A report by PwC has outlined the immense business potential for VR/AR over the next decade. The consultancy sees VR/AR technologies adding up to $1.5 trillion to the world economy by 2030. The areas and sectors poised to grow the most are product and service development ($359.4 billion), healthcare ($350.9 billion) and development and training. The report also claims that by 2030 more than 23 million jobs around the world will be enhanced by VR and AR.
Mixed reality (MR) apps will have been downloaded and installed 10 billion times by 2024 – up from three billion in 2019. A study by Juniper Research called Consumer Mixed Reality: Emerging Opportunities, Vendor Strategies & Market Forecasts 2019-2024 predicts that gaming and social media apps will drive adoption, with around half of all installations. Juniper said in-app spending will account for 75 per cent of revenue made by consumer MR apps.
VR Intelligence found that 65 per cent of the AR companies surveyed for its 2020 XR Industry Insight report are focussing on the development of industrial applications – compared to just 37 per cent working on consumer products. Common AR applications in industry include apps that augment the work of engineers, factory workers and technicians by supplying relevant data to them in situ.
Smartphones are the main interface to AR apps for most people, so it’s no surprise that Apple has made its interests in AR well known. The company reportedly has a large internal team dedicated to AR technology development and has shown off applications in recent keynotes. Speaking at an event in January, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the tech would “pervade our entire lives”.
A US-based start-up has claimed an ‘invisible computing’ breakthrough – a smart contact lens with a built-in AR display. Mojo Vision claims its tech means that the display can be read without focusing on a screen or by losing focus on other objects. The company has been showing off a working prototype and is taking part in clinical trials to gain institutional review board approval.
Researchers have unveiled a technology that allows users the sensation of touch in a VR environment. The ‘skin machine’ is a pliable, lightweight sheet of electronic sensors that sticks to the body. Researchers describe the innovation as “skin-integrated wireless haptic interfaces for virtual and augmented reality” in a paper recently published in the scientific journal Nature. They claim it has use cases in entertainment, communications and medicine.
Oculus announced hands-free tracking for its Quest VR headset in December in what could prove an important milestone in the evolution of VR. Headsets have traditionally relied on handheld controllers for additional interactions. While the initial support for applications using hands-free interactions was limited, Oculus’ developer toolset will make it possible for third-party apps to incorporate the new hand-tracking interplay with data and virtual objects.
VR has accessibility issues that could limit its uptake in certain sectors and with some users. VR has been described as a medium that can democratise access to new experiences and is being used for myriad applications in education, healthcare and the workplace. However, people with certain cognitive and physical disabilities experience barriers to use of the tech. For example, users with limited mobility struggle to experience VR without assistance and conditions like autism can make VR interaction challenging.
Advertising has led revenue-generation services in recent years and that looks unlikely to change in 2020. According to Grit Daily, $453 million was spent on AR ads in 2018 and this is set to rise to $8.8 billion in 2023. Social channels will dominate, although visual search results will increase in revenue share over time as Google pivots to the new ad display technology.
Companies are preparing to take mixed reality projects out of innovation labs and pilot schemes and into production environments in 2020. That’s one of the predictions from a TechRepublic digest of MR projections for the coming 12 months. It’s also predicted that MR will extend beyond traditional sectors like healthcare and the military and into broader verticals such as retail, construction and real estate.