involve re-skilling existing software engineers into the rapidly growing world of VR and businesses seeking to outsource development efforts to a third party agency. It’s also estimated that approximately 47% of industry positions and job vacancies within the Virtual Reality sector are being recruited through LinkedIn.
It’s not just demand for Virtual Reality developers that will increase. Businesses will start to seek specialist roles for VR in relation to project management, UI/UX design, testing, quality assurance and deployment/optimisation. Whilst some of these roles do not require 100% focus on historic Virtual Reality experience, an understanding of the technology combined with tried and tested project management methodology and software engineering expertise will be expected. As demand for commercial Virtual Reality development capability hots up in 2019, companies seeking to extend their current software offerings into VR will need to consider how best to source the correct development capability and expertise.
5.) Sales of standalone VR headsets will increase
Most of the Virtual Reality headsets available in today’s market are not standalone devices. Many of the most popular VR headsets need to be tethered via a high powered PC in order to function. As an example, the PSVR requires a connection to a PS4, the Vive requires a PC and the Gear VR requires a compatible Samsung smartphone as an accompaniment. In 2019 it’s anticipated that new Virtual Reality headsets will be launched to market that do not require any additional interaction with an external device to support processing power – and this represents a seismic shift in the way VR content will be designed and consumed. One of the established front-runners set to dominate the standalone VR landscape is the Facebook owned Oculus Quest. The Oculus Quest was recently unveiled at the Oculus Connect conference and represents what is arguably the most ambitious VR headset ever released.
Originally referred to by its prototype name, Oculus Santa Cruz, the Quest is anticipated to ship in spring 2019 for $399. In terms of the sales pitch and the unique qualities associated with the VR device, this is potentially the holy grail for Oculus: a wireless, hand-tracked, “six degrees of freedom” VR system with seemingly legitimate 3D power and no requirement to tether to a high powered PC or smartphone. “It has to be standalone,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in relation to the future of all Oculus products, as an indicator of the “ideal form factor” for VR. “Hand presence” and “six degrees of freedom” were required as well.
According to recent analysis from Business Insider Intelligence, sales of VR headsets (both tethered and standalone) are anticipated to grow 69% year on year. It’s anticipated that 30% of these sales will account for standalone Virtual Reality headsets. If these numbers prove to be accurate, that would suggest that as the market continues to develop, nearly half of all VR headsets that have been purchased are entirely standalone. This represents a huge shift in terms of the adoption and ongoing proliferation of VR technology, as the requirement for a peripheral, tethered device in order to provide an experience, represents a major barrier in terms of mass consumer adoption. Increased sales of untethered VR headsets will provide a much needed solution to the issue of mass consumer accessibility.
One of the key market drivers in terms of standalone Virtual Reality hardware is the Google Daydream initiative. Whilst the Daydream View is already compatible with millions of existing smartphones, there are also entirely standalone Daydream headsets already being released, the HTC Vive Focus being a fantastic example of this. There is no dispute that in order to run Virtual Reality experiences to an optimal standard, that a tethered experience will provide best results. However, the requirement for tethered devices also presents a massive adoption barrier and whilst standalone/mobile VR experiences are more accessible, they lack the high-fidelity aesthetics and performance standards of console/PC VR.
It’s not just companies such as Google and HTC pushing the boundaries and capabilities of standalone VR headsets. Technology giant Qualcomm, a highly successful smartphone chip manufacturer, are playing their own unique role in the evolution of VR technology. Qualcomm’s vision is to push standalone VR headsets into the mainstream through the 845 chipset and new reference designs.
Here at Mozenix we’re obsessed new and emerging technologies. Our mission is to work with the worlds brightest businesses to develop unique Augmented and Virtual reality experiences that underpin commercial goals and provide significant ROI. We’re busy working with global companies across multiple industry sectors, from digital health and care, to financial services, oil and gas, construction and utilities. We’re not hung up on emerging technologies for the sake of public relations or appearing to be innovative. We’re genuinely obsessed with how emerging technologies such as Virtual and Augmented Reality will impact your business in the next three to five years.
With Virtual Reality development offices throughout the UK in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, we’re ideally positioned to help extend your existing desktop or mobile software offering into the rapidly growing and highly lucrative world of emerging technology. If you’re a brand or business considering developing a Virtual Reality application, we’d love to hear from you. Whether it’s a lightweight prototype or a fully fledged commercial Virtual Reality production, as part of the Waracle and Exception group of companies, Mozenix is ideally situated to help fulfil your emerging technology objectives. Contact Mozenix today to kick-start your Virtual Reality application development plans.