Will VR and AR become as big as the smartphone?
Stimulated by faster hardware and the rollout of 5G, the new AR and VR applications are tumbling over each other. A tour of ten leading Dutch mixed reality experts. What has already been achieved and what can we expect?
IDTechEx predicts that the augmented, virtual and mixed reality market will exceed $30 billion by 2030. As COVID limits physical interaction, virtual communication and interaction will be the norm for years to come. Though considered futuristic by some, augmented, virtual and mixed reality devices have proven to play an important role in many different industries.
Most people's first experiences with VR and AR these days tend to be in gaming and entertainment. That is likely to change as research shows that the development of enterprise XR solutions is overtaking that of consumer solutions. The 2020 XR Industry Insight report, collected by VR Intelligence, states that 65% of AR companies surveyed say they work on industrial applications, while only 37% work on consumer products and software.
To appreciate its true potential, the technology needs to be experienced first hand, because unlike many other emerging technologies – artificial intelligence or blockchain, which run in the background – VR (and AR) are very visual. It is about presenting the information in an effective way so that companies can achieve their objectives. AR and VR work side by side with the user, reports Jeremy Dalton , head of AR / VR at PwC.
There's a reason why AR and VR have such an impact on us. Humans are extremely visual. About one-third of the neurons in our brain are dedicated to vision. That's why something like a VR headset, which can completely change what we think we see, can have a big impact – especially when headphones and extra effects (like a breeze or some smells) are added.
How do the experts in the Netherlands view VR/ AR and Mixed Reality?
“The impact on healthcare is enormous”, Gudule Martens, Chief Design Officer at MaMa Productions BV
“The technology is of course not ‘new’. But only this decade has it become affordable and quality enough. Companies with large, expensive equipment had long since embraced XR and VR for training technicians, for example. Canon itself had already released glasses before the Hololens entered the market, for example. The use of the technology within the industry has already clearly proven itself. Digital twins will become commonplace in the coming years.
Viewed more broadly, the popular roller coaster experience has created the wrong image. As a result, many people initially became negative about the technology, because it made them sick. In my opinion this is unfair. The glasses are now many times better and simulation sickness has become much less.
It is difficult for consumers to follow. The hardware changes very quickly. If you buy glasses, they are already outdated and a year later they are no longer supported. We hope this will stabilize a bit because it is very complicated to work with.
Unexpected is the enormous impact that VR/XR can have within healthcare. Both mentally with, for example, phobia relief and PTSD therapy, as well as with pain relief (98% effective) and visualization in complicated operations. It is also used very effectively for physiotherapy and rehabilitation after an amputation, for example.
We use the other important power of VR: VR as an 'ultimate empathy machine'. For example, we have created an experience that puts you in the shoes of someone with epilepsy. In a few minutes you understand better what it means to live with epilepsy than after reading a medical article about it. This breaks the taboo surrounding epilepsy. For parents and teachers who support children with epilepsy, this is a real game changer. Especially people with epilepsy are very enthusiastic about this.
In our opinion, this technology can therefore have an enormous impact in fostering understanding and tackling prejudices. How does it feel to be a young girl who keeps being whistled at in the street? What is it like to be very old and to be approached like this all the time? With VR you can experience this for yourself. It can really change your attitude towards other people.With the advent of Volumetric Video Capture it becomes possible to add real people instead of Digital Avatars. We predict that this will take off in the coming years. You can let your favorite artist perform in your living room, or let Messi play football on your kitchen table. In addition, the possibilities of AR that are added to the latest phones are interesting. Both Apple and Android are increasingly geared to AR, which means the possibilities are endless. Both for gaming and for practical applications. In fact, it has only just begun.”
“Simulation and training are getting stronger”, Thom van de Moosdijk, simulation and training expert at BlueTea
“Virtual and Augmented Reality have undergone a strong innovation in recent years. Not only because the technology has advanced considerably in terms of quality; the development costs of both hardware and software have fallen considerably. This, together with the focus of some providers on wireless devices, is driving a renewed consumer interest in VR/AR.VR/AR is nowadays accessible, relatively affordable and offers a wide range of content. Recreational gaming remains an interesting topic for these technologies, but the applications within simulation and training are also becoming stronger. The possibility to safely undergo dangerous situations, to work with virtual variants of expensive devices (digital twins) or to place yourself in situations that are not easy to create in real life - but for which one must be prepared - offers many opportunities. valuable opportunities.VR and AR are 'here to stay', let's put that first. There is a lot of value in applying these technologies to take recreational gaming to the next level, but I personally expect that the biggest steps will mainly be taken in the worlds of serious gaming, simulations, training, digital twins and other applications with strong educational value.”
