With the launch of Pokemon Go everybody keeps talking about augmented and virtual reality. Indeed, history repeats itself. It was as recently as in the 80's and 90's when science fiction actively tickled people's fancy with such ideas. Some enthusiasts even tried to turn them into reality, but their efforts were limited by insufficient technologies of that time. Twenty years later the technological gap disappeared and the time has come for the recent dreams to come true.
The leading players in the world of technology placed their bet on "red" - augmented and virtual reality. Sony, Google, Microsoft, Facebook have announced more than a hundred VR and AR projects; new consoles, computer hardware, headsets and controllers are getting ready to allow maximum immersion into other worlds. The potential of using VR for business is almost unlimited, the interest and demand for virtual reality apps is at its peak and there will be no better time to launch a VR/AR startup. So, how can VR be used for business?
I spoke to Denis Alekhin, an Android developer in Anadea, Inc., who has been interested in this topic for a long time. The results of our talk can be seen below.
Video games and entertainment
No matter how you slice it, this segment of market is quite large. Virtual and augmented reality will be of huge interest to gamers, as it practically erases the boundaries between the players and the game. At the recent E3 conference Microsoft and Sony introduced their renovated game consoles customized to meet the demands of virtual reality as well as announced over 20 VR games.
Mobile games with augmented reality are becoming more and more popular thanks to Pokemon Go. On the wave of a high demand for such games, they will grow like mushrooms after a rain. There already exist visualizations of how Half Life or Left 4 Dead will look in augmented reality - it's a great opportunity to take these ideas and bring them to life.
VR Theme Parks are already being created. They will give visitors a full immersion into virtual world with tactile perception simulation. These parks will be equipped with moving platforms, smoke generators and systems of climate control, which will adjust the temperature to suit the VR experiences.
Denis: I think that all games, in which you were able to manipulate your character with a controller, will now track the player's position with the help of geolocation. Games are about to move from the screens into our real life. For example, you have earphones and a smartphone. You run a game and get the notification that you, supposedly, have survived in a plane crash and now you need to find supplies. The game generates them on the map and tells you where to look for them. But when you come to this part of town, you hear sinister sounds - there are zombies chasing after you and you have to run for your life. The game tracks your speed and movement across the map and if you ran fast enough, these ominous sounds would start to die away.
It's quite fresh gaming experience, people are eager to try playing outside their homes - Pokemon Go proved it. That's why virtual reality games are now wanted like never before. Later it will be possible to combine it with AR glasses (not a VR headset - you won't be able to run in it) or with a smartwatch - you will get new experience, interesting and desired.
Live streaming and travels
Isn't it glorious to find yourself at a concert of your favourite band by simply putting on virtual reality glasses? Or at a major football match? At the Oscar ceremony or The Cannes Lions Festival? A virtual reality app can make it happen. It's enough to set up 360 degree cameras at the venue, connect to them through your VR device and there you are! In the same way, extreme sports will become much more accessible to people - fans of the adrenaline buzz who are not ready to risk their own health will now be able to jump with a parachute, climb Everest and try whatever they want through apps for VR.
In fact, virtual reality here will work on the principle of usual cameras. However, a headset and a wider viewing angle will help to create a sense of participation and you will be able to see more details on video recordings. It will work perfectly for deep-ocean exploration with the help of a bathyscaphe drone, for secret services and security. Also, it is ideal for tourism industry! Travel agencies should definitely become armed with VR travel apps and hand out 180 degree cameras to guides. This way virtual tourism may turn into a new branch of business.
Augmented reality is also a good fit for travelling - it can become a traveller's guide book. With its help you can get all the information on various cultural monuments, sights and locations, as well as translate inscriptions in foreign languages - you will only have to point your camera to a sign or a plate and the translation will instantly appear on the screen.
Virtual reality can breathe a new life into theatre. Thanks to VR apps, limited seats, queues, dress code, keeping silence, binoculars and everything that stops people from going to the theatre will now fall into oblivion - it will be enough to set up a camera on one of the seats, and through it, all interested people will be able to dive into the high art of drama. Unlike cinema, some plays such as Broadway shows or the recent continuation of "Harry Potter", are staged only once. Not everybody has a possibility to fly across half the world for the sake of a theatrical production, but with virtual reality you won't ever miss a single premiere without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Another great opportunity is creating virtual representations of real people. It opens a way for augmented or virtual reality shows with the holograms of celebrities, even those ones who are not with us anymore, as it happened at German metal festival Wacken.
