10 Key Factors that will Decide the Future of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Robby Gupta

Convergence: Where the Virtual meets the Real

Ever since Facebook acquired Oculus Rift for a whopping $2 billion in 2014 and Pokémon GO was launched this summer, both virtual reality and augmented reality have gained substantial worldwide attention, and rightfully so.

Augmented Reality PokemonGo

Source: pixabay.com

Microsoft’s unveiling of HoloLens further intensified the conversation around AR/VR. Together, the VR and AR industry have so far garnered an investment to the tune of $4 billion. Over half of this investment amount came together in just the last two years!

Obviously, these technologies are important topics of boardroom discussion now, with decision makers across enterprises and SMBs (Small to Medium size businesses), all over the world, debating questions such as:

  • What virtual reality and augmented reality is and why companies should care about these technologies
  • What potential transformation a VR/AR based user interface can bring to the way employees and customers interact with businesses
  • How organizations of all sizes can leverage these tools

What they do know is however is that there is a growing market for immersive tech and the promise of VR/AR applications radically disrupting the current business landscape, is quite strong.

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Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are not exactly new

Virtual reality was first mentioned on the Gartner’s Hype Cycle back in 2013. At that point, it was at the bottom of the curve. However, three years later, it is back to the stage of the cycle, where its reputation has considerably amplified.

Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies identifies transparently immersive experiences as one of the key trends that organizations must track in order to gain competitive advantage.  It is predicted that both AR and VR are going to catapult into mainstream adoption, in the next five to ten years.

As early adopters are increasingly buying VR devices to traverse the virtual world, Deloitte forecasts that about half of the 1.2 million headset sales predicted for 2016, will come during the holiday season.

AR/VR could hit $150 billion revenue by 2020, with AR taking the biggest slice of the pie at around $120 billion and VR at $30 billion.

Are virtual Reality and Augmented Reality more than just passing trends?

Both virtual reality and augmented reality open the door to a world of engaging possibilities, with their innate ability to solve problems, dramatically simplify processes and engage people – all of the characteristics of a Sustaining Technology. There are a host of practical applications for virtual reality and augmented reality in education, healthcare, engineering, sports, construction and countless other fields.

The possibilities are endless.

At the same time, they have been around for a long time and have still not succeeded in producing ample proof that the future growth of VR and AR is guaranteed. Infact, there is a massive graveyard of VR and AR projects that have failed miserably, considerably fizzling the expectations built around them.

But, as we are well into 2016, we do see a fresh wave of hope again. Both VR and AR are poised to make a dramatic impact in healthcare. Experts predict this could result in completely transforming patient therapy and medical training.

What drives the market for augmented reality and virtual reality?

Though both technologies are used differently, there are certain common drivers that will shape the future of this technologically modified reality.

1. What is the value it brings?

According to Digi-Capital, the average consumer has tremendous expectations of VR and AR, based on their experience of using incredibly powerful smartphones, that they are able to carry with extreme ease in their pockets. Gaming and entertainment along can not be perceived as enough value to justify the price tag, nor the slight discomfort involved in carrying an AR or VR device around. Being very clear about the value a VR and AR device can bring to the customer is extremely important. Numerous technologies have failed in the past, simply because they were so focused on creating this amazing new thing, they forgot to put themselves in the shoes of their target audience to see how it actually benefits or serves up value to the user.

Google glass, which was launched back in 2013, had two basic purposes: to capture images instantaneously and to have immediate access to a feed of useful information from the internet, literally just one glance away. Both these benefits had no practical value for users causing it to fizzle faster than your glass of coke.

AR and VR can only push forward if they are clear about the function they deliver and also, incredible marketing to make these functions and their value crystal clear to users.

Microsoft learned their lesson from Google’s disastrous launch, and positioned HoloLens, which uses mixed reality,  as a device that could perform the specific task of allowing users to interact with holograms, people and objects freely . Rather than just boasting new features, they were particular about showcasing the value it could bring to its customer.

2. Is it affordable?

Sure, expensive devices like the iPhone and Android have quickly gained hoards of buyers around the world in a relatively short period of time and ideally, what’s to stop people from buying AR and VR devices?

There is no going around it – AR and VR devices are expensive. It is hoped, of course, that once VR becomes popular, progressive manufacturing processes and the resulting economies of scale would kick in, reducing device cost considerably. But, given that VR also needs ample computing power and high-end graphics to provide a truly immersive experience, we are talking major expense involved in leveraging the technology.

Price is key. There is a specific strategy that the smartphone industry has employed that could work quite well for the AR/VR world as well. Immersive VR and AR players should consider getting telecommunication companies, such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, involved, to reach a mass audience.