“Interesting for webshops”, Lorainne van Liere, Project Manager Arfected – The AR Agency.
“All smartphones nowadays have access to Augmented Reality experiences – via Instagram / Snapchat / Facebook, or via scanning a QR code for example. With a few clicks, the user can get in touch with AR. In addition, AR is attractive for different target groups, and therefore also for different industries + associated brands. For the somewhat younger target group, Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who are mainly active on Instagram and Snapchat, many Social AR filters pass by.For the somewhat older target group, we mainly see that Web AR can be used in a valuable way. Here we mainly see examples such as placing a piece of furniture in a room, in full size. For example, consider the IKEA Place App, where users can first view the product virtually and thus have a better expectation of the possible purchase.Augmented Reality is still widely used on an individual level. For example, social AR filters can be played by several people, but are not (yet) linked to each other. However, this often produces a large fan base for a brand if the filter proves to be effective and popular.
Although many AR/VR experiences still focus on the individual level, we do see developments leading to experiences that can also be shared with multiple people, especially in times when gatherings are prevented. For example, Arfected has realized a virtual store for a retail company in New Zealand, and we see that more and more companies see the benefits of this. The trick is to optimize the user experience in such a way that users actually return to the virtual store and purchase the products online, without having to go to the physical store. Of course, experience also comes into play here, such as testing products in your own environment using a Web AR tool. With a few clicks you can actually place a full-sized sofa or cabinet in your home – try before you buy.In the end, it's all about the user experience. Current trends and developments also show that online festivals, virtual conferences and meetings are being organized, where the experience is central. Here, the main focus is on the 'being together' aspect in order to take the online experience to the next level, which society is currently longing for. If you want to benefit from this as a brand or company, it is mainly about the added value you create and not so much a large logo that comes into the picture - the experience and added value remain the most important thing.”
“I see a great future, especially for AR”, Rens van der Vorst, Technophilosopher
” Typical of technological developments is that the speed is always overestimated in the short term and underestimated in the long term. I think that also applies to VR/AR. It's not going as fast as we expected, but it doesn't mean it's not coming. In Dubai I already saw cars driving for project developers where the progress of the projects is projected on the windows when you drive past them. Big issues with VR are still the hardware (but yes, Moore's Law) and that many people (especially women) are sick of it. VR = Vomit Reality.I see a great future, especially for AR. The reason for this is that with AR you do not have the disadvantages of full immersion, as with VR, but you can 'bring your own body'. AR is augmented reality, so you add something to reality, but you can of course also aim for reduced reality, so use AR to make sure there is a little less reality. This can be done medically, for example people with anorexia show less food or vice-versa. Whether people with claustrophobia show a square in the elevator, or vice versa. It can also be done with other things.
The big issue is that we shouldn't want (or fight against!) that the social media attention model (with all its drawbacks) will also be rolled out in VR/AR. The first signs (Oculus, which you can only use with Facebook account) are not okay.
This will save relationships", Mark de Graaf , Professor Interaction Design Fontys University of Applied Sciences – FHICT
“The idea of VR glasses is almost a century old (Pygmalions Glasses, Weinbaum, 1935) and the first working prototypes of VR head mounted devices date back to the 1960s. Expectations have been high since then, but the real breakthrough is yet to come. In fact, the technological preconditions have so far not been good enough for this. It has only been a few years that affordable VR glasses have become available that are standalone, so without a computer and sensors in space. The rollout of 5G will also play an important role for AR, because it will enable AR applications in the public space.
VR is still ahead of AR in development. Within a few years, AR will go mainstream in all applications where the connection to reality is important. Consider professional applications in the first instance, such as supporting service technicians on site when working on a real device, projecting device-specific information at the right time. This kind of application can of course be used in many domains, including education, and if prices fall on the consumer market. It will save relationships if an Ikea construction kit can be screwed together with the help of an AR assistant. VR will go mainstream in a different way: precisely those applications where reality is not within reach. You can train social workers in a classroom to deal with aggression, which is a lot more difficult to organize in real life. Or you can dive into a human's bloodstream, fly through the universe, practice extremely dangerous or terrifying situations, you name it. That virtual reality can also be manipulated without limits, something that is not possible in AR.”
