VRLA closed it's doors just a few days ago. It was another great show this year packed with exciting announcements and experiences to discover. And as we’re getting close to the middle of the year, it’s also a great opportunity to take look at where the XR industry is today.
When walking down the aisles of the show, one thing felt obvious. There was less of the crazy enthusiasm of 2015-16, but also less of the doom and gloom of 2017 when the VR hype died. Instead, we’re seeing a lot more of focused solutions dedicated to solving unique problems for specific industries (VR in healthcare for PTSD treatment, Intel Classroom of the Future with the Smithsonian, PokerVR). As usual, there were some really impressive tech demos (kudos for the breathtaking works on light fields technology by the team of Paul Debevec for Google).
Standalone headsets were the star of the show with the Pico Neo, Lenovo Mirage Solo and HTC Vive Focus prominently displayed in a lot of booths. But my personal favorite is the Oculus Go. It may be limited to 3dof and offer a simpler experience, but the build and image quality and pricing are excellent. It feels like it’s VR finally done right, and it’s going to be a game-changer for the industry.
During his excellent panel Charlie Fink convinced us that AR is white hot right now. Technology succeeds when it makes what we are already doing better, and AR does that very well. It’s already huge in industry, with companies such as Daqri leading the charge. And we’re seeing very interesting use cases such as Mercedes AR owner’s manual or the conceptual AR app designed to help you build IKEA furniture.
Last but not least, during his epic presentation, Ryan Andal of Secret Location explored the options to make real money with VR. In 2018, the VR industry is at peak fragmentation, with a variety of platforms on the market and really high production costs. Monetization is difficult for at-home VR content and very few VR content creators are making revenue. For now, the best go to market strategy is out-of-home entertainment. Consumers want to go out for new experiences and the success of VR arcades or specialized operators like The Void is all the proof you’ll ever need (don’t miss Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire if you have a chance to see it).
At the end of the day, even if some winners are starting to emerge, everyone’s still experimenting.
If VR is a race, it’s a marathon - not a sprint.