Continued from Part 1
It is incredibly inspiring to be witness to the birth of a new medium. For this generation, that means Virtual Reality (VR) and its cousin, Augmented Reality (AR).
Virtual reality is complete immersion into a 3D environment that surrounds the viewer in 360 degrees. It is an astounding departure from even the most intense 3D film experiences. Viewers experience VR through a special VR headset, or through their smartphone in combination with a cardboard viewer and harness.
- Inclusivity. With the inclusion of spatial surround sound and motion-tracking technology, VR is capable of truly placing the viewer in another space — through VR, computer-generated scenarios allow pure fantasy to become integrated into the lives of everyday people.
- Usage. It’s applications are numerous, and center on immersive education and entertainment. For example, there are many training programs that now use VR to simulate flights, parachute deployment, vehicle operations, space missions, and medical procedures. The ways that VR has been used commercially include immersive sci-fi movies, VR videogames, robotics and telerobotics, art exhibitions, and amusement rides or experiences.
Augmented reality is, in a sense, VR lite. It is the superposition of 3D objects and graphics into the viewer’s real-world field of vision. It means overlaying 3D graphics on the environment in real time; AR allows for engagement in the “real world” while providing augmented graphics. AR uses glasses as opposed to an entire VR headset.
- Potential. What is interesting about this branch of the industry is that while it was initially forecasted to be of less value than full VR, evidence is growing to support that it is the underdog of immersive 3D graphics.
- Usage. Thus far, applications include preoperative medical imaging (x-rays and MRI scans), military virtual head-mounted displays (HMDs), navigation systems, augmented marketing and shopping, and the enhancement of to sightseeing, education, exhibitions, and museums — and this is only the beginning.
Making it Look Easy
- Computing Power. The success of virtual or augmented reality interfaces is a function of how seamless and effortless it appears to run. But it should come as no surprise that it involves an incredible amount of computing power and inspired 3D modelling from the backend.
- Computer-Aided Design. The process of forming entire alternate environments or interactive 3D graphics has roots in the same kind of CAD software used to make anything mathematically represent the “real world” — objects and scenes are first modeled by 3D artists, and are then placed in an alternate landscape. This new territory that retains elements of traditional design workflows.
A Sci-Fi Fantasy
Science fiction writers of the twentieth century could have only dreamed of today’s technological realities. We’ve wanted this technology for a very long time. The works of many authors from the 1930’s to the 1970’s laid the groundwork for our fascination with this kind of practical and fantastical technology. Milestones that spurned on the development of virtual reality can be found everywhere, from the “holodeck” room environment in Star Trek, to the Nintendo and Sega game headgear of 1990’s, to the explosive popularity of reality-bending movies like The Matrix.
Real-Life Tech Magic
- Inventive Spark. It was not until hours of hard work were put in that we saw fruition of these dreams. The first prototype of the Oculus Rift — the first VR headset — was designed by seventeen-year-old Palmer Luckey in his parents’ garage in 2010.
- Creative Fire. Since then, VR and AR have been spreading like wildfire. We now have VR applications that work on mobiles, gaming consoles, desktop PCs, and standalone setups. This is an industry that has fascinated us for the better part of a century and continues to make headlines. A globally-resonating headline was the 2014 purchase of Oculus VR technology by Facebook — this was a sign to many that virtual reality is big business. VR and AR technology is no longer just fantasy; it’s something that can be integrated into everyday lives.
- VR Products. Besides the Oculus Rift, competing VR products include the Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, and the Sony Project Morpheus.
- AR Products. There are similar advances in AR technology that are worthy of noting, including the Google Glass 2, Microsoft Hololens, Sony SmartEyeglass, Recon Jet, Magic Leap, Vuzix M100, and ODG R-7. This is substantially fast development — although the industry is still incredibly fresh we already have relatively low-cost, highly innovative, flexible accessories.
Numbers for these Notions
- Market Numbers. Let’s start quantifying. According to a new Global Forecast to 2023 published by Markets and Markets, the VR market is expected to grow from $7.9 billion in 2018 to $34 billion by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate of 33.95% between 2018 and 2023. The AR market is expected to grow from $11.1 billion in 2018 to $60.55 billion by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate of 40.29% between 2018 and 2023.
- Differing Markets. This research suggests that AR has a slight lead on VR. There are many reasons for this projection; among them the increasing demand for AR devices in healthcare, retail and e-commerce. The the fact that there has been a huge rise in investment into augmented reality market is another major driving factor.
- Establishing VR. The success of VR, however, will be mostly driven by how far head-mounted displays can break into the gaming and entertainment world. Regardless of any uncertainty here, though, there have been huge investments in the VR market, which, when combined with the advancement of technology and digitization, make VR development increasingly available and affordable.
- Sales Forecast. In terms of how widespread the day-to-day use of VR and AR technology will become, CSS Insight’s research firm forecasts 16 million virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices will be shipped in 2017.
Growth. The previously mentioned sales are a 47 percent growth, year-to-year. The market value of all these devices sold is estimated to amount to $1.6 billion. Within that huge sum, exclusively-VR devices (like the Oculus Rift) will account for about two-thirds, and smartphone VR and AR devices (like Google cardboard and Samsung Gear VR) will account for the other 13 million units sold.
- Installed Base Revenue. Digi-Capital’s new Augmented/Virtual Reality Report Q1 2018 predicts that VR might deliver an installed base revenue (a calculation based on profits of the total units in circulation) in the range of $10 billion to $15 billion. The prediction for augmented reality is even more astounding: it could approach $85 billion to $90 billion in revenue — all within 5 years. That is a very big difference. Once again, it is a matter of the difference in applications of AR and VR technologies. Ubiquity and scope of focus are key factors for the relative success of each.
- Current Status. The above numbers hint at enticing profits in the future, but if you take a look at the money that has already been shifted around by this disruptive industry, you will see that there is weight behind all this buzz. The aforementioned 2014 sale of Oculus VR to Facebook was a $2 billion transaction; there is a similar story with the AR technology of Magic Leap: in the same year — 2014 — it raised $542 million from supporters like Google and Qualcomm.
All Signs Point to Relevance
- Cash In Flow. Every major company is investing in VR and AR. As recently as March 2018 saw a new iOS update with AR support. Not even ten years have passed and Apple — arguably the world’s predominant innovator in user-friendly technology — has assimilated AR functionality. Internet heavyweight Google is heavily investing in its VR platform and headset, Google Daydream.
- New Gear. Microsoft also has newly released mixed reality headsets, which are predicted to boost the market from 2017 onward. This new hardware will help bridge the adoption gap of VR and AR technology into mainstream culture.
- Cultural Relevance. This technology has trickled into the world of experimental art and exhibition; examples of this include live VR painting using Google’s Tilt Brush, and global exhibitions like VR experience produced by alternative music superstar Bjork in 2017.
Case Study: Pokemon Go
We can examine the cultural relevance of AR by taking a closer look at the case of Pokemon GO. As soon as it was selectively released in 2016, it completely took the world by storm. Almost overnight, the success of this free mobile application was solidified. Although it does not involved the kind of 3D immersion that something like a flight simulation entails, its use of GPS technology to superimposed collectable Pokemon characters into the real world speaks to the demand for interactive alternate reality games.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are provocative and fresh. They embody everything that is great about the creative spirit that forges ahead into the twenty-first century. These twin industries are built along the backbone of solid 3D design and continue to demand high-quality modeling work. The graphics industry will never be the same.
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