Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality (VAMR) dominated not just tech news, but headlines everywhere during 2016. Whether coming from such household names as Facebook (Oculus), Microsoft (Hololens) and Google (Daydream), from uber-hyped start-ups (Magic Leap) or tried and tested small businesses (Vuzix, ODG), these emerging technologies seem to have finally realized the promise of delivering experiences we had assumed were confined to the imagination and sci-fi movies. There were some who predicted that 2016 would be the bend in the curve, driven by enterprise adoption. What we actually saw was continued pilot testing, pre-orders, development kits and further investment in promising start ups. Will 2017 be different? We still have not seen what Magic Leap has up their sleeve; Apple has now entered the fray and Microsoft recently announced low cost VR solutions to be living alongside Hololens. Should we expect for adoption to skyrocket in 2017 as consumers, developers and enterprises continue to find more uses for the technology? Or will we continue to see announcements and little tangible progress?
The market is expected to build upon its steady growth over the last few years with technology transitioning in earnest to a variety of industries. A forecasted market size of $150B by 2020 justifies the $2.3B that was invested in VAMR in 2016 alone. Specifically, AR is expected to see widespread adoption across industries and account for 80% of the VAMR market as enterprises are able to leverage its capabilities to enable workers to be more productive and efficient.
The following four industries may just lead the way. Two of them, utilities and logistics, seem to have been early adopters of the technology and may lead the growth trend beyond pilot projects. The other two we expect will make a large impact sooner rather than later, but might be fast followers.
This is not an industry per say, but 2017 might just be the year of the drone. INTEL and Lady Gaga put on a fantastic display of the potential of the technology in the Super Bowl. This seems to have overshadowed the fact that the commercial market for drones is growing and we are seeing rapid adoption in variety of industries. Augmented reality and heads up solutions are currently confined to drone racing. However, heads up solutions integrated with leading headset manufacturers are under development. One of the main drivers is the need for heads up operation so that the user can maintain line of site while simultaneously using the first person view from a camera payload, thereby complying with FAA requirements. An AR enabled solution would thus improve safety, compliance and productivity.
The utilities industry views VAMR solutions as a way of enhancing worker performance. Duke Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have started a series of pilot projects leveraging AR into several common utility work flows. The first project tested the use of live video and audio feed between personnel and the operations office. Their findings were that having video and audio was more beneficial than just a phone call when trying to help field personnel. The second project was to develop a training application for a plant procedure. AR outlined the procedure step by step for the user, marked completed steps, and allowed video or photos to be viewed to get specific directions to perform the task. At the end, users could easily share results and contact other personnel to relay additional information. AR gives the utility workers the ability to access and relay information in a hands-free approach that simplifies training and improves collaboration.
In major logistics companies, at any moment, there are thousands of fleet vehicles in motion across the country delivering an endless stream of packages. DHL has found that AR has the most promise within its warehouse operations, specifically with the task of picking, which accounts for more than 10% of all logistic costs. There AR approach has not only helped their picking process but also improved overall warehouse planning. Companies that used AR solutions to assemble products found that workers could complete tasks 30% faster with three times the accuracy compared to workers with more traditional training. Maintaining vehicles is also at the core of keeping the business successful. AR also helps mechanics access step-by step instructions on how to fix or diagnose any issue, reducing the chance of error when working on unfamiliar vehicles. Additionally, the technology allows a mechanic to have remote access to the company’s distributed expert via heads-up video, resulting in improved instruction while also decreasing associated travel costs for dedicated trainers tasked with covering a large region. Ultimately, using AR across logistic operations decreases training time while making for a more productive worker.
Media-based attractions have become a major trend in the theme park industry as it gives companies flexibility with changing rides, gives the customers a unique experience and provides differentiation from the competition. VR has become more popular, as it provides riders a more immersive experience than just looking at a screen. The Walt Disney Company has heavily invested in the cinematic VR company Jaunt and is collaborating with Oculus. The company views VR as a way to bring the Disney experience worldwide, such as through their Disney Movies VR experience. This past Fall, Universal Studios opened their first VR experience as part of their Halloween Horror Nights expansion. In Salt Lake City, The VOID is a new entertainment experience that layers digital environments on top of real-time interactive environments. The other benefit of VR is it provides amusement parks with the opportunity to reinvigorate or reinvent existing rides without much change to their infrastructure. Sea World has invested in a VR add-on to retrofit their oldest roller coaster in an effort to combat its decreased attendance. Lastly, Six Flags and Samsung recently announced that their partnership will give a mixed reality gamified experience. The announcement comes after Six Flags had a 24% attendance increase following the release of its previous VR ride. VAMR technologies give amusement park riders a more immersive experience while allowing amusement parks to give greater creativity at a lower cost.