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Our forecast: Augmented and virtual reality in 2017: how the technologies will break into the mass market

The price of AR/VR devices can go down by 20-30% turning the technology into every day routine.

In 2016  VR industry started to move from experiments to consumer products.  However needless to say that AR/VR industry is embryonic  — the main obstacles are still to come. What hampers VR development today? First of all, lack of high-quality content for AR/VR (especially beyond the gaming industry). Second, AR/VR helmets and AR/VR devices in general are bulky – the fact that hampers them from being assimilated in our life. Moreover, the devices are expensive — along with a powerful computer they will cost 170 000- 250 000 rubles. Such prices are comparable with the price of a car for many Russian people.  It is not surprising that when a new generation AR/VR-devices and content emerged on the market, the people did not flood shops to buy them. The funds of investors, businessmen, engineers, PR-specialists and other market members will be spent on making the industry work its way to adopt the technology on the mass market.

The focus will shift from discussions in private sessions to obtaining real feedback form consumers. The bold forecasts and empty talk about a brighter future will be replaced with products that will serve for something nice and useful. They will be neither «magic» nor «innovations». In 2017 we will see that the market of AR/VR devices and software will be entered by well-known manufacturers who have been supplying most popular products for leisure and work for many years. Cheaper consumer-class devices produced by popular brands will become available. By the end of the year, spreading of these devices will impact the software: developers throughout the world will notice the market potential of the new platforms and will issue their own solutions to take the place that will not remain empty in any case.

VR entertainment sector will remain the backbone of the industry but corporate customers will start to regard AR/VR as technologies bringing economic benefits. These technologies will cut costs and fasten working processes. There will be awareness that VAMRtechnologies(virtual, augmented, mixed reality) have a large potential for everyday life transformation and there will be no need to look at Lockheed Martin or General Electric for real cases — they will be closer. The issue is not about experiments but about working with immersive technologies of thousands of specialists.

  • The number of users of virtual/mixed reality appellations running on Windows will grow exponentially not because Oculus and HTC will move to a new level but because in April Microsoft will present Holographic platform within Windows 10, and its powerful partners will produce relatively cheap helmets.
  • VR parks and cinemas will facilitate the consumer acceptance of the technology. Chinese Shand Group has invested in such projects $350 mln. —Songcheng Performance Developmenthas invested tens of millions dollars, Landmark Entertainment Group has not revealed its investments in such a project. The developer of a well-known game Raw Data Survios studios announced   working on games for VR-gaming machines. HTC has created a content platform it is going to launch on a thousand of VR gaming machines in China only in 2017. ARena Space (the article was written by СЕО– Forbes) creates VR-spaces in Russia — up to now they have been opened in Moscow and St.Petersburg but the company plans expansion into regions.
  • By 2018 TOP 20 entertainment parks will equip roller coaster with VR technology in order to supplement the real feel with computer graphics and even games. Each entertainment park in the USA will obtain at least one VR attraction.
  • 20 VR parks with the area of 1000 square meters will be opened throughout the world. The pioneering project on the market is —The VOID
  • VR-cinemas will be opened throughout the world. Depending on the market geography, they will be temporary or permanent. Their proliferation is limited only by the content production that is in short supply nowadays. The first full-scale VR-cinema was opened in Amsterdam in 2016.
  • HTC intends to open 1000 VR-facilities throughout the world. This genre is generally called «VR Arcade». As a matter of fact they are VR gaming machines — reincarnation of good old gaming machines clubs. They are not VR clubs equipped with consumer helmets: gaming machine is a purpose-designed device in contrast to ordinary helmets that can hardly attract people because they have helmets at home.
  • Filmmakers will invent «virtual reality language». In the years when first films were made the language of cinema was invented by the film directors; and nowadays VR pioneers will identify best practices of first-person narration and merge cinema and VR games into a unified way of narration.
  • Augmented reality will grow more and more popular. The mobile game Pokemon Go has made a revolution in minds. occasionally the profit from the game, which was available for free (!), was $950 and it has been downloaded more than half a billion times — these figures speak for themselves. VR has benefited from Nintendo more than from efforts of all PR-specialists of all the companies in the industry for the previous tears.
  • Since April mixed reality will be supported by Windows 10. Smartphones that support Tango by Google will take a toll. As a consequence, new developers will show themselves with fresh ideas and the user will stop doubting the benefits of augmented reality — they will be evident and they will be their benefits.
  • The helmets Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR and Chinese «no name» will spread the virtual reality throughout the world. Android will remain the most widely used platform of virtual and augmented reality. Samsung has successfully sold over 5 mln. GearVRdevices. The number of cardboard and plastic glasses like Cardboard sold throughout the world is hundreds of millions and does not yield to accurate estimation: free distribution of Cardboard code has made it difficult to collect statistics about thousands of companies engaged in the production and these data are very crude. Daydream mingles low-quality VR-applications for smartphones with very high-quality applications. The operations of big companies will result in having 1 billion of VR users. The reason for the rapid growth is having a three-billion army of smartphone users that help the technology win supporters much faster than it could if it started from scratch as well as the fantastic prospects of WebVR —  a special standard that can improve VR handling owing to the browser.

