VR From Virtual Market to Market Reality

BY ROB KOENEN for ConnecTechAsia2018

Only two years ago, the excitement about virtual reality (VR) knew no limits. Analysts competed in making the boldest predictions, and not investing was considered reckless. The mood has changed, and arguably for the good. Expectations are now more realistic, but the outlook is still healthy. Gartner, a research and advisory company, has VR moving out of the trough of disillusionment in its Hype Cycle research methodology.

Gartner, a research and advisory company, has VR moving out of the trough of disillusionment in its Hype Cycle research methodology. Speaking at VRX Europe 2018, Stephanie Llamas of Superdata explained how VR adoption nicely tracks with other historical adoption curves, and predicted consumer revenue in 2021 of almost US$18 billion, with an inflection point in the coming year. At the VR Industry Forum Master Class held during CES 2018, Alexis Macklin of Greenlight Insights, predicted a total market size of close to $75 billion in 2021.

There are other signs, too. Specialisation has started to happen in the VR ecosystem. More cameras and camera rigs with higher resolutions are allowing capture from 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) to 6K and 8K, even going up to 16K. Dedicated companies have appeared with a laser focus on various elements in the VR distribution chain, such as video stitching from SGO’s Misitka VR, support for live VR from Imeve, distribution platforms like Jaunt’s XR platform or high-quality streaming Tiledmedia.

More well-known brands have announced interesting content, such as Samsung’s TV Series for just VR, and dedicated chipsets, like Qualcomm’s XR1. Now add the recent release of attractive and affordable VR devices to the mix: the Oculus Go and the Vive Focus, and the many announcements of VR headsets with higher resolution in the making. These comfortable devices are completely wireless, support inside-out tracking so there is no need to set up tracking equipment, are lightweight, and do away with the need to slide mobile phones in and out.

And, indeed, we need a high quality experience for VR to become truly successful. Higher quality video with lower bandwidth requirements, and equally important, interoperability in content, services and devices. High quality and interoperability are both crucially important for the entire ecosystem, to make VR-360 a high-quality, immersive, cross-platform experience.

Consumers do not want to purchase four different devices —everything needs to play on the VR device of their preference. Content producers and service providers want to broaden their reach, and to reduce the cost caused by format proliferation. Device makers want to ensure a wealthy, premium quality content pipeline enticing customers to buy their devices. And finally, advertisers want to drive the creation of a broad, unique and innovative sales channel.

The VR Industry Forum is a worldwide, cross-platform group with both market leaders and startups who seek to grow this industry together. Collectively, the group recognized that high quality and interoperability are both necessary conditions for incubating a healthy market ecosystem.

Established at CES in January last year, the forum’s goal is to further the widespread availability of high-quality audio-visual VR experiences, for the benefit of consumers. In January this year, after a year of work, VRIF published a set of Guidelines that provide recommendations for VR production, including human factors, interoperable VR distribution, and VR security. The Guidelines rely on standards and technologies that are implemented in most modern devices and chipsets. The focus of VRIF is now on expanding the Guidelines with recommendations for live VR services, and on providing tangible tools for interoperability testing.

Rob Koenen is president of VRIF Industry Forum, and co-founder of Tiledmedia and principal consultant at TNO ICT.