This first thing that I want to note about the future of VR is a bit ironic – and that is to stop calling it VR – or at least recognize that that is a bit of a bucket term for a number of technologies. We’re starting to combine the terms VR, AR, and MR, into this kind of overreaching descriptor of digital reality (DR) – some people call it XR to fill in the gaps, but digital reality seems to be resonating a little bit better. So, we start projecting out 6-12 months.. even a year and we look at it as that collection of visualization technology blending, merging, and working fluidly together in digital reality.
1. Stop calling it VR!
2. Hardware is always going to get better.
As anyone who has tried VR today can attest, it’s powerful, but there are still challenges. Even people who have had an experience in a professional tethered rig, like an HTC Vive, or something like an Oculus Rift – you’ve got this cable running from the back of your head, it gets sweaty, it’s clunky, it can be a little bit off-putting. The mobile devices, while they’re getting more and more powerful – everyone wants it to be higher resolution, lower latency, bigger field of view, longer battery life, less overheating to solve the convergence problem because there are a bunch of things that are all understood and I point to the Oculus Go – it moves forward on five of those things I just mentioned, in a substantive way, while absolutely plummeting the price. Two years ago I would’ve killed for an Oculus GO, and now future of VR is here with it. It’s self-contained, has a long-lasting battery life, great tracking, excellent visuals – that DIDN’T exist two years ago, and now it’s available $200 street – for the cost of a music subscription, you’ve got this powerful new communication medium. To do what the Oculus Go does today by combining a phone with an enclosure, you’re looking at about $1000 street to have something reasonable – meanwhile, the Oculus Go is $200 for exactly the same thing.. I mean, that’s a staggering drop in pricing.
You’ve also got a major player in the space Leap technology. They’re promising full-blown, functional mixed-reality headset with hand-tracking as a reference design for roughly $100 street price. So, that’s what I mean about VR, AR, and MR all kind of blending.. As that hardware comes forward, we will exploit it. So, if $100 AR headset is out there, our AR pipeline (which is obviously in-the-making) will be able to exploit it.
3. We’ve got so much to look forward to for DR technology
So, we’re seeing the evolution of technology – if anything, we’re actually seeing the technology outstripping everything else. We’re seeing the software ecosystem is getting better, richer, so standards are starting to evolve, things like GLTF which is a 3D data format, optimized for delivering this type of experience, WebVR, and we’ve got the big players working on things like ARKit and ARCore to give you dial tone for doing basic mixed reality behaviours, and you’ve got just MASSIVE research going into data compression, 5G data transport, and we can go on and on. We’ve actually got an entire, what we call, “TechRadar”, where, Yulio as a company – all of our mad scientists and product people are looking at the major trends in all of these relevant areas in software, hardware, standards, in the UX/best practices, and we update that frequently and we use it to inform our thinking – that’s how we skate towards where the puck is going. We’re projecting these things forward, we’re looking at the scientific papers recognizing that those papers are gonna be turned into functionality, and open source, and things that we can use and then we’re figuring out where our opportunities lie through all of that. So a lot of it is having that insight into what those variables are, who the players are, and how rapidly things are adapting.
4. We’re going to see DR technology being used more and more as a standard in the construction industry
That is happening in other industries as well. That’s happening in construction now. Construction is already adopting augmented reality so you’ve got a pipefitter who puts on an augmented reality headset, and they will see, because of the plan, that there’s supposed to be pipes running along the wall – they’ll see where they’re exactly supposed to go in real-time, at-scale, where it’s supposed to be cut-in and cut-out – they can do the work and check their work. Then the inspector comes around – he can put on the same headset – looks at the original drawings and be able to compare workers efforts against the original design -and THAT is utterly transformative for the entire industry for bottom-line costs, maintaining clarity for regulations, quality working effort, at a level of fidelity that we’ve never seen before.
5. VR doesn’t always have to be flashy
Have you ever tried watching something in a headset? For instance, watching Netflix with your peers or something like that. It’s small and simple, and if you’re living in an apartment and you don’t have space for a 60” television, then you can sit there and have an IMAX size theatre screen in front of you in your very own living room and you can watch whatever you want! Entertainment executions like this will continue to help drive the future of VR.
6. DR is the next major gaming platform
So, we’re ahead of the game. The adoption of VR as a way of consuming traditional media in a new way is, frankly, disruptive stuff. If you take a VR mount into a gaming room, (and there are some really good titles out there that are breathtaking and forefront stuff in virtual reality) and you come out with this emotional high that you just don’t get sitting there with other mediums. That’s what’s transformative about future of VR – it’s an evolution of a storytelling medium and it’s the emotional connection that drives it that’s so exciting. You see more and more of these big studios when they do these big quality AAA games with – and they ain’t doing it unless they can get their money back. So you’ve got the Sony’s and Samsung’s of the world pushing consumer VR but frankly, it’s in the very early days – for instance, instead of 100 hours of play, we’ve got 5 hours of play but it’s a REALLY cool 5 hours. Things like the Oculus Go suddenly become an install base of millions upon millions of content will follow. So, the big leagues for consumer VR are going to be content production – content that has a little bit more awareness, a little more accessible hardware.