“The glasses of today are the telephones from the nineties”, Jurjen de Vries – initiator Permanent Future Lab
“We are on the eve of a technical revolution, just as the internet and the smartphone have brought it. However, glasses as we know them today are actually at the stage like the heavy bulky phones some of us had in our cars in the 90's. The iPhone then took some time to come, but eventually brought a major change. In the course of time we will see glasses, lenses / EEG communication equipment combined with all kinds of other sensors.What triggers me is how much abundance and therefore change this reality technology will bring. For example, the internet brought Wikipedia, where we barely pay for an encyclopedia. For a few hundred euros, the smartphone brought thousands of euros worth of equipment, such as a 4K camera, alarm clock, navigation device, game console, and so on in one. Even now you will find a wealth of abundance in Virtual Reality. For example, with Mission:ISS you can learn about space travel for free, while an education at NASA is still approaching millions of euros . Or how about without buying a ticket and not standing in line the Visit Anne Frank's house? Even things that are impossible in real life, such as with the free The Body VR app as blood cell travel through your own body to discover how oxygen is distributed throughout the body.
Building your own Virtual Reality world doesn't have to cost a lot of money either. Thanks to open standards such as WebXR you can build your own application that can be operated on multiple types of devices via a browser is. For example, thanks to the open source project Mozilla Hubs (Mozilla is known for Firefox) you can easily create your own Virtual Reality room and enter it with several people. You then fill the space with 3D objects that the crowd uses under open licenses on various platforms are shared. And if you don't own glasses yet, chances are someone has shared one in a publicly accessible Permanent Future Lab.Both reality techniques and abundance thinking still have a long way to go, yet it is unstoppable when you consider that according to Moore's Law, computing capacity doubles every 2 years and costs halve. I invite you to go on an abundance reality journey of discovery. Have fun!”
“Teachers have to get to work now”, Ewout Warringa, lecturer at Vechtdal College
“For years it has been said that Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are booming and yet the huge blow such as with the mobile phone has not yet materialized, not all people have experience with Virtual Reality or let alone with AR glasses such as the HoloLens. I believe it will be several years before Extended Reality is mainstream. But in education, schools and teachers will have to work to give this technology a place in the curriculum. Because it may take a few years before Extended Reality becomes mainstream, in education we have the task of preparing students for the world of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, where I believe this technology will have a major impact. So we will have to familiarize our students with this technology. For some early adopter teachers, working with Extended Reality is already the most normal thing in the world. Think of meeting students in virtual social platforms or setting up your own digital twin as a hologram during the lesson that explains the assignment, or translating a 2D working drawing into a full-size 3D BIM model. And of course a virtual meeting around a designed piece of furniture should not be missing in the lessons of technology. In my opinion, these are skills that our students need in the world of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
Because if Extended Reality becomes our new way of working together and if smart glasses take over our smartphones, shouldn't we already be working with this technology in education? I think so and I know that many schools in the Netherlands are working hard to introduce our students to Extended Reality, although the hardware is still very expensive and the right software is often lacking, there is really creative thinking and great strides have been made to teach today's students how to use tomorrow's technology, but it will take a number of years before Extended Reality is commonplace for every student and teacher.”
“Videos in 3D”, Richard Coopmans, Augmented Reality Developer/ Designer at Dutch Rose Media
“A very cool application of AR that we have been working with a lot lately is volumeric video. Simply put, this is a video that is recorded in 3D. Using this technique, we have recorded a number of artists in the studio and then let them appear lifelike on people's mobile phones. That way, even though the real concerts and festivals are cancelled, you can get a personal 'living room' concert from your favorite artist.The future is promising as both AR glasses and 5G are on the way. Apple has been collecting data and app for years that can be used in AR (ARkit) and are now working behind the scenes to process all this technology into glasses that will most likely become the new wearable. These are simply glasses that, for example, project the navigation into your glasses, without the need for your phone. Then we come directly to the next point, 5G. Since there must be quite a bit of computing power in those glasses, but the glasses cannot be very large, you will need an accompanying telephone as a processor with the first versions of the glasses. That complexity may be removed by 5G. 5G should ensure that we can stream live from the cloud. That way you could record an artist live in the studio while that artist can also be seen live on the smartphone (or why not also on the smart glasses) of the target group.”
