April 29, 2016
AR/VR Opportunities: Heading for a New Reality
By: Alexander Smith

Although virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology have existed for decades, they are by far two of the hottest tech topics in 2016. According to Digi-Capital Investment, AR/VR surpassed $1.1 billion in the first two months of 2016 spend. For context, AR and VR investment only reached $692 million in all of 2015. According to recent Goldman Sachs estimates, the AR/VR market is expected to reach $80 billion by 2025.

VR/AR will create new markets, excel existing ones, and cannibalize others. The crescendos of the disruption can be seen through the development of Twitter and Snapchat. These social media networks are changing the ways viewers interact with content and how distributors target their audiences. Ten years ago, it was tough for businesses to justify allocating marketing dollars to those social media platforms. According to a study, 88 percent of companies are now using social media for marketing, tailoring their messages to fit the audiences there.

Today, major networks and brands like CNN, WSJ, Mashable, Vox, and ESPN are all competing for one of the twenty available spots on Snapchat’s new, exclusive “Snapchat Discover” platform. These limited spots allow companies to market to large slices of Snapchat’s 100 million active daily users.

Like social media, AR/VR will attract large audiences due to it being a new and exciting way to consume media. Gartner predicts sales of HMDs for both AR and VR apps to increase from less than 500K units in 2015 to nearly 40 million by 2020. Popular mobile VR solutions like the $99 Samsung GearVR or low end VR solution like the $20 Google Cardboard will benefit the total number of AR/VR users greatly.

It’s important to note that although there is a ton promise around AR/VR, there are some valid concerns. The hardware designs for some VR devices haven’t been the most ergonomic. The negative reviews state that HMDs are too bulky and as a result, stressful on the neck. Some have warned that there may be vision concerns tied to having screens that close to one’s eyes. Many are saying that the immersive nature of these devices is causing nausea. Outside of the design, others are skeptical regarding content and business use case. Like 3D and 4K, there could be a lag due to limited available media and apps. This means that Facebook (Oculus Rift), Sony (PlayStation VR), and Google (Magic Leap) need to remember that the success of their headsets depends greatly on the quality of the available content with which to work.

Here are some key recommendations on how to get started with AR/VR:

  • Be an early adopter by investing in a Google Cardboard and try it out yourself. Form a high level opinion about what you like or dislike about the tech. This will help you to decide if it may be right for your business.

  • Hold off on hiring an AR/VR centric development firm or creating a dedicated VR Team in-house. Although there’s great momentum, AR/VR isn’t guaranteed to have enterprise adoption. It’s a bit too early to make such a large organizational change. Instead, encourage your developers to experiment with building out certain aspects of VR and AR into your existing enterprise apps, such as using the Camera functionality as an AR Viewer. This enhancement to an IKEA app, for instance, could support sales by allowing consumers to further visualize how much space that couch would actually take up before they bought it.

  • Ensure you have internal IT leaders as decision makers. It’s important that they are involved and educated on AR/VR so that they are able to make educated “go/ no go” decisions. Seek out an AR/VR internal sponsor who understands and communicates the benefits of the differentiated platform strategy.

  • Consider standing up an organization that serves as a governance board and framework for all (AR/VR) development decisions. Companies with active Mobile Center of Excellence groups or “MCOEs” are able to create value by bypassing redundancies and reaching their digital goals faster.

  • Review the current BYOD strategy that allows your employees to connect personally owned devices to your network. By understanding the types of phones users are already connecting, you will have a good idea of the percentage of those who can run VR capable apps now.

  • Have the team examine the many different ways your business is delivering education, training, and safety content. Think about how AR/VR can easily breathe new life into these important topics and initiatives.

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