7. Consumer adoption of VR will come as fast as we invite it
Technology moves fast, moves strategically, and it’s moving to address fairly well-understood problems… the bigger challenge is when you move into the human side of things – which is the consumer consumption of digital reality. Now, obviously, Yulio as a company, we’re primarily focused on the business applications of this… that said, the business applications don’t exist in a vacuum. As consumers get exposed to DR and AR, kind of like first harbingers, they will lay the foundation for further investment in the space. Business or not they’ll build the future of VR because as consumers use it, more people will build hardware, more people will build software, so the building blocks that we use to create our products will branch from user adoption of the tech.
8. Digital reality training is coming full force – and it’s working!
Education is another big one. The best example is Walmart who started dabbling with virtual reality as a way of training employees. They have this massive training program; whether you’re the one greeting at the door, or you’re the one stocking shelves or at the cash, you go through this very rigorous training program that introduces you to the “Walmart way” of doing things – and they will celebrate improving those outcomes all day long. If you can improve testing outcomes and improve customer feedback through that training program it has a huge impact. They introduced VR – and they saw double-digit improvements OVERNIGHT. So, they went from doing this as a trial to rolling out a full training program to every Walmart training center around the world and that was in the course of 12 months. So, again, this is a BIG IMPACT of DR transforming businesses.
So imagine that the same person is stocking the shelves wearing an MR headset and it gives them reinforcement of that training because they’re seeing it in real-time, and the social stigma of looking funny with a big headset on doesn’t apply if you’re stocking shelves – So, business applications, some of those constraints that are going to slow down consumer adoption, don’t exist in business. If I’m going and doing a ‘pick and place’ in a warehouse – Putting a load into a box to mail to you, I don’t care what I look like. To put on a DR headset to be better at my job to improve efficiency is just something you’re going to do. That is becoming deliberate – this kind of idea where you wear these headsets in warehouses and remote diagnostics is already picking up traction. Microsoft jumping all over the whole platform. They literally just announced that the entire framework that allows you to use their HoloLens platform to do exactly what I just described. Have an expert come in, look virtually over your shoulder, and point to something and say “noo don’t turn that gear turn that gear” and they’ve come up with an entire platform for building applications like this.
9. The A&D community was perfectly primed to use DR technology
Today, in the architectural community in particular and more so the design community, we’re starting to see DR as table stakes – it’s not just a nice to have, but it’s becoming a must-have. When we started doing this over two years ago, we had to explain to our early adopters, “what IS VR?”, and they really just had no frame of reference… but in the last 6 months, I don’t remember the last architectural firm who didn’t have some sort of active VR initiative, and some of the more sophisticated ones have already started dabbling in AR and mixed reality – so that is an entire industry, and we just so happen to be perfectly primed for taking advantage of this. Speaking directly to Yulio, our clients use visualizations to convey design ideas, so visualization is definitely key. So these businesses are primed to use this technology and in a matter of 24 months, we went from getting reactions like, “what the hell is VR” to “we can’t live without VR” and that is absolutely transformative.
So, the implications for business make sense in the areas with the greatest ROI – where you see a ten-fold improvement overnight as opposed to traditional means. But as time establishes, more people try things and they find that it works… it’s substantially better than the alternative – you’re going to continue to grow in the business environment and this is absolutely the center of where Yulio exists. We are addressing those problems, we are working with our customers and trying those scenarios, we’re eliminating the ones that don’t work all that well, we’re focusing on the ones that really do, and we’ve already seen those successes in a repeating pattern. Using Yulio / a VR platform to convey your design ideas – early stage / late stage is correct. And we know that today because we have architects backing us saying, “we’re trying for a year to communicate to a customer why this thing needed to be this big and we finally had the epiphany – we were already using VR for our designers, and we decided to turn it around and put it in front of the customer, and they looked at it and had an ‘Aha’ moment. They looked at it and went ooooh I FINALLY get why it had to be so big .. we didn’t believe you and now we trust you and they finally became a partner in that dialogue.”
Until that moment – using the best methods available to architects today – models, floor plans, renderings, and all that kind of stuff – they weren’t able to convey that in a year, and VR was able to convey it in a split second. And that is transformative.
So what’s coming?
It’s more of that. It’s finding those niches. It’s finding those applications and it’s just transforming how people do business. I think winning business patterns will drive the future of VR.
Ian Hall is Yulio’s Chief Product Officer and has been working in the industry for an eternity in VR terms. He recently attended VRX 2018 and recorded the top trends that he saw. Read about them here. To learn more about VR best practices for business, sign up for our 5-day email course, presented by Ian with daily 5-7 minute video courses.