MAD Perspectives Blog

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 The New Reality is Virtual

Peggy Dau - Friday, April 01, 2016


Earlier this year i claimed that the buzz word for 2016 would be the term "immersive". It's still too early to tell, but Virtual Reality is certainly garnering a lot of attention. With front page images from Mobile World Congress in February to this week's reviews of Occulus Rift - Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are front and center. A simple definition of VR says that it results from a combination of computing power and audio/visual optics to create a sensory experience for the enduser. 

A VR experience requires a unique device such as Google Cardboard (on the low end) and Occulus Rift (on the high end) plus some type of computing device such as a smartphone, laptop or gaming device.  VR got its start in the military as a method of providing combat training while the bio-tech industry has used forms of virtual reality to enhance research. The emergence of immersive experiences into the mainstream, opens a completely new reality for enjoying entertainment, training emergency response teams or enhancing 3D modeling.

Research firm TrendForce predicts 16 million virtual reality devices will be sold in 2016.  Deloitte, predicts 2016 revenue of $700M in hardware and $300M in content. While the entertainment sector will lead the way in the adoption of VR related to gaming, sports and music, industrial segments such as automotive, aviation or architecture will benefit from the ability to replace physical prototypes and models with virtual reality.  Even tech evangelist Kevin Spacey (yes, that Kevin Spacey) is enamored of VR. in a 2016 interview in Davos, he proclaimed the virtues of virtual reality (around minute 18). He recognized the value of the 3D experience of for entertainment, but also for education.  

The hurdles to widespread adoption of Virtual Reality are not insignificant, but like other emerging technology, these barriers will lessen over time. The primary challenges for consumer oriented services are:

     - Development of VR content -  While this a boon for the computer generated graphics (CGI) industry, creation of relevant, engaging content requires are variety of talent, skills and technology tools.

     - Content files are BIG - requiring bandwidth and PC processing power (which could be why Occulus Rift requires a PC not a smartphone). PC vendors will benefit as wireless devices do not yet have the processing power, nor do wireless networks have the necessary bandwidth (LTE Broadcast or 5G networks may help, but they are not widespread at this time).

     - Hardware is expensive - unique headsets are required and they are currently quite expensive. But like all technology, they will only improve in form, feature, functionality and price as time goes by.

While virtual reality is an immersive experience where early growth will be driven by consumer applications, the long term benefit and value will be achieved by enterprises using virtual reality to lower the cost of product development, improve the delivery of healthcare solutions and energizing robotics developments. Are you ready for the new reality?

What's your perspective?