Is The Future Virtual, Augmented or Mixed Reality?

Which technology will surpass others…

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Have you ever wondered how far technology can go? Can you imagine interacting with people, feeling as if  you’re standing next to each other while in reality you’re far apart? The rapid growth of new emerging technologies can probably make it possible in future! Though these technologies have a lot in common, they could lead us down totally different paths.

Difference between VR, AR and MR

Virtual reality has always been a promising invention. Wear those VR headsets, go nowhere, and experience anything almost anywhere. It is where a person experiences a totally new virtual world. The user interacts with system by the use of visual, auditory and haptic senses. VR is usually a 360 degree view which changes with the movement of user. Gaming is an obvious virtual reality application but it’s being used in various industries now.

Augmented reality, on the other hand is where a person interacts with artificial elements put in a real world around. The graphical elements are augmented in physical environment to enhance user’s experience. You are already familiar with AR if you’ve used Snapchat or played PokemonGo.

Mixed reality is the hybrid of both VR and AR where a person interacts with the real and virtual world simultaneously. Unlike VR, MR doesn’t put user in a different world but into an augmented and easier to interact environment. Microsoft’s HoloLens has given a great push to mixed reality.

Where the hype meets virtual and augmented reality

2016 has been a break through year for both VR and AR. VR hardwares like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR hit the market bringing with them new ideas and different ways to use these devices. Though VR is still in its early stages, it is the most popular device out of the three. Mark Zuckerberg has put the time frame at 5 to 10 years for it to become mainstream. The use of VR is increasing rapidly with the passage of time. At first it was meant to be used for recreational purposes but now it is finding its way in military, healthcare, real estate, education, fashion and many other industries. On the AR side, the huge success of PokemonGo brought AR in mainstream and people became more familiar with this new technology. Pokémon GO delivered $600 million in mobile AR revenue in its first three months, making more money through the year than the entire VR games software market in 2016.   Microsoft on the other hand also introduced their latest technology “HoloLens”. But this $3000 device is hard to afford and this factor cannot be ignored as it is clearly not targeting mass consumers. But they are willing to bring out a consumer friendly device in future.

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How these technologies are shaping future?

If we look at the future of these technologies, companies are investing heavily and trying to surpass one another. The new release of iPhone 8 plus, iPhone X and Samsung note 8 shows that these companies are trying to bring something new for their users. iPhone’s new features including Face ID, Animoji, and Augmented Reality  instantly grabbed users’ attention. Whereas Samsung Note 8 does beat iPhone when it comes to VR. You can convert your phone into a VR headset to watch 360-degrees videos and play immersive games, something which no iPhone can do yet. Companies also want to introduce wireless VR headsets in future to make it more user friendly. Microsoft is trying too hard to replace VR and AR with MR. Alex Kipman, technical fellow of the Operating System Group at Microsoft recently stated that “Mixed Reality is the future, not AR or VR”. They are also focusing on introducing a consumer version of HoloLens headset in future. They want immersive headsets to be as common as keyboard and mouse.

Future market potential.. Where should you invest?

While talking about these new inventions and their future, one thing we all want to know is the future market potential of these technologies. Virtual reality was worth about $1.6 billion in 2016 and it is expected to touch $22.4 billion in 2020. The combined AR and VR market will be worth $121 billion by 2021,  according to Digi-Capital. Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, also predicted VR hardware with a $80 billion industry in next 10 years. These technologies are finding their way in almost every industry in near future. As mentioned in TechCrunch “While the conversation around VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) often focuses on gaming and video entertainment, the Goldman Sachs report theorizes that these use cases will account for less than half of the software market.”

techcrunch-mixedreality-vrgraph

Snapchat and PokemonGo increased the market value of AR and MR in 2016, reaching $1.7 billion. According to Futuresource, between 2017 and 2021 the long term outlook for compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 77% for mobile AR and MR.

Companies like Facebook and Google are currently more inclined towards VR as according to them, AR and MR technology just isn’t there yet. Though all these technologies have their own pros and cons. VR is considered to be an experience that is easier to understand, whereas AR is exciting but people don’t have enough ways to experience it yet. In general, AR is likely to be more user friendly and VR comes with a bigger, bulkier headsets. However, Windows Mixed Reality headset can be  a game changer in future, allowing a user to see real world in addition to the virtual. For the price point, you can get a VR headset for as low as $15 or for top quality experience, it can range from $399-$799. Whereas, Microsoft’s HoloLens is available in market for $3000.

With all these facts and stats mentioned above, it is hard to tell which technology is going to excel others as they all have a great market potential for future and with the rapid growth and competition across companies, any new application or device can be a game changer.

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