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Virtual Reality

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Hot on the heels of Google’s announcement that it has shipped 10 million of its Cardboard virtual reality viewers since they first appeared in 2014, Facebook launched an augmented reality ecosystem at its F8 developer conference last week.

While Facebook’s plans to become the app platform for developers is ambitious, Google notes that 160 million Cardboard apps have been downloaded from its Google Play store. And interest at the 2017 CES conference in Las Vegas in the virtual reality (VR) demos of Samsung and HTC resulted in long lines of consumers eager to experience this new alternate reality dimension, underscoring intense market interest in this emerging phenomenon.

These high-profile announcements are the latest in a long series of exciting news items that have stirred the VR, AR and MR (mixed reality) pot, all in 3D of course. While it may be easy to dismiss today’s virtual reality mania as hype, anyone who has personally experienced the immersive qualities of virtual reality knows that it will reframe entertainment as we know it.

[pullquote cite=”Michael Tchong” type=”right”]“Anyone who has personally experienced the immersive qualities of virtual reality knows that it will reframe entertainment as we know it.”[/pullquote]

VR’s closest cousin, augmented reality (AR), got a big shot in the arm this summer when the popular mobile game Pokémon exploded to 45 million daily users in mid-July. True to its métier, Pokémon mixes digital imagery with the real world, presenting an evolution of the Yelp Monocle and Layar augmented reality browsers.

Here’s a brief summary of the most significant turn of events in VR:

  • Oculus Rift – The $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook in March 2014 was a major turning point for the nascent VR market.
  • Magic Leap – In October 2014, Google poured $542 million into an AR startup based in Plantation, Fla., called Magic Leap. The chart below shows major VR and AR market acquisitions and capitalizations, save for Faceshift and Polar Rose, which both, like Metaio, were acquired by Apple:

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  • Venture capital – Since 2012, companies in the AR/VR sector have raised nearly $1.5 billion, according to CBInsights.
  • Consumer awareness – A June 2015 Statista survey of U.S. consumers, found that Facebook’s Oculus Rift had the highest consumer awareness among VR headsets with 35% of respondents having heard of it:

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Market applications abound. For example, we believe that virtual reality will revolutionize training. Now put that in you headset and smoke it virtually.

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