Virtual reality is the techology of the year.
And the year is 1991.
Yes, it may surprise younger readers to know that VR – sexy 21st century VR – is actually a generation old already.
In the early nineties many companies worked on the technology. And by the mid-nineties, they’d all given up and gone home.
But you could see why they went for it. The promise of strapping on a headset that immersed you in an alternative world, one that changed as you looked up down, left and right?
Think of the implications for gaming, movies, education, business.
Sadly, the tech wasn’t up to it. Processing power, screen resolution, gyroscopes – in 1991 they lacked the power to present a compelling synthesis of the real world.
But they were good at making you vomit.
So virtual reality went away. That is, until a bunch of geeks, who’d never forgotten the promise of the tech, re-booted it in the form of Oculus Rift.
One Kickstarter campaign later, Oculus was bought by Facebook and is now ‘the future of entertainment.’
In parallel with VR came AR (augmented reality).
What’s the difference? Well, while VR simulates an alternative world inside a headset, AR overlays graphics onto the real world.
Typically, the user trains their phone (but it could be goggles or something else) on to an image or tag to trigger some piece of information. Could be text, an animation, a video or more.
And there are usually two ways to do this. One is with visual marker (like a barcode), the other is using location (the camera knows where the phone is and where it’s pointing and generates the right data).
Today, it’s hard to think of two hotter tech spaces than AR and VR.
Can they transform the way we shop, learn, have fun, communicate? If so, they can generate hundreds of billions.
Or will they go back to being quaint wikipedia entries?
Here are some stats to help you decide…
1. The dedicated augmented reality device market is expected to reach $659.98 million by 2018
2. The dedicated immersive virtual reality device market is expected to reach $407.51 million by 2018.
source: Markets and Markets
3. AR/VR could hit $150bn in revenue by 2020, with AR taking around $120 billion and VR $30 billion.
4. 24 million virtual reality and augmented reality devices are expected to be sold in 2018.
5. More than 12 million virtual reality headsets will be sold in 2017, with sales of augmented reality smart glasses expected to be worth $1.2 billion in the same year.
source: CCS Insight
6. By 2018 the virtual reality market could reach $7 billion, with $2.3 billion from the VR hardware market and $4.7 billion from software.
7. Sales of virtual head mounted displays (HMDs) could grow from 200,000 to “about 39 million in 5 years”.
source: Sophic Capital
8. Blippar is one of the world’s best known augmented reality companies. Earlier this year it confirmed a a $45 million funding round.
9. If size of fund is any guide, there’s no doubt which startup Silicon Valley rates highest to deliver on AR: Magic Leap. Last year, the firm completed a $542 million Series B round. The financing was led by Google but also included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz and other investors.
source: Magic Leap
10. VR pioneer Oculus exceeded its $250,000 funding goal on Kickstarter within 24 hours, going on to raise over $2.4 million by the end of its campaign.
11. Oculus only ever sold (via Kickstarter) headsets as developer kits, but it still shifted 100,000.
12. Facebook bought Oculus for $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in stock – even though Oculus had not released a commercial product.
13. Facebook says Oculus has to sell up to 100m units to make a real difference. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an earnings call: “It needs to reach a very large scale – 50 million to 100 million units – before it will really be a meaningful thing as a computing platform.”
source: The Guardian
14. 10 people are now working at the Oculus Story Studio – an internal team developing ideas around virtual reality in movies. Its first big project was Lost, directed by Saschka Unseld, a former Pixar animator.
source: The Verge
15. Many companies are developing VR headsets: Sony/PlayStation, Oculus, Microsoft/Hololens and Samsung. However, they may struggle to match the excitement generated by Valve/HTC Vive. Valve has over 100 million PC gamers who use its Steam digital delivery service to buy PC games. Journalists went crazy for the device when it was teased at Mobile World Congress.
16. There are 188 virtual reality headsets currently available on Amazon.
17. VR doesn’t need to be expensive. In 2014, Google launched Cardboard, a kit for creating your own headset made from, er, cardboard. It fits over an Android phone screen and works with any software that’s been made with the Cardboard SDK. You can buy one for $4.08.
18. There are 183 companies describing themselves in the virtual reality category on Angelist.
19. 336 startups list themselves under AR on Angelist.
20. One of the highest profile first generation virtual reality products was Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. It was released on July 21, 1995 with projected sales of 3 million. Nintendo shipped 350,000 units making it the firm’s biggest ever flop.