2018 looks bright for immersive technology
Trends

2018 looks bright for immersive technology

Think virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and you probably think gaming. But there’s also a whole host of business applications. We spoke to some of the leading industry experts to get their views on which industries will be most disrupted by AR and VR in 2018; two key areas are the Internet of Things and cybersecurity – you can find out why below. We’ve also included more in-depth trends from leading experts, Tony Parisi, Global Head of VR/AR Strategy at Unity Technologies, and Martin Harriman, Chairman at WaveOptics.

 

AR for IoT

AR is much more promising than VR especially in industrial situations and at 451 Research we often point out that AR is the user interface for the internet of things (IoT): Take a large industrial appliance, manufacturing plant or oil refinery which is instrumented and collecting and analysing data. This IoT enabled environment creates a digital twin, a data model of the current state of the system and its processes. For an onsite engineer called to replace a part, as part of pre-emptive maintenance from IoT analytics, having a view of all the data and status of a machine from the inside out is now possible. A way to present that is as an AR style overlay, which can be presented hands-free to the engineer via adaptations to the safety goggles they are already wearing. With hands free and with information directly available the engineer can operate more efficiently, and in addition call remote support for another expert to assist and annotate the engineer’s view. Data is gathered to help tune the machines and processes and workers need access to that, presenting a perfect AR use case.

This wave of IoT powered AR is still in its infancy but is able to be explored to varying degrees from the basic non- tracking heads-up display of Google Glass Enterprise edition, or using tablets now enabled with Apple’s ARkit and Google’s ARCore, through to more complex headsets such as the DAQRI smart helmet or Microsoft’s HoloLens or projection interfaces that require no headset. It will drive the emergence of new forms of display to get us away from fixed solid screens. Avegant’s light field display and Alphabet’s (Google) Magic Leap will feature.

Ian Hughes, Senior Analyst, Internet of Things at 451 Research

 

AR for cybersecurity

We believe AR has huge potential for helping shape the future of cybersecurity. Humans reason spatially and visually to solve problems — think of a beat cop who uses 4D awareness while patrolling to identify people or objects that are familiar, questionable or clearly dangerous. We can apply those same principles to threat detection and response: For example, AR can immerse security team leaders in their network environment and let them collaborate with their threat hunters and responders to take action. By applying AR and other immersive technologies, the cybersecurity industry could help make their users more effective, efficient and proactive.

We also have an unprecedented opportunity to recruit, upskill and motivate a new generation of talent if we introduce AR and VR to cybersecurity. The industry suffers from a talent gap that’s projected to reach 1.8 million unfilled roles by 2020. But recent research shows us that millennials and post millennials are highly exposed to gaming principals and have a high affinity for VR and AR. These generations have grown up tapping into their sense of spatial reasoning and collaborating in immersive environments. If the industry evolves beyond traditional security to develop solutions that attract young workers, we can empower them to be successful threat hunters and responders — and we could work toward closing the job gap instead of projecting it to widen.

Gene Stevens, co-founder of ProtectWise

 

B2C will drive B2B

We see the biggest potential for VR in training and education, as well as in real estate, architecture or simulations. The opportunities in training in particular are astonishing, and companies striving for operational excellence will not be able to ignore the benefits. First, companies have the ability to simulate and train people globally for a fraction of the costs – with the need to travel made obsolete, there is far less loss of productivity and time. Second, businesses have the ability to train people in situations that are dangerous or difficult to simulate in real life.

But the consumer side offers B2B opportunities, too. We can, for example, work with big players from the music industry to deliver new experiences to our customers more frequently, while acting as a VR service. All in all, with the slow adoption rates on the consumer side, business might be the driving force behind the VR industry comparable to the introduction of computer systems in the past.

Pascal Kuemper, co-founder of NOYS VR

 

Tony Parisi, Global Head of VR/AR Strategy at Unity Technologies says:

2018: The year immersive becomes reality

If 2016 was the year that immersive technology captured the public’s imagination, 2018 will be the year that it delivers on its promise. While this year has had a range of exciting breakthroughs, technology as advanced as immersive was always going to take some time to really deliver for the public. Well, 2018 will be that year.

The burgeoning importance of VR is also being displayed in the money flowing into the industry. Research by the Virtual Reality Fund revealed that VR investments jumped 79% for entertainment and 69% for enterprise in the second half of 2017 – not a small figure when you consider the billions of dollars at stake. In other words, immersive technology isn’t showing signs of slowing down and is making a shift from proof-of-concept to actual deployment, something we will see pan out next year.

