The Extended Reality landscape has changed drastically over the last three years. Public interest in XR technology has exploded, owing in no small part to the boundless uses for VR and AR. Whether it’s a boardroom or a classroom, immersive experiences and augmented interactions are changing the way we perceive reality.
As 2018 draws to a close, we’re continuing the Stambol tradition of sharing what we see in our virtual crystal ball. Looking back at what we saw on the horizon this time last year, we know we’re going to get it right … and wrong. The key advantage to exercising our imaginations here is to keep the focus on how many incredible opportunities await participants in this industry.
1. VR and AR Evolving Independently
Although these XR siblings will never be far apart in the minds of developers, the average consumer views these products very differently. And that trend is only going to continue.
The customer who tries out a digital Ikea armchair in her living room not see an inherent relationship between her decorating visualization and the immersive sinking of the Titanic she experienced at her local museum.
Successful VR and AR projects will not only need to be more than just eye candy now, they’ll need to play to their respective strengths. With MR hot on its parents’ heels, developers will also need to start planning for how each XR product can do its best work.
2. Headset Wishlists Coming True
Several years of using cornerstone products like the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the Samsung Gear VR, have both cultivated our appreciation for how far immersive tech has come and helped us build a wishlist for what we want to see in future headsets.
We also expect to see hybrid designs – even if it’s just at the prototype stage. We’re talking about wearables smart enough to toggle between VR and AR. Once we see working screens capable of projecting AR through clear glass, yet can also display opaque stereoscopic images, the arrival of consumer-ready hybrid headsets will be a heartbeat away.
3. Location, Location, Location
Truly immersive VR experiences require gear, and lots of it. The more lifelike and exciting the experience, the more tech needed to pull it off. 2016 through 2018 saw the creation of an established customer base for high-end headsets and accessories like haptic and auditory equipment. But unless you were in that cohort, your chances of having an amazing VR experience were almost nil.
Fortunately, a growing number of VR-friendly venues have incorporated location-based experiences into their programming. This is exciting because it continues to expand VR’s reach outside the established base of enthusiasts and early-adopters.
From art galleries and science centres to amusement parks and movie theatres, location-based VR will keep immersion front and centre in the minds of the public.
4. Invisible Industrial Technology
Digital Twins powered by Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality will continue to expand their reach. Infrastructure in cities around the world is increasingly being updated. New equipment, machines, and systems will be enabled with AI/AR-ready sensors and transmitters.
And most of this progress will be happening under the proverbial radar of the average citizen. But make no mistake, these changes are already underway.
The capacity of these smart digital doppelgangers to inform decision-making for businesses and to facilitate maintenance for industrial settings can’t – and won’t – be underestimated.
5. Proven Practical Solutions Have Room to Grow
Practical commercial VR and AR solutions have been in use for several years now, but still have huge growth potential.
In the private sector, health care, real estate, retail, and warehousing – not to mention training for each of those occupations – have seen a demonstrable benefit from VR and AR products. So, we expect to see XR products expand their reach and branch out into more varied workplace settings.
In the public sphere, secondary and post-secondary schools along with museums and art galleries have all seen XR incorporated successfully. Whether a location-based experience as outlined above, or a product designed to be accessed remotely as well, public institutions will continue to seek out XR options that make learning engaging.
6. More Public Awareness of XR
Every time XR makes the news, every time a new institution installs a headset, every time an affordable new headset reaches mainstream status, more consumers adopt an XR product.
This might seem kind of obvious to those of us in tech-related environments, but it’s important to keep in mind that we have a long way to go before VR and AR have a meaningful place in the average household. But this is good news for XR studios! We have work to do!
7. Peripheral Accessories Expanding
The established high-end headset user we mentioned above is now an excellent, albeit discerning, customer base. Manufacturers can continue to market accessories to this group that enhance experiences with existing products.
Companies that produce gear like controllers and gloves, vests and suits, headphones and speakers, even wind machines, and much more, could find growing success by finding new ways to cater to VR enthusiasts. Accessories that deliver on their promises will find high praise with users dedicated to the ongoing improvement of their immersive experiences at home.
8. More VR Pop Culture
Movies like Ready Player One and Next Gen show us a future where VR is everywhere, for better or worse. These respectively dystopian and excessively technologized futures are envisioning subsequent versions of existing gear rather than visualizing what we might be using that’s altogether different in 50, 100, or 200 years.
We predict 2019 will deliver more VR-based pop culture, but we also daydream about seeing science fiction that endeavours to break out past what we’re building now and peek behind the curtain at the nearly alien world we could be living in once XR has had time to evolve again and again.
On the one hand, looking at XR industry trends and expectations is much like making predictions for other fields of work. We have ideas about what’s coming, mostly because we already know where we’ve been. We know we’ll see exciting surprises and unexpected challenges that couldn’t have been forecast.
What makes the future of XR unique is the limitless potential for new applications and innovations. No matter what happens next year, we know it will be amazing, full of creative magic and technological wizardry.
The Stambol team will have no shortage of excitement in our future too. Ask us what we’re working on in 2019 and what we can offer your business in the coming year.
Image Credit: Tran / Adobe Stock