Is 2018 going to be the year of Virtual Reality? Jeremy Dalton, the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lead for PWC, wants to believe, but doesn’t think the public is ready yet.
Last week I attended a series of lectures in London about Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (VR) and how companies are using them at the moment and in the future to develop their services. The key speakers were Jeremy Dalton (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lead for PQC) and Sylvain Reiter (Cyber-Duck).
How are Virtual and Augmented Reality being used?
According to Dalton and Reiter, Virtual and Augmented Reality are quickly becoming effectives way of offering unbelievable customer experiences, but also for companies to develop their services. The speakers talked about many how VR and AR are being used by companies from the auto industry to journalism and movies. Brands like IKEA, Barclays, Star Wars and Volvo are already using them in creative and experimental ways.
Virtual and Augmented Reality elements are being used in production line testing and to drive consumer sales, for example with mobile apps that let users put furniture in the own homes in the right scare or in real estate projects for visualization of not yet built houses. However in the USA Walmart is also using Virtual Reality for training purposes by giving their employees the possibility to learn in real life situations, and a UK based company used it in high court to illustrate how a traffic accident had occurred.
Virtual and Augmented reality can also be a force for social change. In the UK it is used to fight racial biases by making the user by giving them a change to experience bodyswapping or dealing with people from different countries. Virtual reality has also been called “The Great Empathy Machine“. United Nations has used it to put people in the shoes of immigrants for them to understand their experiences in a completely new way.
Taking VR and AR to the next level?
Even with all the new VR and AR experiences the public is receiving from different players in the field, the speakers reminded us that there are still many barriers for people adapting this new technology. At the moment they list four main areas for further development.
- The Cost
According to the speakers at the moment there are three different ways of users getting the VR and AR experience: home based technology, VR headset units such as Oculus Go and portable smartphone based technology. Dalton and Reiter however believe that the cost of using and developing VR and AR needs to be brought down. The technology is complex and in order to receive a high quality VR experience one must have a high quality headset, which is still expensive.
- The User experience
At the moment the speakers feel that the user experience hasn’t been optimized in terms of the technical delivery. Especially with Virtual Reality, the technology is still complicated to use, when is should be easy and intuitive. Moving in the virtual world doesn’t always work in the best possible way, and in order to get a high quality optical experience, one might need a large and heavy headset.
Since VR and AR are still new technologies, there is a limited amount of good content out there. Companies are developing more and creating new experiences, but lack of user base means lack of content which doesn’t drive commercial sales. This leads to companies not adapting this technology in the services.
Adapting to new technologies takes time. According to the speakers, even though Virtual and Augmented Reality have been around as concepts for years (you might have seen it in Star Trek when you were younger), it was 2012 when they really began to catch on. However, there are still many misconception and misunderstandings about the technologies. People might think VR is only for gamers, or that in order to enjoy AR you need expensive smartphones and other technology. This is why most of the public hasn’t really had a high quality experience with these technologies yet, and educating people about the wonders of VR and AR is the next step that needs to be taken.
So do the speakers think that the year 2018 will be the year Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality really become a huge trend? The less expensive and more easily adaptable AR is already being utilized by more and more companies, but Dalton still believes that the public might not be ready for Virtual Reality yet. Give it a few more years, he says…