More than 1000 of sports and entertainment events in the world will be broadcast in the spherical format. For example, in the USA the pioneer of live broadcast for VR helmets is NextVRthat has won contracts with such customers as the Time Inc., Live Nation Entertainment and NBA. By the end of 2016  NextVRhad over 15 mln. users. Its competitor is Jauntthat offers its users more than 150 exciting high-quality videos for VR-helmets. NextVR director says, 2017 is an inflection point for VR video industry and refers to a recent Nielsenreport, that says that the consuming content in VR elicits 27% higher emotional engagement than it does in 2D environment.  In Russia, along with other companies, Prosenseis getting more and more popular. It has already broadcast matches of CHL star, XXI international tennis tournament and Alfa Future People festival organized by Alfa-Bank. It uses its own application to broadcast MMA fights ACB-50.

What is going to happen in the sphere of AR/VR content and applications? In our opinion, the forecast here is the following: Augmented and mixed reality will be regarded by the developers as more important than VR. According to the polls made among the leaders of the industry in 2016, 67% consider using augmented reality and only 47% consider using VR.  Tim Cook, head of Apple, belongs to the first group as he claims that augmented reality is more attractive for his company. We may see iPhone with computer vision sensors unveiled in autumn 2017. As regards Android, Google Tango technologies that first emerged in the consumer smartphone in 2016 will be incorporated in the product lines of a series of brands of Asian origin in 2017. Asus will be one of them.

People prefer augmented reality because it still has  an aura of magic. VR plays supporting roles. It was proved by Pokemon Go that was more successful than and VR application on the market. The explanation of this phenomenon is that augmented reality is ready to be used by hundreds of millions of smartphone owners whereas for VR applications a helmet is needed even if they were created for iOS or Android. If Nintendo had tried to sell Pokemon Go with helmets, no revolution would have happened.

  • Spreading of mobile virtual and augmented reality will be the main trend of 2017 market of mobile gadgets and the developers strive to fill the niche even if they have to change their specialty.
  • Videoblogs with spherical video will be wide-spread. As with ordinary videos, celebrities will help them to gain popularity. A wish to see the world with their own eyes will be a powerful driver for ordinary consumers to buy dedicated gears. According to HTC Chinese Regional President for VR Alvin Wang Graylin, in 2018 blogs with spherical videos will have a scale of a social phenomenon.
  • Blockbuster previews and additional content will be released in VR format. This is what the well-known IMAX is going to engage in. It is already having full immersion content viewing areas built based on the equipment produced by Acer and Starbreeze next to ordinary cinema halls. VR advertisements have been created for the film Assassin’s Creed; Disney is trying out with VR for the universe ofStar Wars, it is followed by Netflix that has already given presentation of VR applications for Android and Oculus. This is only a part of available real cases but people do not know much about them. They are going to learn more in 2017.
  • The first feature film will be released in Hollywood for VR-helmets. This project can be made by Steven Spielberg; we should take such a forecast seriously after Google’s short film was 2017 Oscar-nominated— this is the indirect evidence of a new era of filmmaking. The film industry will start using virtual reality as a full-scale environment for artistic expression. The first steps will be but faltering as it used to happen with silent movies.
  • Hollywood film-makers are well aware of VR potential capacities. This is what Set Gordon, a film-director, convinces us of and the creation of VRC company by the leaders of Hollywood film making industry also proves it. Large film-making companies are waiting for the consumers to get many VR helmets to make complicated projects pay. Morethan10 000 VRapplicationswillbeavailablein Here we are talking about high-quality software made by reputable developers. There are about 1000 of the applications in Steam only. There are about 500 of them based on Gear VR platform and still more for Android and iOS but the average quality is poorer and the user does not always get what he or she wants.
  • 2017 will be the year of transition of the internet to the virtual reality — using WebVR standard. This is a web programming standard based on JavaScript that allows the browser to provide 3D stereo picture for VR helmets. This technology will allow any Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari or Edge user immerse in virtual reality.  The browsers will become a common platform for VR content consumption using mobile and stationary devices. Platforms for the creation of VR-sites and VR-applications are expected to be released by well-known brands.
  • The number of active Chrome installs are now 2 billion — all the users are potential WebVR users. The browsers are running on mobile and stationary devices and this means that the owner of any up-to-date computer, either an iPhone or a Windows-laptop, can join the virtual reality simply by buying a helmet.
  • In the long run, social networking VR-applications will impact not only the industry but the whole life of the mankind. In 2017 Facebook will release a product that adjusts the social network to helmets — it is likely to be the social network client for Daydream. In 2017 reverberating releases are expected to be made by Facebook, Microsoft and a series of multiuser VR-universe developers such as Sansarand High Fidelity.  AltSpaceVR, vTime and VRChatwill become prominent representatives of social networking VR services.  Social networking applications help communicate and therefore become most popular. The draw attention of people of different mentality, and often addictions and other negative consequences are revealed here. In view of the depth of immersion, this is where the most heated debates about the pros and cons of the technology are expected.