“Support on the job”, Melanie van Halteren – CoVince Adventurous Learning
VR/AR is often seen as an audiovisual application, but with new technology we can simulate all senses. Research shows that memories are stored in the brain in clusters of sensory information (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and emotional value. The higher the emotional value, the more it helps to evoke the memory. Ideal for learning and work applications, but also for richer social interactions. With this we can make applications more and more human, and imitate reality. Think of improving non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and adding contextual elements such as smell and touch to really touch each other.A distinction is regularly made between VR and AR. Both are valuable technologies that can reinforce each other, but can also be used for different purposes, each with its pros and cons. For example, AR lends itself well to real-time on-the-job support with contextual instructions. Think of a manual in which actions highlight step by step as a layer, matching the mechanic's learning and/or working style. VR has no limitations as we know in the real world. Therefore, we see many valuable applications to simulate difficult/dangerous situations on the one hand, and to create and experience new fictional worlds on the other hand, which stimulate our creativity and help to think, learn and act outside the existing constructs.
From our own experience and extra stimulated by the corona crisis, we see that each other in Meeting VR has been given a boost . Interactive meetings, brainstorming sessions, workshops, speed dates, heather sessions, round tables, conferences, music events, drinks, Christmas festivals, it all happened last year. One logged in on a laptop or smartphone and the other on glasses, something for everyone. The first results show that in many cases a session in VR is experienced as more productive than a session in Teams or Zoom. To make this transparent, we help with scientific research so that it becomes quantifiable.We certainly think that VR/AR will become commonplace as one of the communication tools you can use. The technology is becoming more affordable and easy to use. For example, scanning a 3d object or scene can already be done with a smartphone. The broad adoption is highly dependent on the content (development), the costs thereof, the laws and regulations, but also the right mindset. We accelerate this content development with our multidimensional no-code platform with all kinds of affordable and configurable building blocks. With this we make it possible for everyone to create their own content and offer it to the market. More and more artificial intelligence will be applied in the platform, from personalization to concrete objective feedback that is really useful to you. But we also offer offline and e-learning functionalities, for gradual adoption. With this we the bridge between offline, e-learning and XR.”
“The 4th generation of webshops”, Eugène Kuipers, CEO Fectar
“More than 1.75 billion smartphones worldwide are able to experience AR. This is reflected in the fact that the Fectar app has been downloaded 2 million times worldwide in the past 8 months. That too is a clear sign that Augmented Reality is gaining more and more traction. To be clear, this number of installations was done with a very limited marketing budget. That is why we ourselves talk about the new 3D world. Consumers and students find it logical to look at 3D products and subjects. AR is already used by more than 100 million people every day in the form of AR filters and other experiences.
What we will see in the next 2 years, for example, is the 4th generation of webshops. After photos, video and a 3D slider in the online shop, the 3D product will immediately leave the screen and will be placed in the living room or on the kitchen table with one QR scan. In this way, the consumer can walk around the product in his own environment to view it in detail. And that special shopping experience is confirmed in all market research. The furniture app Houzz in the USA has shown that the chance of conversion is 11 times higher if a consumer has viewed the piece of furniture in AR. This kind of experience will ensure that the consumer will soon expect every web shop to view the product in detail. It's not about technology, it's about consumer needs. For example, IKEA recently decided not to print a paper catalog anymore, but to focus entirely on e-commerce and AR. Ralph Lauren also does the same and reduces the store staff by 15%.
AR-Commerce has already started. An interactive 3D presentation of a sneaker is viewed more than 13,000 times in the Fectar app in 3 days. In this AR experience, the 'buy button' is then clicked more than 2,500 times (19%). More than 3,000 photos are taken in the app, of which 1,000 are shared via social media. I think every marketer is excited about these kinds of figures. That is the power of the AR experience. And so we have more figures from multiple products in multiple countries.
Education also sees the added value. There are already more than 100 primary schools in the Netherlands that use AR in education (lower, middle and upper school). This way you can see the difference between an African and Asian elephant, which is explained by a holographic park ranger. There are teachers in MBO and HBO education, who now appear as a hologram at their students' homes. Examples galore. In short, it is already there.”
In summary: every industry can benefit
Looking back at all the interviews: yes, mixed reality will be ready for mass adoption. The real question is not if, but when? It transcends more than just a tool for gaming, but a way to improve human life. There is no industry that cannot benefit from this technology. These technologies should make us all more effective, save our time and perhaps allow us to enjoy some routine tasks more. And of course, if you like interactive entertainment, this technology will take these experiences to a whole new level.