Virtual reality and augmented reality were once science fiction, first imagined in the 1925 novel Pygmalion’s Spectacles. Pre-2015, the closest most of us had come to a VR experience was seeing Pierce Brosnan struggling through the rather terrible Lawnmower Man! For 30 years, the technology was slowly, quietly developed – seemingly arriving with a big bang last year. In 2016, we predicted big things in the space and saw investment of over $2.3bn. In 2017, we’re predicting serious household adoption. Here are six VR and AR trends to watch.
1. Hello, Hollywood
Consumers can expect to see more massive, VR movie promotions like The Walking Dead 360 degree experience that was made for YouTube’s new VR app. Launched in November, the app was made to go with Google’s Daydream virtual reality headset. In August, due to high demand for VR, major movie studios such as Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, NBCUniversal and DreamWorks Animation came together for VR On The Lot a two-day showcase of virtual reality content. And, if more projects like Penrose Studio’s VR highly-rated film Alumette are created, Hollywood may see a bonafide VR hit in the near future.
2. The healing power of VR
VR is so immersive that it’s being used to alleviate stress and pain in medical patients. Burn victims have found VR a welcome distraction and some patients have reduced their pain medication as a result of using the headsets.
Patients in rehabilitation for stroke or brain injury are benefitting from a VR app called MindMotionPro, created by MindMaze. Through visual and auditory engagement, VR encourages the patients to practice repetitive movements to speed up the recovery of their nervous systems.
The company Medical Realities offers medical training products using VR and AR by using commercial headsets such as Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. The group’s first product The Virtu-al Surgeon combines 360 video, 3D and interactive content to enable views to see an operation through the eyes of a surgeon overseeing a procedure.
3. More brands on the bandwagon
Thanks to Snapchat, branded AR content made a mark in 2016, and will likely catch on like wild-fire in 2017. In May, Cadbury tapped into its targeted demographic of 16 to 24-year-olds with a series of interactive filters. According to Digiday, the confectionary brand has spent half of its es-timated £6 million ($8.7 million) digital budget on Snap content.
As for VR in 2017, Jan-Philipp Mohr, CEO of the VR storytelling platform Hashplay, says VR ad-vertising will start receiving more budget.
“Initially, brands only created VR short trailers and 360 films,” says Mohr. “But multiple brands like Volkswagen and Hyundai, as well as Hasbro, are now starting to build interactive experiences, eventually leading towards a greater engagement and learning.”
Who’s going to stay ahead of the curve?
Steve Posner, co-founder of the virtual reality studio Future Lighthouse, says brands that use VR experiences in marketing initiatives across multiple storytelling channels will perform better than those that don’t.
It’s not just about putting a VR experience in the market,” says Posner. “It’s about having VR be an integral part of the message and strategy that expresses itself in TV, print, radio and online.”
4. The rise of immersive journalism
The convergence of journalism and VR has started to pick up steam, and with major news outlets such as The New York Times and Sky News creating VR content, others are expected to follow.
In November, Sky launched its first VR news report, Migrants Crisis – The Whole Picture, which takes viewers on a journey through Europe’s migration crisis in Greece. Meanwhile, The New York Times has launched The Daily 360, which delivers at least one 360 video a day. ABC News and The Huffington Post have also ventured into VR news gathering with 360 video offerings. The Guardian launched its first VR experience 6x9: A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement (not recommended for mobile) in April.
With a number of publications and news networks struggling in the endless competition for eye-balls, many newsmakers are hoping VR will save the day, as it’s a new approach to engaging readers and viewers.
“In VR you can be a protagonist, a fly on the wall, or anything in between,” says Posner. “But I guess the most important element here is that VR amplifies emotions and reactions in audiences. The ability to intensify what people experience in a VR experience is what fundamentally sets it apart from traditional storytelling.”
5. Haptics – adding a sense of touch
Some virtual reality worlds and augmented reality overlays seem so real that people fall over from reaching out to touch the objects and walls they see. But with the integration of haptics technolo-gy, which creates the sense of touch through vibrations, this is less likely to happen, and people can even learn a few things.
The UK-based company Generic Robotics has built SimuTouch, a clinical skills training platform that combines haptic hardware and software with virtual reality. The company’s targeted custom-ers are currently dental academies.
The London startup Tesla Studios is building the Teslasuit, a full-body haptic suit that lets wearers feel touch and sensations in virtual reality games. The suit could also be used for health and well-ness purposes.
6. The many uses of AR for cars
Beyond advertising, the car industry has adopted augmented reality for a number of purposes. From digital showrooms to AR dashboards, car manufacturers are using AR to be more cost ef-fective and promote safety.
Volkswagen is using spatial augmented reality to project virtual data onto real vehicle designs. This helps save money that’s normally spent on creating physical prototypes.
AR windshields are expected to make the transition to driverless cars much more seamless. A new windshield in development by PSA Peugeot Citroen features a projection on the inside that allows drivers to view data and visuals without taking their eyes off the road.
Apple is reportedly testing AR and VR for self-driving cars. And as history proves, when Apple gets in on emerging technology, it makes trends stick.
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