Denis: Let's just say that not everyone has the wish and the possibility to travel all year round, but many people want to see new countries - let there be remote travellers! A person walks around interesting places with a camera and I see it all in my virtual reality headset. I can tell him something like "approach this painting or shopping window, examine it". I think, apps for virtual tourism would interest many people. And as for live streaming, this technology is likely to take reality shows to a new level. Taking into account that new VR platforms appear, to my mind, there will be streaming services in virtual reality as well.
For a long time people have simply been watching the characters on a screen - it is time for viewers to appear inside the movie itself, as ghosts who can move around but nobody is aware of their presence. Netflix, HBO and other popular channels are already trying to implement something of this kind. Of course, the emergence of VR in cinema signifies an ultimately new approach to filmmaking, yet it is possible. In addition, it's quite probable that now much less money will be spent on equipment if the shooting is done with the help of 360 degree cameras.
Denis: If one producer successfully applies VR technology to cinematography, it will take up the whole industry. You can recall how it was with "Avatar" - before this film 3D in cinemas was rather an exception than a rule. But what happened afterwards? Since then, every second film is released in a 3D format. Even now, there appear well directed 360 degrees videos which can be watched in VR glasses. However, it seems to me that 360 degrees are way too much. You wouldn't turn your head around in a cinema, would you? I think, 180 degrees would be more than enough.
Augmented reality is good not only for catching pokemons but for creating VR marketplaces and various sales tools as well. Absolutely any object can be placed on the screen of your device. With such capabilities you don't have to guess how a new sofa will look in your sitting room - all you have to do is to download an AR furniture app, turn on your camera and you can see how a full sized wardrobe or an armchair will fit into your room. The same could be done with clothes - a VR shopping app will let you try on the whole range of the store within a few minutes, without wasting your time on changing, finding the right size or queueing.
Denis: Virtual reality will be of use as well. Thanks to VR, it will be possible to visit a new car dealership, check out the future design of your kitchen, interior, view a 3D project from your house builder and make adjustments before the construction starts. Nothing to speak of more detailed engineering.
Such technologies as beacons, augmented reality glasses and smartphones perfectly complement each other and may work together. Beacons can transmit certain data to smartphones - ads, information on some product or exhibit, location, buildings and so on. A smartphone, in its turn, processes this information and displays the image in the AR glasses according to the user's preferences. AR and VR apps development here can go beyond simple advertising and turn into full customization of a picture in augmented reality based on the user's taste. There will be much fewer annoying signs, billboards and advertising screens in cities.
Computer simulations of various events have existed for a long time, they are globally used by the military, medical colleges, driving schools and so on. With the creation of virtual reality, simulators will reach the next level. Pairing a VR headset with a model of a car cab will make it possible to learn about the structure of an automobile and practice your knowledge of traffic rules without getting on the road and putting anyone at risk. Surgeons will make use of a surgery simulator, that will help them to enhance their skills, and a 360 degree camera in the operating room, which will allow medical students to watch a live surgery and learn from the best doctors. In fact, educational VR apps will facilitate learning in all fields and industries.
VR battle simulations for the military will now help to develop not only tactical thinking but also prepare for fighting psychologically thanks to the sense of presence. The same effect proved itself successful in healthcare apps for treating psychological disorders and phobias - a sick person is placed in a virtual room one on one with his fear and, after each session of facing the object of his phobia, the patient feels less and less afraid. Interactive textbooks will also reach a new level and students will grasp much more if they witness Mendeleev's discoveries and stand next to Napoleon in the Battle of Austerlitz, than if they simply read about it in an old schoolbook.
Denis: I think that the progress of virtual reality will take other usual things to a new level as well. Skype calls, for example. Now we still feel some kind of a wall between us and our conversation partner and may get distracted by browser tabs. With VR, a sense of another person's presence can be created, we may appear in one virtual room with him. Augmented reality is really fit for laying routes - such function would come in handy on the windscreen of a car. How about remote car control with the help of VR? There are tons of ideas. Immensely wide doors fly open in front of entrepreneurs.
Virtual and augmented reality is about to change the world of technology similar to how smartphones with touch screens did in 2000s. Perhaps, they will have a much stronger influence as these technologies can be applied in a very wide range of fields. It's high time for business owners to pay attention to VR and AR as now this unbeaten track more than ever needs pioneers who will pave the way for the rest. And who knows, maybe it is you who will make a VR app that will define the new look of virtual technology.