28 SPECIAL REPORT: VR/AR
Virtually real The lines between the real world and the virtual world are blurring rapidly, such that making a distinction between the two is becoming increasingly challenging. Ian McMurray assesses the implications for the AV industry
f you’ve been asleep for the past couple of years, you probably missed the Pokémon Go craze. Launched in July 2016, it generated 752 million downloads and $1.2 billion in revenues. Somewhat brief-lived – is anyone even still playing it? – it could be said to have brought augmented reality (AR) to the mass market. In a similar vein, virtual reality (VR) has, until now, been largely a consumer market. In fact, for ‘consumer’ read ‘ gamer’. Sony has launched the PlayStation VR, while PC gamers have the HTC Vive. Google has its own offering, and evidence of the perceived potential of the VR market can perhaps be found in Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR for a reported $2 billion in March 2014.
‘The big challenge – and opportunity – for AV professionals is to turn VR into a shared experience’ Colin Yellowley, Igloo Vision
Of the two, it seems likely that AR will emerge the clear winner. Researcher Digi-Capital, for example, believes that the VR/AR market will be worth $108 billion by 2021, with AR taking the lion’s share of that at $83 billion. IDC is even
more bullish, forecasting a combined market value of $143.3 billion by 2020. The company notes that the large majority of this will be driven by consumer applications, but believes that the forerunners in commercial applications will be retail, transportation and healthcare. Oh, and: just to confuse the issue, Microsoft now provides Windows Mixed Reality, having dabbled its toes in the AR waters with Hololens. From what anyone can ascertain, mixed reality (MR) falls somewhere between VR and AR.
Shared experiences It’s almost certainly signiﬁcant that this year saw the debut of the new XR Technology Zone at ISE, showcasing the latest in virtual technologies, and the XR Summit ISE B2B strategy conference. What, then, will VR/AR/MR mean to the pro AV community? “Almost by deﬁnition, the AV industry is about delivering shared or collective experiences,” says Colin Yellowley, founder and president, Igloo Vision, which specialises in the creation of immersive technology. “But, up until now, VR/AR/MR has mainly been about individual experiences, so the big challenge – and opportunity – for AV professionals is to turn VR into a shared experience. “This is particularly the case in the enterprise market,” he continues. “Unless the content is sharable, its value is limited. For almost all
Key Points VR, AR and MR are all too easily confused with one another. They are distinct technologies with different applications Training, education, design and simulation are already seeing success as valid applications The application most often mentioned as having the greatest promise for VR, AR and MR is collaboration It’s vital to keep an open mind. The technologies have the potential to be truly transformative in ways we do not yet know commercial VR applications, teams of people need to be able to experience the same thing in the same way.” “There’s huge scope for AV professionals to transform conference rooms, training rooms, collaboration rooms and visitor attractions into immersive spaces,” he concludes. “The opportunities, as I see it, are endless.” Andrew Hug, vice president, systems engineers, EMEA at Polycom, picks up on the theme of collaboration, and is clear. “Advances in VR/AR/MR are making their way into all sorts of areas of our lives, and this will inevitably enter our working lives,” he believes.
AV integration in a networked world