VR-pornography will make bank of the whole VR market. This shady niche was profitable in those days when game developers started to make their first steps in VR domain. With the growth of technology of video recording and streaming and cameramen and editors gaining experience, VR pornography will be able to fight ordinary porno. No need to watch others – this all is happening to you! Were you ashamed? Did you miss something in sex? Doyouseekstrongsensations? Bringing together virtual reality, video, 3D graphics and sex-robots can open new dimensions in your life although it is better to consult a psychologist (and provide science and industry with valuable experience anonymously) as you make such revelations. Psychologists seldom have people waiting in a line unlike Nighty America pornostudios booth at CES 2017 exhibition where there were plenty of visitors. The explanation is that the company was among the first ones to address the virtual reality for adults and now possesses unique experience in the creation of entertainments for adults.

By 2020 VR-pornography will become an industry with a turnover of about a billion dollars. Some studios have already started offering VR-videos with the user starring. In the future, this trend will develop and provide an opportunity to watch the scene from any point of view. It seems feasible to develop dedicated robotic systems that are intended to replace a human partner in the real life when the user is immersed in virtual reality. Most likely, sex-robots for VR will gain biggest popularity in Japan where high living standard is accompanied with the problems of social engagement.

  • In 2017 a large number of products beyond games and entertainment. The market of entertainment was the first broad market that has managed to adopt virtual reality. It is followed by other markets. Applications for the creation of content will be released by Microsoft and its partners, who belong to Windows-developers, will provide software for health care, architecture, design, education and other professional fields. The developers will pay more attention to sound for augmented and virtual reality. With regard to full immersion, dimensional sound goes second after visualization (and precedes haptic feedback), but in the previous years it was not paid enough attention to. VR-helmets will not be equipped with cheap over-ear or in-ear head-phones — because our spatial sensing relies greatly on sound. But this refers only to the cases of deep-immersion. Osteophony will be applied in mixed reality. Virtual and augmented reality will be combined with artificial intelligence. How will an ordinary user benefit from it? This is the beginning of the era of personal and social holographic assistants we used to see only in games and blockbusters; and now within a lifespan of only two generations science fiction will turn into fact. Google Assistant, Siri, Amazon Alexa, Cortana — we will stop to perceive them as «voice-activated control», they will become NPC-assistants. And network specialists will flood the market with attractive skins.
  • Board games will become holographic. While some developers are inventing settings for mixed reality (and rightly so, as Pokemon Go has demonstrated), others are engaged in adapting games from real life. There had already been several attempts made, but the users lacked dedicated devices. In 2017 they are expected to show themselves in large amounts.
  • Brands will start to advertise themselves using mixed reality. Windows Holographic platform will make us immerse in digital advertising campaigns (videos, banners, 3D-models, interactive applications). It will be embedded in the software, sites and videos displayed on virtual reality displays. This trend is emerging and the industry is to seek most user-friendly formats. AdBlock and similar software will break new ground.
  • For smartphones that support Google Tango, games aimed at search of virtual objects in real surroundings will become popular. Mixed reality quest rooms will emerge on the market. They will be suitable for ordinary apartments instead of special purpose premises. The success of such games will be ensured by the unique procedure-generated gameplay.

Nevertheless risks and apprehensions should be dwelled on. The number of VR-induced injuries will be increased. Theywillbecausedbyfallingdownandbumpingintoobjects. Impairment to the eye-sight is possible due to using low-quality optics and/or prolonged content consumption.  Psychological addiction to VR-games will be identified. Discussions will be started in mass media about the safety of VR technologies for ordinary users and the topic of hyper-realistic virtual violence will be touched upon. Stories about VR-addiction (in a similar fashion with gamming addiction) will be a usual practice by the end of 2017. The leaders of the industry (Oculus, Sony, HTC) will face the necessity to publish studies that support safety of VR technologies but the findings will be incomplete due to the scarce investigation of this topic.