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Extended reality is growing; there’s no doubt about that. Consumer, commercial, industrial — all markets involved in the extended reality (XR) space are seeing growth — both in terms of the technology and the applications that can make use of it.
As the co-founder and COO of an XR-focused company, I have firsthand experience with the ebbs and flows of the technological landscape and have watched it progress rapidly over the past few years. The technology is changing much like Moore’s Law and it is exciting to see the progression as headsets become lighter, faster and easier for consumer use.
Before we dive into our discussion, let’s first talk about what extended reality is. Simply put, the term encompasses virtual, augmented and mixed realities under one umbrella term. Whether it’s a product like Oculus Rift or Quest virtual reality (VR) headsets, or Google Glass augmented reality (AR) technology, they all fall under the term extended reality (hereon referred to as XR).
The Rise Of XR: Changing Industry As We Know It
According to Visual Capitalist, XR is expected to grow to a market size of more than $209 billion in the next four years. That’s an 800% increase from their 2018 forecast of $27 billion. How is this technology predicted to revolutionize industries across the world? First, it’s important to look at how the technology is being, or can be, applied:
• Training: XR is being used to train employees to execute their roles and responsibilities when they’re able to experience situations in a safe and secure environment. The medical space is the perfect example, where students can perform or experience surgeries without risking patient welfare.
• Industrial: AR is changing the way tradesmen approach jobs, with overlays and heads-up displays aiding their roles with information, schematics and similar visuals to increase job efficiency and remove waste time, potentially dangerous situations and the need to refer to external manuals or documents.
• Shopping & Retail: Imagine purchasing a house without ever setting foot in the property. That’s becoming possible, as AR and VR are being used to bring customers and clients to view properties, try on virtual clothing and more. Shopping is becoming more personal and tailored than ever, removing sticking points and barriers to entry.
• Entertainment: The way consumers experience entertainment is shifting with the introduction of technology. You only have to look at the video gaming industry to see that this is true. Virtual reality video gaming sales are expected to reach 22.9 billion dollars by next year, according to Statista. I’m also seeing suggestions for events such as music and festivals that introduce virtual reality to the experience. Very soon, consumers will be able to travel the world, sit next to friends and family and more — without ever leaving their living rooms.
The Accessibility Of Extended Reality
We’ve looked at how XR can be useful or entertaining in various markets, but how accessible is the technology?
Recently, Oculus introduced two new VR headsets: the Oculus Quest and the Rift S. The Quest is a standalone headset, requiring no tethering to a computer or similar system, while the Rift S requires no external sensors, adopting inside-out external sensor technology. These advances have removed the need for either an external computing source (for the Quest) or a larger play space (for the Rift S). (Full disclosure: My company is currently an authorized reseller for Oculus Quest.)
Companies like Valve are taking it a step further, with its recently announced headset, the Valve Index. While more expensive than most consumer headsets, the new technology introduces features such as individual finger recognition on the controllers, as well as improved resolution — set at 1,440 x 1600 pixels per LCD panel.
The amount of content for virtual reality has increased in all segments, with worldwide spending on VR content and applications forecasted to reach $1.84 billion this year — meaning there’s a higher demand for these products and more customers to sell them to. It certainly feels like we’re on the cusp of the XR explosion.
What This Means For XR Industry Leaders
By creating high-quality XR content, leaders in the space will be more likely to attract interest from businesses looking to leverage the technology in meaningful ways. However, with the advent of standalone headsets, there is an entirely new set of challenges to face: how to generate said high-quality content, while being confined to the processing power of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip (think of the latest cell phones on the market, except worse).
Essentially, VR-content is still working within the confines of limited computer power — AOI or standalone headsets are only capable of rendering so many pixels/polygons for a scene — so developing for these devices has limitations of which developers need to be aware.
With falling costs, and rising content and applications for XR, the next 12-24 months are likely to result in an explosion of advancements in the technology and demand both in consumer markets, as well as industrial and commercial applications.
Given falling costs and increased consumer adoption, XR content developers will need to be aware of the limitations and constraints of devices as well as the complexity of the applications being made. One of the biggest challenges herein lies in the fact that creating virtual environments is a lot of work.
Companies looking to adopt immersive technologies need to be aware of the costs associated and content developers need to keep in mind the hardware ceiling for developing applications. Costs are a bit higher on the unity development side of things because it is an emerging technology with a brand new set of rules and guidelines for development, meaning there is a steeper learning curve and a longer process for learning how to optimize applications for these devices. Talent for this type of development is in high demand and may cost content developers more than generalists that are versed in regular unity/unreal development.
With the potential to change the way we work, play and create, XR is the next big thing — keep your eyes on it.
July 8, 2019 at 08:05AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs