This week the tech world gathered in Barcelona for the Mobile World Conference. This B2B conference is the biggest mobile industry event in the world. The most talked about launch was undoubtedly the (re-)launch of the Nokia 3310. For us, however, the products with the brightest future are without a doubt the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) products.
In Barcelona both HTC and Sony have launched VR products, but all the major companies have entered the AR/VR market. Facebook has the Oculus Rift. Samsung has the Gear VR, there’s Google Daydream View and LG’s 360 VR. HTC has its Vive and Microsoft is developing its much anticipated HoloLens. Even though, the VR and AR glasses and headsets have been around for a while, why do we think business will be booming on this front within the next couple of years?
Before we answer this question, let’s get some things straight. What exactly is VR? And what’s the difference with AR? VR typically immerses the user in a virtual world via a headset that, mostly, isolates you from the real world. While AR inserts virtual objects and information into the real world, therefore augmenting your experience of it via a headset that (hopefully) is as modest as possible. A popular example for AR is the PokémonGO game. This game on its own delivered $600 million in the first three months after the release, which is more than the entire VR industry in the same year! A success even the creators, Nintendo/ The Pokémon Company/ Niantic, didn’t see coming. Last summer we all went truly Poké-crazy.
In 2016 the AR/VR market underperformed a bit. In the beginning of 2016, experts predicted it could deliver $4.4 billion in revenue, it totaled $3,9 billion - largely by the outperformance of PokémonGO. What was promising about 2016, however, is the trajectory of the market. The industry is projected to pull in around $162 billion. The challenge for the industry, however will be to find an accessible price and a hero device. Apple, Microsoft and Google seem to be in with the biggest chance to create this device for both VR and mobile AR. So another showdown of the giant tech firms seems to be looming.
It is in the mobile AR that there seems to be more marketing opportunities for the retail industry. During the PokémonGO madness, we only saw the tip of the iceberg. In the future VR/AR will be used far more often for training, tours, demos, communication, prototyping, and more. With IMAX opening “VR cinemas” where you can play the games, another step has been made in popularising the new tools at hand. As a brand, if you want to be on the VR/AR wave, the time to act on it, is absolutely right now!