Industries adopting immersive

The number of sectors seriously investing in immersive technology are huge. For this, we are going to choose three we believe have particularly strong growth potential in 2018.

First off, is the automotive industry. Traditionally, car design is done with clay-like materials which can be costly and time-consuming, but detailed digital reality software can make creating a vehicle more customisable, simple, and more affordable. These benefits can span the entire process from initial development through to purchasing. Just imagine being able to alter parts of a car you’re buying, or even designing, from the comfort of your own living room. Automotive companies are already investing heavily in the technology, so expect to see the results next year.

Another industry we will see immersive technology making a further splash in is the creative entertainment and brand marketing sector. This past year, high profile brands developed VR experiences with Unity, such as “CocoVR”, a social VR experience that allows players to explore the world of Coco from Pixar’s latest film and “Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab” which is a single player adventure set in the world of Blade Runner 2049.

In addition to these content experiences, we also see a meaningful VR opportunity around brand marketing. This year, Unity partnered with Lionsgate to create the first-of-its-kind Virtual Room advertisement for the film Jigsaw. What we found is VR ad experiences elicit greater emotional response, and massively higher engagement rates than any other platform. They show people are more immersed with the brand. For example, the Jigsaw virtual room ad saw 6X the video completion rates of skippable video. We expect to see this type of brand marketing continue in 2018 and help push the widespread consumer adoption of VR.

Finally, we have medicine and healthcare. From training all the way through to consultations, immersive tech has the potential to revolutionise the way we treat and care for people. Of course, like all of the above, we will see these sectors change slowly, but there are some elements we can look out for in 2018. The biggest of these is training. Practicing in a VR environment is already underway in some hospitals, but this will become more widespread. You can imagine offering surgeons the chance to practice without negative side effects has huge benefits and cost savings.

Ultimately, virtual and augmented reality are changing the computing landscape. This year has been one of technology being tweaked and perfected, while next will see more of the industry’s potential become a reality. Whether it is in enterprises or for consumers, 2018 will be the year immersive technology becomes an everyday reality.

 

 

Martin Harriman, Chairman at WaveOptics says:

What can we expect? 

The AR market will continue to develop in 2018, with the focus of the industry being to solve key challenges and barriers to mass adoption – ensuring that all elements of the ecosystem work together, including optics, hardware and software, in order to make AR commercially viable and accessible to multiple industries. To that effect, B2B applications will become more widespread towards the end of 2018, especially within the logistics and supply chain industries. The excitement will continue to build-up as all the key US digital companies develop and see AR as the next wave of technological disruption.

However, it won’t be before 2019 or even 2020 that consumer applications will start to become more mainstream in the shape of glasses and other wearables. The shift is more likely to happen in Asia first as a mainstream consumer phenomenon, and spread out to the rest of the world gradually.

Which companies will stand out? 

There will be a variety of collaborative partners who will all have critical roles to play in the overall AR ecosystem; companies like WaveOptics, who provide the key optical component, will power the ecosystem and work in tandem with hardware makers, platform owners and software developers to unlock the development of the market at scale. 

Which industries will be disrupted?

Over time, all industries will be impacted by AR, as it is widely forecast to be the next technological leap. The technology is of use in any environment where an individual requires information or data overlaid onto their environment. It could help engineers who need to look at product manuals whilst fixing an appliance for example, or motorcycle couriers navigating to their next destination, forklift truck drivers looking for their next pick up, and so on.

In retail, it will allow the best parts of e-commerce to work alongside the physical retail space, allowing customers to browse on-line and in store simultaneously. In healthcare, AR could revolutionise the way in which doctors and their expertise is deployed. In education, it will bring the classroom to life and make learning an immersive and exciting experience. AR has the potential to transform the advertising industry too, allowing brands to interact with consumers through everyday objects to enhance the shopping experience – path-finding companies like Blippar are just the beginning.

Finally, entertainment and media will also be disrupted, as we gradually shift from a two-screen approach to a multi-sensory experience – think watching a movie, and having IMDB, plus Wikipedia insights combined for a highly enhanced, real-life experience. The business benefits are as diverse as the possible applications themselves really, and we’re looking forward to seeing the possibilities literally unfolding before our eyes.

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Kate Hoy

Kate Hoy is Editor of IDG Connect

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