2018 to be a landmark year for VR, AR

Tech companies are investing heavily in growing the hardware and software ecosystem for VR and AR

This year and the next will be “landmark years” for the adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality technology, according to Matt Coleman, the head of innovation for the Magnify World AR and VR expo.

“We really believe that AR and VR is the next computer platform that everyone will be using in the future and it should be as big as the Internet in the coming years,” he added.

Magnify World is coming to Melbourne later this year.

According to figures from Telsyte, the Australian VR headset market grew 40 per cent last year. The company’s figures reveal that for now it remains niche with just 302,000 devices sold in 2017.

However, the analyst firm is forecasting that by 2021, some 2.2 million Australian households will have a VR headset in use, and that VR headset annual revenue will be in excess of $200 million by 2020.

“The price points for the headsets have been higher than expected and I think that creates a bit of a barrier to the standard consumer,” Coleman said. “For example Microsoft HoloLens – a fantastic mixed reality headset although it’s definitely out of the reach of a normal consumer when they’re priced at three to eight grand.”

Magnify World's Matt Coleman
Magnify World's Matt Coleman

The HoloLens has seen adoption within enterprises for a range of applications, while at the consumer end of the market a range of brands, including HTC, Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei and HP, are investing in VR and AR, he said.

“We see augmented reality surpassing VR very, very quickly,” Coleman said. Around 20 per cent of Australians are believed to have tried a Snapchat filter, he added.

“They wouldn’t know that’s augmented reality, but that’s what it is — placing digital image over your face and then sharing that on social media.”

Deloitte has predicted that this year, globally, discrete app revenues for AR content will be less than US$100 million. However, its Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2018 report adds that this should not be “interpreted as meaning that AR will add just $100 million in value”. The TMT report explains: “We expect AR capability will be a key differentiator for some genres of apps (social networks, messaging, shopping, games) and operating systems, and will be an important driver of smartphone upgrades.”

Direct AR revenues will exceed US$1 billion by 2020, Deloitte predicts.

Telsyte believes more than one in three Australians has already experienced AR thanks to the popularity of apps such as Pokémon Go and Snapchat.

Over the last year, tech giants like Apple and Facebook have thrown “extraordinary resources” at AR, Coleman said.

Earlier this month Apple introduced ARKit 2: The successor to the original version of its AR platform released last year. At the 2018 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the company’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, described AR as a “transformational technology”

“It’s bringing experiences into the real world; it enables all kinds of new experiences — changing the way we have fun and the way we work,” Federighi said

ARKit 2 delivers “advances with improved face tracking, more realistic rendering and support for 3D object detection and persistence,” the Apple executive told the event.

Facebook and Google are also making big bets on AR and VR.

Facebook owns VR headset maker Oculus and also offers AR tools for developers that want to use the technology on its social media platform.

Google’s sister company X has taken custodianship of the refreshed Glass program. Earlier this year Google launched a new AR platform, ARCore, and last month announced wider availability of Google Lens.

Microsoft offers its HoloLens ‘mixed-reality’ headset, and there are rumours a second version will be announced later this year.

“Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg have made this one of their top three priority platforms of the future – that says a lot,” Coleman said.

Coleman expects Glass-style smartglasses to become more widely available over the next two years, with Apple potentially entering the market — although earlier this year chip-maker Intel revealed it had stopped work on its Vaunt project.

Magnify World will be held in Melbourne on 24 and 25 August. Tickets are available online.

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Tags augmented reality (AR)virtual realityMagnify World

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