Report: AR/VR Spending Will Double Through 2021

Ry Crist, CNET:

Worldwide spending on virtual and augmented reality is expected to double each year through 2021, say the analysts at IDC, a market research firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts. According to their math, total spending will increase from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $215 billion in 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 113.2 percent.

This absolutely echoes what I’ve been hearing. Barring a significant economic event that curtails global spending (which, frankly, is quite possible), the money that’s already flowing into AR and VR will only flow more readily over the next three to five years.

Consumer sales for things like headsets and games are currently the top driver of overall spending, followed by sales in the manufacturing and retail sectors. In the US, some of those sectors could ultimately overtake consumer sales by 2021.

Consumer interest in, and spending on, VR will climb steadily, but I don’t think headsets will be the new smartphone anytime soon. That said, expect more “consumer sales drive AR/VR growth!” headlines over the next few years as sales of AR-ready iPhones inform analysts’ reports. I’d argue that these numbers will be somewhat artificially inflated, as the percentage of consumers who buy new iPhones specifically for Augmented Reality applications will be rather low.

“Other segments like government, transportation, and education will utilize the transformative capabilities of these technologies,” said Marcus Torchia, research director of IDC Customer Insights & Analysis.

This is where the big, dull action will be. Microsoft is already building a healthy Hololens business in the enterprise. Nobody outside the enterprise talks about it because enterprise tech is “dull” and consumer tech is “sexy.” But serious money is being invested in practical innovations built on AR and XR (mixed reality) technologies, and big corporations are betting on those innovations paying dividends in the form of more efficient training, logistics, and business processes.

AR will generate lots of buzz over the next 12 months thanks to iOS 11 and ARKit. What consumers do with it after that remains to be seen. But the money will continue to flow into AR and XR for the enterprise, at least for another three to five years.

HTC and Jaguar Team Up for VR-Enhanced Car Launch

HTC:

Taking place over 12 VR pods, the experience featured a series of interactive technology stories, to dive deeper into the mechanics of the E-PACE. With Vive’s tracked controllers, guests could rotate the model to view from all angles and lift away sections of the car to reveal the interior. Whole sections of the car could be interacted with, such as opening the boot to get a 3D view of the capacity inside, or removing the engine for a close up look.

The VR experience culminated in placing the participant between two ramps in the heart of a thrilling car stunt. The 15.3 metre-long jump complete with a 270-degree corkscrew-like ‘barrel roll’ stunt was then spectacularly recreated live at the ExCel, setting an official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title, for the Furthest Barrel roll in a Production Vehicle.

A few years ago I moderated a panel on developing AR/VR experiences for business applications using Salesforce data.* One of the panelists demoed a mixed reality experience he’d developed for car dealers: A car shopper sits behind the wheel of a new car (either in person at the dealership, or in a digital car via VR). The shopper selects available vehicle options – trim, options, interior color, etc – and the digital car changes in real-time to reflect the selections. When the shopper glances at the driver’s side window, a virtual window sticker updates the car’s price to reflect the selected options.

It was genius; the panel audience was wowed by the combination of whiz-bang technology and obvious business use case.

Whatever happens (or not) in the mainstream consumer space, VR will continue to grow in the enterprise. Awesomely sticky experiences in controlled environments like press launches and retail showrooms will provide more bang for the buck in VR than via any other medium, including physical reality, over the next few years.

*Side note: One of the other panelists was founder of an AR company called Augment. Looks like Salesforce Ventures invested $3M in them a year later. Maybe I should host more panels? 

How Big of a Problem Will Sexism Be in the VR Industry?

Doree Shafrir wrote a thought-provoking piece about sexism in the VR industry that BuzzFeed ran on July 5. The piece is well worth reading, whatever industry you work in.

Here’s one of many money quotes from Sahfrir’s story:

Or as Taryn Southern, a YouTube personality who is now working in VR, put it: “We don’t want to end up with Silicon Valley tech bro culture shaking hands with Hollywood sleazy producer/director culture.”

And another:

“This is the third time that a big VR company or person has been the scum of the earth,” said a VR producer who asked to remain anonymous, referring to the most recent scandal at Upload. “I love VR for its potential, but these fucking man-babies are ruining it.”

At the risk of reducing the piece to a few bullet points, here’s what I kept thinking after reading it:

1. VR has, in many ways, grown out of gaming. The gaming industry has a sexism problem.

2. Gaming is related to both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Hollywood and Silicon Valley have sexism problems.

3. Hollywood and Silicon Valley are in America. America has a sexism problem.

4. America is on Planet Earth…

okay, you see where I’m going with this.

Reporting like Shafrir’s is incredibly important for many reasons. For the sake of Extra Real’s new, and still-forming raison d’etre, I’ll just say that if women are put off by the VR industry, the industry will suffer. Full stop. Sexism has no place in any industry, or society.

AR Firefighting Helmet Takes Thermal Imaging to Next Level

Bobby Carlton, VRScout:

The C-THRU system works by integrating several technologies: head-mounted projection display, optical thermal camera, cloud computing, selective active noise cancellation, target acquisition, and an augmented reality display—all built into the helmet to give the firefighter real-time navigation directly within line-of-sight. This important information is essential in allowing the firefighter to move throughout a building much faster—in some cases even five times faster.

“The cameras are 2-3 pounds, they get heavy,” said  [veteran firefighter] Dejnozka. “When using it, you lose the ability to use that hand. The Qwake helmet would reduce much of that load and allow me to have both of my hands free to move around, which would increase the safety of the firefighter, and it would improve our chances of stopping the fire.”

I’m starting to write a lot about AR’s potential as a mainstream platform for consumers to use in daily life. But that doesn’t undercut its incredible potential in professional situations with site-specific needs. Carlton’s post goes into detail about several other of Qwake’s features, including the use of AR to overlay wall temperature and other critical information on a firefighter’s live field of view.

The possibilities for AR in the workplace are just mind-boggling.

Oculus Slashes Rift Bundle Price to $399. That’s a 50% Drop in Four Months.

Oculus just announced a sale on their Rift + Touch bundle. For a limited time (six weeks, starting today), you can pick up the bundle for $399 USD. That’s a $200 savings.

The new pricing also represents a 50% savings, or $400, from the same bundle’s $798 price only four months ago.

Note that the new sale pricing only applies to the bundle. Purchased separately, the Oculus Touch controllers are still $99. This is all being marketing as part of the company’s Summer of Rift promotion, which features sale prices on a wide selection of games and other content, as well.

Without getting too far into reading tea leaves, all available data points to two possible reasons for the price cut:

1. Oculus hasn’t sold very many Rifts. VR headsets generally haven’t sold well, with the possible exception of Samsung’s Gear VR. I say possible because many of the units Samsung has moved have been freebies thrown in with the purchase of a new Galaxy smartphone.

2. The impending launch of standalone VR headsets from HTC, Lenovo, and Samsung spells significantly increased competition for mindshare and early install base capture. Oculus is doing what they can to bring new users into their ecosystem now, before these new platforms hit the market later this year.