How the Virtual Reality Landscape is Shaping Up
Virtual Reality is on a roll, with 2016 making a mark in the commercial usage of the technology. The year saw about 100 million VR units being shipped to customers; however the Google Cardboard constituted about 96% of this lot. The problem is that Google Card lies at the bottom end of the VR spectrum, is almost free and hence does not help the cause of large-scale revenue generation or even a great customer experience. 2017 may see this trend changing, with the introduction of the Samsung S8 and second generation headsets from the likes of Oculus and HTC.
Virtual Reality or VR as it is popularly known exists in two forms i.e. Mobile and OC. In between these two concrete modes, lie experimentations such as Project Alloy (Intel). The main fulcrum of VR success, though, is the design of headset and the nature of content, and the future looks bright from both these perspectives. On the headset-end, Samsung, Google and Oculus continue to rule the roost. On the content-end, a number of companies are making headway. The first VR Cinema saw the light of day, powered by Amsterdam. And a VR for Netflix is now available, thanks to HTC’s thought leadership.
Geographically, the West may be the focus of all VR innovation. However, one cannot disregard the advancements that China is making, according to a recent report by Bloomberg. It estimates China’s VR market will reach $8.5 billion, banking on the low-cost-high-volume model. An example is the Ritech headset, with a local price of $10; it crosses the envious sales figure of 100,000 units per month. Some of the growing players in the headset market are Taobao, Baofeng, LeTV, ZTE and Huawei. This positive growth outlook might soon give US and European players a run for their money, in capturing the VR market. However, the success of VR depends not only on cost and availability, but a sustained great user experience. That is where the big opportunity lies.
Most of the current crop of VR offerings are bulky, uncomfortable and have limited or basic content. While everyone is talking VR with all gusto, very few companies are actually delivering a matching high-end experience — be it content or headset design. The opportunity is ripe, with a number of possible use cases from education to enterprise. Moreover, VR content must be relevant, useful and delivered with great graphics. Innovative companies need to pave the way in owning these aspects to take VR to the next level, commercially. Only then can we expect VR tools to become a “must have” from their current state of “good to have.”