AR/VR: The next big technology wave after the mobile apps revolution

We are at the cusp of a major digital revolution from mobile applications to augmented and
virtual reality. The advent of immersive technologies such as AR/VR marks the dawn of a new
beginning in our relationship with technology. AR/VR creates computer-simulated environments that empower the users to move in and out of these virtual environments, with all the senses engaged. We’re no longer gazing at a screen; instead, we actively participate in the experience.

AR/VR has replaced mobile computing and blurred the lines between the physical and the
digital, no surprise there! Let’s imagine a scenario. You visit a place for the first time and hence you’re clueless about the finest eateries of that place. As a general practice, you’d try to get recommendations from Yelp/Tripadvisor on your phone or read the reviews of the people
who’ve already eaten at your shortlisted restaurants. Sometimes you wonder whether the reviews are really genuine or fake. How about just switching on your phone’s camera and you get to know about all the food destinations located nearby you along with how many people are dining out there or even experience the mouth-watering aroma coming from the restaurant? Now, that’s Augmented Reality (AR).

Believe it or not, immersive computing – AR/VR – is making its presence felt almost everywhere – gaming, film, social media, entertainment and even our smart mobile devices. According to researcher Global Market Insights, the global market for AR products will surge 80% to $165 billion by 2024. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is betting on AR and quite hopeful about this immersive technology keeping his company on top. Besides hiring best talent with expertise in everything from 3D video production to wearable hardware, his company has been busy making tactical acquisitions – Apple acquired Metaio that developed AR software in 2015); Apple also acquired FlyBy Media, which makes AR-related camera software.
According to a recent estimate by Goldman Sachs, AR and VR are expected to grow into a $95
billion market by 2025.

Earlier mobile applications made a massive impact in the brand experience world but now with AR/VR gaining a strong foothold, we’re likely to see some dramatic applications of these technologies across industries and sectors. The immersive computing is most likely to create engagement opportunities for the audiences.

  • Content: AR and VR are likely to offer an absolutely new creative medium by providing a sense of presence and immersion, while reducing the production cost of creative activities. There will be lower barriers to entry for new creators. AR and VR will be used as tools for empathy and cognitive enhancement. It would be easy for users to create content for AR/VR infrastructure as the advanced capabilities in 3D reality systems (these offer simple ways to enhance the imported 3D assets with images, charts, videos, step-by-step directions or real-time sensor information) get fused into a seamless environment. Virtual reality will impact movie theatre and theme park footfalls. Google recently launched a library – Poly – that users can visit and download 3D objects for use in apps. Facebook Oculus has redefined digital environment that enables users to indulge in games or films in the VR space. Recently in October 2017, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his goal to bring virtual reality to 1 billion people. In this pursuit, he launched the new Oculus Rift headset that can play a key role in translating his vision into reality.
  • Visualization: The virtual reality market is expected to hit $22.4 billion by 2020. It’s an integral component of the design process now as clients are now able to experience a preview of the design in all forms possible – 3D, real-time and all dimensions available before these go into the production. As the AR/VR space evolves and new software and hardware surface, clients might be able experience the immersive environment representation—aka virtual reality, or VR—along with gestural modeling, or the interpretation of hand movements through computer visioninto design information.

2017: A Year Shaped by AR, VR

As per a recent TechCruch article published on November 22, 2017, Apple has acquired augmented reality headset startup – Vrvana, maker of the Totem headset, for around $30 million. Though Apple is yet to confirm the deal, the industry is looking at this acquisition as Apple’s ambitious stab to ship an augmented reality handset in 2020.

Apple’s ARKit technology is one of the key features on the company’s iOS 11 that was released in September this year. The new framework takes “apps beyond the screen” allowing users to create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad.

There are some augmented reality features available for shopping for furniture and home decor using Apple’s ARKIt. Quite a few retailers such as Ikea, Wayfair, Amazon, Lowe’s and Houzz have already started leveraging these features.

Digi-Capital’s Augmented/Virtual Reality Report 2017 predicts that Mobile AR could become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021 (underperform $94 billion, outperform $122 billion) with AR taking the lion’s share of $83 billion and VR $25 billion. It’s interesting to note that Snap Inc., Facebook, and Google have invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality in 2017 too.

So far, both AR and VR have won an early audience in gaming and entertainment, but they haven’t been successful in entering the other sectors such as retail. This implies that AR and VR are not likely to transform the way you shop on this Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale. But as both technologies mature in the future and consumers start using these more aggressively on their phones, they have the potential to change our shopping behaviors and enable retailers to sell us more products online.

Walmart sees a shopping future filled with VR shopping in which the shopper looking to buy a tent table would be transported to a campsite, where he could go inside the tent, walk around it and ask questions about to a voice assistant like Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant as if it’s a store rep standing next to you.

2017 was a buzzing year for the augmented and virtual reality.  The next year is likely to witness opportunities for AR and VR to penetrate new markets. However, competition will be cut throat but the ones with high creativity and technology quotient will thrive.