3. Can it replace the smartphone?

AR has the distinct advantage of its ability to be used anywhere. It doesn’t block out the real world, the way VR does. While this freedom works in its favor, it is also important to note that for AR to be embraced by users, it has to become extremely mobile, even more so than your smartphone. We are talking unrestricted platforms, extremely long battery life and mobile quality-of-service for voice and data, enabling  the user to make phone calls and browse outside the range of Wi-Fi, all day long.

Tim Merel

According to Tim Merel, founder of Digi-Capital, AR will eventually need to replace the smartphone!

Since VR is best used in controlled environments, such as the home or while seated on a train or a flight, where there is no danger of the user falling over, mobility isn’t as big a concern for VR, although it can still be a major positive.

4. Is it multi-purpose?

The point is, AR and VR devices are not the most convenient to carry around. If all VR can do is play games, then it can’t get too far. It is important that both AR and VR are able to function as multipurpose devices. If they are able to successfully fit into the workplace, there is substantial scope for it to replace the devices users are already engaging on.

5. How good are the optics looking?

It seems that the real challenge for AR and VR is that they have to compete with smartphones that are able to render  impressive images on retina displays, with little to no pixelation. On the other hand, VR and AR headsets currently available in the market, have severe technical limitations, when it comes to optics. When users already have something good in their hand, they want better than ever. This means, low resolutions and low field-of-view will just not make the cut. Superior vision quality is crucial to the success of AR and VR and its subsequent mainstream adoption.

6. Is there enough engaging content?

As we’ve already discussed before, the price range that VR and AR devices are currently available in, make it mandatory for the users to be blown away by the experience these technologies deliver. Quality content is crucial in both building and retaining a large user base, which ties in with the previous point about vision. As important as the optics and immersion experience are, users should also have access to diverse and rich content.

7. Is it easy to access?

As fancy as immersive VR is, it requires a colossal amount of processing power to quickly handle commands and deliver astounding impact- a certain level of Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), sizable Central Processing Unit (CPU) and substantial storage to run VR software. While screenless VR headsets such as the Google Cardboard, are still within most people’s reach, cost wise, immersive VR might not be as easily adopted, because of the massive associated costs.

8. Is it wearable?

Virtual Reality

Source: pexels.com

Aesthetics are important to fast popularity. Other than its lack of clear value, Google Glass crashed and burned for one shallow reason – deficiency in aesthetic appeal. Let’s just be candid about it – the Google Glass was awkward and unattractive, without debate. Truth be told, wearable technology is a part of what defines your style and personality. If a certain piece of technology makes you look like a transformer, it is less likely to be well received by the large subset of style conscious buyers. The aesthetic aspect is more relevant to AR than VR, because of its usage outside of home. Not only, do headsets and controllers have to be comfortable to wear, but they should also have great design and style.

9. Is the immersive experience as magical as people expect?

Immersion is a key factor in deciding the future of AR and VR. Oculus, Valve, and others realize this and are working hard to create fully immersive experiences, which are nothing short of magical and spirit-lifting. Brands around the world are looking to leverage immersive experience in interactive advertising and building compelling stories. Except for the AR applications that do require users to be able to distinguish between the real and virtual, immersion is essential to the future of AR and VR. Delivering immersive experience requires extremely accurate position tracking, 3D audio, intuitive interactive controllers, and more.

Virtual reality immersion will completely revolutionize the way people experience film in the coming years. It will be interesting to see how players in AR and VR space will leverage this potential to tell stories in a more interactive and intuitive way.

10. Is it comfortable?

Unfortunately, VR devices are also being blamed for causing queasiness and motion sickness in a lot of users. Safety concerns were also a primary reason for the failure of Google Glass. Wearing an AR device would mean that your head is in constant contact with a gadget that is constantly emitting carcinogenic radiation. Headsets and controllers, with their size and weight, would also have to be comfortable enough for usage. Several people complained about motion sickness with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, making this an important issue for both companies to resolve.

Before the AR and VR markets can start to see mainstream adoption, there are several issues that have to be ironed out. New technology can be exciting for everyone – users, new entrants in the market and for businesses looking to leverage it to boost their own business outcomes. However, this interest can die out as quickly as it begins, if the technology does not create value for the users or if there are complications in adopting it. Even the coolest technology or features will fail to last, unless these two aspects are tackled head on.

For players in the virtual reality and augmented reality space, there is one vital question that they should ask themselves:

How is your product improving the life of your users?

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about the author

Robby Gupta

Robby Gupta is the head of US operations for TechJini, Inc. He has had varied experiences working in New York, Cupertino, and Bangalore with packaged & amp; custom web and mobile app development for an assortment of industries. His current focus is Immersive Technologies, IoT, AI bots and their applications in the digital enterprise.