VR market growth
The VR market was worth nearly $7bn in 2018 according to GlobalData 1, an international research, data and analysis provider. VR software accounted for two-thirds of total market revenue, with games software taking 68% of revenue and enterprise software 30%. Hardware sales made up one-third of revenue. GlobalData’s analysts predict consistent growth, with the global VR market set to reach $28bn in 2030.
Growth in the VR market has been constrained so far by issues including lag or latency, underdeveloped ecosystems, high prices and nausea in users. Advances in AI and cloud technologies, coupled with the arrival of 5G and greater adoption will help tackle these issues and continue to drive demand.
Here are five key areas where VR is set to make significant impact.
Can’t make it to the gig, show or game? No problem, just put on your headset and immerse yourself in the energy and atmosphere of the event, streamed live. That’s the pitch from VR-based streaming services such as Oculus Venues, which was launched by Facebook in 2017. There’s a wealth of competitors including Next VR, Google’s YouTube VR, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and start-ups such as FoxVR, LiveLike, BigScreen, and High Fidelity. HTC’s Streamlink app and Valve’s SteamVR are also prominent services in this domain.
With 5G having the potential to catalyse growth, AT&T, SK Telecom, NTT DoCoMo, and Fraunhofer (among others) are racing into the domain with their own services. Amazon too is promoting Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a cloud-based VR streaming platform.
The market may be small at the moment, but with so many major players investing it is clear that streaming is set to become a key VR offering that could take the technology mainstream.
The compelling narratives and cinematography of film, coupled with the immersive experience of VR, has the potential to create a truly powerful media experience. VR films are still relatively unpolished and experimental, although plenty are trying to maximise their potential, with Disney’s Movies VR leading the way. Hulu also has VR content in its portfolio.
The Chinese streaming giant iQiyi (owned by Baidu) is taking steps towards VR films. In addition to partnering with VR developers to convert its extensive list of Chinese movies into VR versions, iQiyi is also improving its 4K VR headset. HTC, Facebook, Samsung, and Sony are seeking partnerships with Hollywood studios to make VR content and promote their own VR standards as industry benchmarks.
Making full-length VR films remains a challenge, and independent developments are largely focused on short films.
Virtual reality is an ideal way to let customers try before they buy and both traditional and online retailers are exploring ways to use it to boost sales.
It allows bricks-and-mortar stores to break out of their physical constraints, with John Lewis using VR to show how their furniture might look in a customer’s home. Web-based retailers also stand to benefit, creating virtual stores where visitors can browse and discover products in an experience more akin to that of a store. Shoppers can pick up and rotate items, or see clothing being modelled.
Alibaba in China has been a pioneer in this area, opening VR shopping malls in 2016 with Amazon and eBay following their lead. Walmart acquired VR start-up Spatialand and has filed patents for technology that allows users to get an in-store experience at home. HTC partnered with Amazon India and rolled out Viveport VR apps through its online store and in pop-up demos in shopping centres. Facebook partnered with Macy’s to deliver VR experiences in US stores.
With VR offering benefits to brands and all types of retailers, expect to see more of it, and such exposure within stores will further boost awareness of the technology and consumer adoption.