Last week I had the opportunity to try one of the many Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) gadgets currently being brought to market. There are a number of key players grasping for market share in this technology revival that some of the more optimistic analysts believe will grow to a $150 Billion market over the next 5 years. Of course a good part of that opportunity will be in gaming. There will also be several other professional or consumer applications, such as: AR/VR based product experiences for eCommerce, or applications supporting enterprises in the product development process. Each vying for their substantial share of the opportunity pie.
We know that AR & VR are not new technologies. In fact, this is what I focused the first part of my career on (almost 20 years ago) as a newly graduated software engineer working at Prosolvia – A Swedish pioneer in Design Visualization and Virtual Reality software. At that time VR technology was fresh and expensive, targeting the very high-end enterprise market. A solution with a VR helmet (aka: Head Mounted Display), together with the necessary computer hardware to drive it, could easily cost up to a six-digit figure. The display quality, refresh rate and field of view was still far from sufficient to provide a believable virtual experience, leaving you with motion sickness in the process.
With minimal expectations I put on the HTC Vive device and headphones to try some of the gaming demos provided with the development kit. To be honest, at first it was a bit scary getting completely immersed in the virtual world losing all sense of the physical room around me. However, the sense of presence in the immersive environment was a completely astonishing and a truly captivating experience. My senses were tricked into reacting to the virtual world as if it were real. In the demo inspired by the Portal video game, the floor started to disappear under me and I sensed my heart-rate increasing as I prepared for the fall.
Without digging a deep hole in your wallet, high-fidelity AR/VR solutions are soon to be available. I fully agree with those stating that we are now at the tipping point of bringing believable VR and AR experiences to the masses. This opens up many new and exciting applications, not just for gaming, but also for bringing compelling virtual product experiences to the living rooms of your potential consumers.
What if your next visit to a car dealership would actually start in the virtual world, walking through the virtual showroom of your favorite brand, selecting and configuring a vehicle to your specification? What if you then take it for a virtual test drive in your neighborhood while being informed about key product features, finally parking the car in front of your house?
What if your next visit to a dealership involved an augmented product experience, while looking at a physical sample car being able to overlay that view with different configurations and options to exactly match your needs and wishes?
What if you could have a virtual x-ray of the vehicle to explore the detailed product technology or conduct a virtual side-by-side comparison of the multiple cars you are considering for purchase? What if …?
With the latest technology enhancements offering affordable solutions to a large number of consumers, I believe we are now on the verge of a new era in visualization. I am excited about the mind-boggling amount of new AR & VR opportunities to explore.
I’m in! How about you?