Early Days Here Now

Serious innovation is upon us with new forms of digital moving pictures that humans can perceive in a fundamentally different way with the convergence of VR, AR and a liberal dose of built-in smarts via artificial intelligence (AI) or other combinations with robotics, drones and space. Rival Theory, is one of my favorite companies I was introduced to early on in my frontier tech odyssey, which began two years ago. The company develops sentiment characters in VR worlds that have the ability to remember your name and engage in interactive conversations, driven by artificial intelligence.

The challenges ahead are many, as we’re still in the early days. This simply can’t be underscored enough.

New technologies—virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), drones and robotics among others—that have become viable and accessible at about the same time are driving unimaginable new products and services.

In the media world there is much happening with 360-degree video and virtual reality. We can make and deliver experiences, now, comes the phase 2 of working incredibly hard work to making these experiences even better, yearned for and accessible and better, yet demanded by the masses. Among many questions yet to be answered, the central question is what will they actually produce and deliver that the world will be demanding?

For me, the single most fascinating piece of this puzzle is: what does this abundance of never-before-seen interactivity mean for consumer engagement, high-impact communications and immersive storytelling be it an interactive story or VR cinema?

For those of us toiling away in this brand-new space, the evolution to date has been incredibly exciting, but most of us are living for the dream of what VR and AR content can really become.

The challenges ahead are many, as we’re still in the early days. This simply can’t be underscored enough. Or written enough. Or said enough. It is so early, as in the very beginning of a budding industry. Think of the Lumière brothers in the early days of cinema. In 1895, they first shot the arrival of the train and shared it with the world. Next, came silent movies, then talkies and then, color and so on and so on.

For those of us toiling away in this brand-new space, the evolution to date has been incredibly exciting, but most of us are living for the dream of what VR and AR content can really become. Every month there is more and more content available which is great and not so great. It’s great because that means more and more people are experimenting with making 360 video or VR or AR, and unfortunately that also means there is a lot of bad experiences and the risk there is losing people the first time they try it, walking away from awful material. Winning them back after that change in heart is always a lot harder.

“…we think the overall VR/AR market could reach $692 billion by 2025…” – Citi GPS 2016

It’s going to take many attempts in the field, for computer generated images lots of time in the edit room and lots of practice with editing suite tech to package it all up and successfully deliver compelling 360-degree video or VR experiences. As my research assistant and I try to track the flow of money, much of it is spent on the back-end and infrastructure of the pieces needed to make it.

There are significant investment dollars now going into early-stage startups or being spent to build out teams internally to help produce and market first-of-kind experiences. However, there’s not so much spent on the research and development that will be critical to building a body of standardized content, which much of the industry and the projected billions are predicated on.

That will change. But, don’t just take my word for it. Look at what countless studies from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citibank, or a soon-to-be released report from Bank of America, are predicting for what’s coming next for VR and AR.

Here is a typical summation:
“Over the next five years, we believe hardware – primarily VR headsets for gaming – will be the driver of industry growth, and we think the overall VR/AR market could reach $692 billion by 2025 and continue to ramp after that. Although initially, the primary content for VR will be game software, the market will then expand to include concerts, zoos and theme parks, before broadening further to encompass sports, movies, TV programs, and music.” Citi GPS, October 2016

They might be wrong or right on the order of things, or exact spend. But, given the products on the market today across many sectors – from architecture/construction, education, gaming, the military, and medicine – it’s hard not to agree that these forecasts aren’t on the right track.

Let’s face it. 2025 is simply not that far away, eight years. Think about that, just eight years away. Are you in?

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