Technology trends impacting the future of our industry — Virtual reality (VR) / Augmented reality (AR)

The Wall Street Journal app has a dedicated section on virtual reality. This should tell you something about such new and emerging technologies and how they would manifest.

Which stage of the technology adoption curve are we at precisely with all of these cool new technologies/buzzwords (Virtual reality — VR / Augmented reality — AR)?

These are some of the most pertinent Q’s I asked myself (as I built the VR/AR lab for LIQUID MIND™) by setting up a newly acquired $599 Oculus Rift from the Oculus store, USA (not available in India) + Touch device and installed the new Asus high end gaming machine that sets one back another $4K (again, acquired from a recent trip to Singapore).

With the developer version of the Microsoft Augmented reality (AR) Hololens priced @ $3K for their first ship, clearly none of the above are within the reach of the common consumer; yet.

As with all new and emerging technologies that are disruptive, these are clearly serving a niche market and hence increased adoption as they move up the integration curve and make their technology more accessible to the masses. Google Glass’ failure should not be seen as a retrograde step as there is a lot of potential in VR/AR/AI and their respective applications to the real world.

We also try to examine if this is a classic case of a solution seeking a problem (think Apple Watch) or a problem seeking a much needed solution (a need vs. want). As you will see below, the technology adoption started off with a solution seeking valid problems and use cases but over time is starting to gain traction and there is indeed a market opportunity for these technologies that will change the way we live and perhaps be transformational!

First, the market opportunity for VR/AR

The industry is so nascent that applications and interesting use cases are just starting to spring up every now and then such as:

  1. Industrial applications/Energy/infrastructure sector — This is where I believe the utility and usage of VR/AR would be the highest. Some industrial equipment deals with extreme minutiae, some deals with extreme hazards (think the folks at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant trying to douse the after effects of the extremely sensitive areas of the power plant destroyed by the Japanese Tsunami of 2011), some deal with extreme scale where a minor mistake in the production assembly line would multiply itself by an order of magnitude
  2. Medical science — The next time you wish to allow medical science to make a quantum leap in 360 degree visualization and assisting the most complex of procedures
  3. Gaming — Needless to say, VR in 360 degreee is high on the list of serious gamers
  4. Education — The next time you want your kids to study in a 360 virtual classroom
  5. Telecommunications — think about how boring our lives in 2D communication are today. What if we can simulate a real time video conferencing with 360 degrees to give us a real feel of a environment around us?
  6. Lifestyle — Lets face it. 3D TV glasses are just biting the dust in both theaters and also at the home theaters right? The next time you want to have your elderly parents see what you are seeing somewhere up in the Himalayas or the warm and sunny Indian Ocean beaches; yes and in 360 degree VR! Bring it on and enrich people’s lives!
  7. Entertainment / Lifestyle — Again, the 3D glasses for your 3D movies and 3D TV just didn’t make the cut. It flopped bigtime! The next time you want to enter that multiplex and get the same surround sound effect and 360 degree surround effects as your neighboring IMAX; on VR!

To elucidate this a little more:

  1. Virtual reality devices like Oculus (acquired by Facebook) have a small but growing app store
  2. I tried a bunch of apps around virtual teleporting, I managed to get myself into a home theater app (Netflix has DRM so it didn’t play; YouTube 1080p videos played brilliantly!) I felt like I was @ an IMAX theater!
  3. I tried a bunch of apps around mountain climbing, diving into the ocean in 360 degrees, exploring our solar system with a 360 degree view and came out truly enthralled!

In all, here is my take on this:

  1. Applications are popping up every single month and this is typical of the Gartner adoption curve given below:

(Image courtesy: Gartner, July 2016)

2. Virtual and augmented reality is here to stay (per above, VR is already in the slope of enlightenment and AR is currently in the trough of disillusionment)

What am I doing about Virtual reality?

I’m currently actively engaged with a startup in this space. It is called VR Lively. Give it a spin! Let us know your comments!

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