Where is the xR Industry heading?

By 4th March 2019Food for thought

Before we look forward at where technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality (which fall under the umbrella term ‘xR’) are heading, it’s important to understand where the technology came from.

The History of Immersive Technology

The components of this technology date further back than you think, to 1912. With the Battle of Borodino of 1812, during the Napoleonic Wars when the French invaded Russia. Despite both sides facing casualties, Russian’s last emperor, Emperor Nicholas II commission a 115-metre painting depicting the battle to mark the centenary. This was effectively used as propaganda, travelling around Russia showing their might and power.

The 115-metre painting was made from pieces of wood, that could be fixed together to form a circle. People would stand in the middle and be surrounded by the painting, much like a 360 video today.

Sam Watts, our Director of Immersive Technologies has put together a timeline of the technology and how it has taken elements such as this painting, or arcade gaming, flight simulators to what is now the newest wave of immersive technology.

This new wave started in 2016 and is at a point where the technology and ease of use are evolving into a consumer level product, and the price is reducing to meet that.

Companies such as Oculus, HTC and Samsung are all expected to releasing products in the coming months, years which are priced the price of a laptop or mobile phone.

The future is… Gaming?

Looking at the xR industry right now, it’s worth $3.47bn (as of 2017), but this is estimated be worth to a whopping $198.18bn in just eight years, according to research carried out by BIS.

Truth is, no one knows for sure where the xR Industry is heading and what some of the uses may be used for (they haven’t even been thought of yet and won’t be until more people try the technology, and both the hardware and software uses improve). Right now, the technology is being used by early adopters with 62% used in employee training, 45% simulation in R&D and 43% for ‘on the job’ information.

Obvious uses such as gaming make up a very small percentage of the industry right now but as the technology advances, headsets become cheaper and easier to use, then the gaming industry (worth $137.9bn in 2018), will become more prominent.

One headset built for early adopter gaming fans is the PSVR, by Sony PlayStation, In the 22 months after launch, they sold over 3 million units, making it the largest seller of headsets over competitors Oculus, HTC and Samsung.

Few games have come close to the success of Beat Saber – a game similar to guitar hero in which the player slashes blocks representing musical beats.

It sold a whopping 100,000 copies in its first month alone and has since become the 7th highest rated game on stream, ever (including 2D titles). The game has helped capture a mainstream audience and show them how VR gaming could be more than a gimmick. Beat Saber was steamed more than 1.5m hours on Twitch in the past 5 months alone. Recently the game has been revealed to have sold over 1m units, the first VR game to do so, and has been announced as an Oculus Quest launch title, perhaps the first Killer App for VR?

The future is… the workplace?

Another use case for xR is for training and developing, perhaps surprisingly, this makes up the majority of the market today, with 62% for employee training, 45% simulation in R&D and 43% for ‘on the job’ information.

Increasingly, companies are seeing the value in introducing immersive technologies into their training and demo’s, in industries such as construction, where training often involves risk such as climbing.

At Make Real, our job is to make immersive digital products for learning, change and serious fun. One project that benefited from immersive technology was a demonstrator for phone mast maintenance, allowing employees to safely train in a virtual world instead of in ‘real world danger’.

From our extensive experience in the space, we were able to measure that the experience resulted in a better experience for users, was safer than traditional training and users were able to recall more information over traditional training methods.

The future of XR

As the technology is tested and developed, more and more companies and consumers are beginning to understand the use cases for immersive technology and when it should and shouldn’t be used.

Think of the technology similarly to how you viewed VHS years ago. At first it was expensive with little titles, as it developed, more titles used VHS, as did more people due to the ease of use (VHS players in your home), and the cost declined. Over time, this technology developed into DVD’s, and now digital downloads.

As we mentioned before, the XR industry was valued at $3.47bn in 2017, but it’s estimated to be worth $198.18bn by 2015.  We predict they’ll be use cases for immersive technology in just about every aspect of your lives, from new days to socialise and make, to experience entertainment or allow you to work more efficiently.

Recently, the industry has coined a new term, ‘spacial computing’ – in which the technology understands the physical world and interacting with it. Hardware such as the Microsoft HoloLens 2 which is set for release later in 2019 uses this technology.