The Top XR Developments for 2019
The immersive industry has seen some tremendous developments this year. From hardware to software releases and inventions, there has been a beehive of activity in the augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality space.
These developments have gone a long way in advancing the progress of the industry. According to a recent PwC report, both augmented reality and virtual reality will add a whopping $1.5 trillion to the global GDP by 2030.
A decade of XR growth is coming to an end and we are entering a new decade of promise in the prospects of immersive industry making the end of this year a perfect one to reflect on the industry developments over the past year. Here are some of the key XR highlights that occurred this year:-
The launch of the standalone virtual reality headset Oculus Quest was no doubt one of the key highlights of the year. The release of the first standalone VR headset in the market with fairly impressive specs and at a reasonable price has generated a lot of interest as well as momentum in the industry.
In May this year, it had sold out in most of the retail stores just a week after its launch. According to data from SuperData Research, Facebook sold more than 180,000 Oculus Quest headsets in the third quarter of this year, valued at $72 million. This is close to double the combined sales of both the Rift S and Oculus Go headsets. The total number of Quest headsets sold so far now stands at 400,000.
Facebook has gone even further and added the Oculus Link connection which enables Quest owners to connect their virtual reality headsets to a gaming PCs with a USB-C cable. Oculus Link now gives Quest owners the best of both worlds: a standalone and portable VR headset for simpler experience and the Link connection that enables users to connect their headsets to PCs and run more complex PC VR experiences with access to all the games and apps in the Rift library.
The rhythm VR hit game Beat Saber has been one of the most popular games throughout the year, staying in the top ten VR charts for the whole year. By March of this year, 1 million copies of the game had already been sold across all platforms. To bolster the game, the developer, Beat Games, released various limited-edition Beat Saber music packs including Imagine Dragons, Panic! At The Disco and Monstercat.
Beat Games was recently acquired by Facebook and falls under the Oculus Studios VR gaming group. With Facebook as one of the major VR players, Beat Games’ future now looks well secured.
The HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset was first announced in February 2019 but it began shipping last month. The HoloLens 2 features some impressive specs including a 52-degree field of view, hand and eye-tracking functionality, a lighter build made from carbon fiber material and a much-improved resolution of 2048 x 1080 per eye.
The HoloLens 2 offers much better performance and experience over the first-generation HoloLens. The headset is priced at $3,500 and at that price tag, it still remains an enterprise-focused platform. But with its improved capabilities, the HoloLens 2 is setting a new benchmark in the Mixed Reality space.
Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) Soaring to New Heights
This has been the year of virtual reality arcades. The location-based virtual reality entertainment is growing rapidly thanks to the accessibility, affordability as well as the unique and shared entertainment available in these VR arcades.
Apart from the rapid expansion of the location-based entertainment centers, the sector has also attracted significant investments. Sandbox VR received tens of millions of dollars in investments this year while Zero Latency hit 0.5 million plays in the month of August. HOLOGATE hit 5 million players, further demonstrating the popularity of the LBE industry.
Massive Improvements in Resolutions
This year has seen the release of some VR headsets with very impressive resolutions. Hardware such as HP Reverb, Varjo and Varjo 2 offers top notch user experience thanks to the ultra-high visual and audio fidelity. These advances in resolutions have gone a long way in moving the industry forward. Consumers are constantly yearning for the ideal immersive hardware and such breakthroughs in visual fidelity are a huge plus for the industry.
HP’s Reverb Professional Edition has a massive resolution of 2160 x 2160 panel per eye along with a 114-degree field-of-view (FOV). It also features inside-out tracking and lightweight design.
The Finnish VR company Varjo Technologies is also a leader in visual fidelity. Its Bionic Display has an impressive resolution of 60 pixels per degree. This is almost a 20/20 vision which allows the user to read text and watch images just as they would in the real world. Everything will appear just as they would in the real world including the textures, colors, contours and the illuminations. This high degree of clarity makes the Varjo glasses ideal for professional use-cases that require very high precision and detail such as in engineering, design and architectural applications.
Varjo has recently developed the XR-1 Developer Edition Headset which features an integrated eye-tracking, Bionic Display and passthrough cameras making a premium enterprise market immersive hardware.
Valve Index and the Index Controllers
The Valve Index is another heavyweight VR headset that came out this year. Released in June 2019, the Valve Index headset provides a glimpse into the future of virtual reality hardware. It features a resolution of 1440 x 1600 per eye as well as a refresh rate of 120Hz making it the best-in-class VR headset for visual experience.
The company also developed the Index Controllers which are also known as Knuckles. The controllers comprise some impressive features including hand straps that enable the user to release their grips without dropping the controllers. They also have pressure-sensitive panels that enable users to grab objects in virtual reality in a very natural way thanks to the finger tracking.
The German startup holoride has had a very successful year. The company’s platform links the Extended Reality visualizations such as virtual reality with a real vehicle’s motion data in real-time. This creates a very immersive passenger experience that also helps minimize motion sickness. The holoride technology has brought a new content category to the immersive industry which is not only highly adaptive but one that also matches with the length and type of the route. It creates Elastic Content.
The company had a successful launch during the CES held in Las Vegas with an alpha version of SDK that it released to certain leading production studios to develop the world’s first holoride experiences. The first public holoride experience was showcased in Los Angeles in October. holoride has had impressive successes this year which contributed to its being named among Time’s 100 Best Inventions of 2019.
5G connectivity promises to revolutionize connectivity with super-fast speeds, low latency and stable connections. This will have a tremendous impact on the immersive industry making these experiences more accessible, more stable, more reliable and more immersive. Several carriers are already rolling out 5G connectivity in select cities across the world.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
This year saw the release of a new AR game which has been billed as the next Pokemon Go. Developed by the makers of the Pokemon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was released on 20th June, 2019. Players in Wizards Unite become witches and wizards as they get immersed into the Wizarding World and can conjure magical powers in their hands. The initial downloads for the game fell below the Pokemon Go performance but just like its predecessor, the game has already generated a lot of hype and might do really well in the medium term.
These have been some of the leading developments of the year. Some of these are not necessarily pivotal but they have laid a strong foundation for the future advances in AR, VR and MR.