VR and AR are still in their infancy and, although subject to an incredible amount of hype, there is significant development still to come in both fields. However, should the anticipated product development and market uptake actually happen, then the combined VR and AR sector could become a trillion-dollar industry by 203028.
This would require millions of people using this technology every day, with headsets becoming as commonplace as televisions. The enclosed nature of virtual reality lends itself to experiences that involve immersive environments, such as gaming, 360° movies and virtual design, proofing and presentation for commercial and consumer applications29. While VR is already beginning to be used in the workplace for design, proofing and presentation purposes, this could go further with the advent of remote meetings taking place in VR and even a virtual workspace that replaces or augments your current PC and desk, allowing you to work from anywhere.
Augmented reality, meanwhile, has the potential to create an ‘open world’ environment where daily activities are complemented by a digital overlay. An augmented reality headset could be used as a ‘second screen’ much like a mobile phone, making it one of the primary interfaces through which we engage with others. Potential uses for this are almost endless, from interacting with a personal assistant to translating street signs and even controlling your home.
“There will be a time when everyone will be wearing spectacles – not because of bad eyesight, but due to augmented reality. During your usual commute, AR will let you talk with friends on video or listen to music, give you directions, warn you if you're about to walk into a tree.
“It’ll also make your journey more seamless – automatic payment will mean the barriers at the underground station will open as you approach them, while a quick notification will overlay the latest line statuses before your eyes and help you plan your optimum route.”
– Hamza Abbas, Director at Andrew Lucas Studios
For all this to happen, a certain amount of patience will be required from investors and consumers until VR and AR fulfil their potential. When the market-changing iPhone came out, it was heralded by critics as a revolutionary device, yet only shipped 6.1 million units. There are now 700 million iPhones in use worldwide30, and that is just Apple’s share in a congested mobile phone market.
Conversely, in 2016 all the major companies combined (Oculus, HTC, Samsung, Google and Sony) shipped a combined total of 6.3 million VR headsets31, with $2.3 billion being invested in VR and AR technologies during the same period32. While having similar levels of initial adoption to the original iPhone is no guarantee of success, there is clear potential for VR and AR to build an audience of the magnitude the smartphone market now enjoys by 2030 – yet to win over customers plenty of progress is needed in the interim.
Speaking at the Oculus Connect 3 Conference in October 2016, Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash highlighted several developments that he feels would markedly change the face of virtual and augmented reality in the coming years33. These include ‘virtually perfect’ eye-tracking to allow foveated graphics rendering and reduce the amount of pixel rendering needed34, as well as enhancing the field of view, achieving 4K x 4K resolution and creating variable depth of focus.
He also believes that the next decade will see a coming together of augmented and virtual reality to create a hybrid mixed reality solution capable of handling both, which he labels ‘augmented VR’:
“My prediction is that […] augmented VR will be used for longer and for many more things. While there are many unsolved problems, and a lot of research and engineering still needs to be done, augmented VR is so important that I'm confident the obstacles will be overcome and the boundary between virtual reality and real reality will progressively blur over the next five years.”
Key to this happening will be the development of tether-free headsets, allowing users to move freely around a real-world environment, yet able to wirelessly access the processing power of a PC.
Although the stage is set for exponential growth in virtual and augmented reality, there isn’t yet enough evidence to suggest that we’ll be using it all day, every day like we do our laptops and phones. Instead, it is likely that in 2030 VR and AR will be enabling technologies that we use frequently to aid us in certain tasks and activities, rather than something that completely dominates our lives.
The Smart Home of the Future White Paper looks into the following areas:
Click the links below to go to each section.
About the White Paper series
Designed and produced by Andrew Lucas, the Smart Home White Paper series explores several important aspects of the connected home and offers insight on how this exciting sector is evolving. Drawing heavily on the expertise of our award-winning smart home specialists Andrew Lucas London and our virtual reality division Kei Studios, these White Paper publications offer a credible overview based on more than a decade of experience and knowledge of the above sectors.