Year-end Review Virtual Reality: Use It or Lose It in 2019?


Pieter Van Leugenhagen

Dec 19th, 2018

Waaaaammmshhhh. That’s the sound of 2018 whipping by (or it could also be the sound of Mars which they just discovered.) If you didn’t have the chance to reflect “What the hell happened in immersive technology?” allow us to make this short synthesis of 2018 and look forward to a bright 2019:

Year-end Review Virtual Reality: Use It or Lose It in 2019?


Pieter Van Leugenhagen

Waaaaammmshhhh. That’s the sound of 2018 whipping by (or it could also be the sound of Mars which they just discovered.) If you didn’t have the chance to reflect “What the hell happened in immersive technology?” allow us to make this short synthesis of 2018 and look forward to a bright 2019:

Trends
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© Gartner Hype Cycle

One of the most prestigious trend barometers, the Gartner Hype Cycle, breaks down the emerging technologies evolution into five stages with long names (Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, Plateau of Productivity).

But another way to think about the Gartner Hype Cycle is in terms of real life: when a technology is born, then starts school (and parents have great expectations), then becomes the sulky teenager that is so disappointing, until we get to the late twenties and start to see some action, finally hitting the point where enough insight and experience is gathered and able to be funneled into something useful.

Well, two years ago, VR was the teenager full of acne and with a definite need for deodorant but look at 2018! VR has transformed into a hard-working professional, freshly showered with a can do attitude. VR’s cousin Augmented Reality (AR), however, continues to smoke weed and listen to Metallica records.

Product
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VR is however seeing tremendous development on the product front. Three noteworthy standalone devices were launched this year with significant improvements in visual quality.Not to mention needing no smartphone to view or having to be tethered to a PC.

If you have some great clients and need a gift that seals the relationship and stands out over the baskets of cheese and bottles of wine, look no further than:

  • Oculus Go
  • Lenovo Mirage Solo
  • HTC Vive Focus
Applications
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© Netflix VR

VR headsets are designed to immerse you in 360 content, but now there are new ways to use them for events, too. This year, Oculus launched Oculus Venues, an app that allows you to take part in live events or share a cinema experience. Watch a movie with your friend–or friends from all over the world– in a crowd of avatars. Cheer on the LA Lakers or another basketball team with front row access. Go onstage and watch your favorite band while onstage.  

Netflix continues its world domination as one of the most popular apps in the Oculus headset. Basically, it mirrors your home-viewing experience except it puts you in a cabin in the mountains. When you look left, you see a majestic mountain view, and above the cozy fireplace, you see a big television screen with your personal account.

Enterprise solutions

A perfect example of how VR is finding its way to the market is with the world’s largest retailer, Walmart. Just like in the past, emerging technologies’ path towards mainstream adoption always gets a boost from enterprise first. That happened with the laptop, smartphones, and now with VR as well. Walmart introduced VR in through its human resource division to onboard 375,000 employees and ensure consistent training, which turned out to be especially helpful with Black Friday mobs.

For companies with branches and locations all across the country (or world), VR is a way to keep employees up-to-date. Vopak the world’s leading independent tank storage company with +80 terminals worldwide shares its innovations through a VR experience that can be viewed with headsets at each location.

Film Festivals

VR is gaining more importance at leading film festivals like Tribeca, Venice and Sundance. Darren Aronofsky’s Spheres was sold for $1 million, the first 7-figure deal in the VR Landscape. Aronofsky is not the only Hollywood director who is exploring the potential of immersive storytelling. This year’s Oscars included an Academy Award for Special Achievement in film that went to two-time Oscar-winning film director Alejandro G. Iñárittu for his virtual reality work, Carne y Arena. It was the first time the award had been given since 1995.

And in 2019? More festivals are getting in on the act all over the globe and major festivals are expanding their offerings and viewing capabilities. Sundance is now including a VR theater. SXSW has made a specific track for VR projects but also integrates them in tracks on art or digital transformation. This means greater audience awareness and recognition. Jim Chabin, former president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (producer of the Emmy Awards), says each and every major film studio is behind immersive technology.

2019
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As an increasing number of content producers from traditional formats explore the new medium, Cinematic VR is just starting to venture further than baby steps. Most the traction will come from B2B settings because VR has a unique ability to make impact and generate ROI. We will see particular growth in VR with real estate, health care and learning & development.

It projected that in three short years (from 2019 to 2022), seventy percent of enterprise will be experimenting with immersive technologies for business and direct-to-consumer applications. A quarter of these ideas will have already started production. Conversational platforms, such as chatbots or virtual personal assistants, will include added dimensions like facial recognition (useful for emotion detection) and sensory channels (adding smell, touch or feel, for example). Interactions will become more emotion-savvy and immersive.

Brand Experience
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Remember how mobile telephones were all the rage? Pick any revolutionary technology, electricity, the telephone, a car, an app…. Once the technology takes off, the sense of amazement it brings when using it wears off. Now take Uber. At Cannes Lion 2018, Erika Decker, Uber’s Global Head of Brand Relevance, said “experience is everything…It isn’t good enough just to be mobile first, because if you want to change perception you need to be experience-first instead.”

What can VR do that a magazine ad, radio jingle or influencer marketing can’t? VR can make you feel emotion in ways traditional marketing can only dream of. VR can fully immerse your target audience in your story and create an unforgettable experience.

It’s logical. Technology’s appeal fades, and a mediocre message just won’t have the same results the way an experience can make you feel.

VR Worlds
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© The Park - Telenet

Location-based VR centres will keep on winning in the next year. Europe has some catching up to do, especially in comparison with China where they have between 4000 – 5000 centers. China needs quality content in their VR cinemas, while Europe needs more locations.

Hardware

In terms of hardware, all eyes are on Facebook’s Oculus Quest. It’s a standalone device with 6Degrees of Freedom (6DoF), which means that you are able to not only move on an X-Y-or Z axes, but you also can walk around and interact. It will enter the market in 2019 for $399 so definitely something to keep an eye on.

Popular question: Should I invest in a VR headset today?

Definitely yes if you like live sports, documentaries and entertainment. If you’re looking to find ways to start experimenting or improve your (pre)travel experience (or enjoy solitude during). Headsets aren’t where we imagine they could be, but Rome wasn’t build in a day, either. Right now you can still have some beautiful VR experiences, the same way you enjoyed having your first Nokia.

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