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The 10 Things You Need to Know About Virtual and Augmented Reality Apps

The 10 Things You Need to Know About Virtual and Augmented Reality Apps

The idea of virtual reality (VR) has been around (at least) since the early nineties and now the world is talking about it with renewed enthusiasm, once more. Facebook, Samsung, Google – Everyone’s in on it. Facebook’s Oculus Rift has really captured the attention of tech enthusiasts the world over and businesses are slowly catching on to just how much potential there is to adopting VR technology. Analysts are predicting that the virtual reality mobile app market will hit $150 billion by 2020.

The 10 Things You Need to Know About Virtual and Augmented Reality Apps

With VR having finally arrived, it’s important to understand just what it is, before actually getting down to talking about VR-enabled mobile apps.

What Is Virtual Reality?

Think of the Matrix – You just put on a pair of glasses and a new, unseen world comes to life. This is precisely what virtual reality is: A simulated, three-dimensional reality that the user can be completely immersed in, needing only some goggles, headsets or other head-mounted viewing device.

Then there’s augmented reality (AR), which essentially integrated synthesized effects with the user’s natural environment. While VR is totally immersive, transporting the user into a whole new world, AR adds additional information to the surroundings that the user is already in.

Finally, there’s mixed reality, or MR, that is perhaps the most difficult to achieve. Mixed reality is a combination of VR and AR, with users being able to actually interact visually with virtual images in their environment. For example, say you’re looking at a table. And say you see a small, simulated dinosaur sitting on the table. If you walk around the table, you can see the dinosaur from different positions. If you walk closer to the table, the dinosaur actually gets bigger and you can see it in more detail, just like in real life. Right now, mixed reality has the greatest potential application on computers and smartphones, but is the least known of the three.

So, now that we’ve got the definitions out of the way, here are the ten things that you need to know about VR/AR apps:

1. VR Apps Have The Potential To Become Ubiquitous, Thanks To The Smartphone

As stated before, engineers have been experimenting with VR since the early nineties. However, at that time it was largely confined to the walls of laboratories and R&D units, because the equipment to run VR images and track the user’s movements was far too expensive for the regular public to afford.

With the advent of the smartphone, all of a sudden billions of people the world over had a powerful, pocket-sized device with high-resolution screens that could be embedded with motion sensors to track human movement. And voila! VR apps brought what was once a purely experimental technological feat straight to the common man.

2. You Can’t Experience VR With Just An App – You Need A Headset

The headset is the device that actually processes digital information to simulate a new environment for the user. There are a number of VR devices at varying prices – Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, to name a few. Here’s an overview of the current headset market.

3. The Biggest Tech Firms Have Already Embraced VR

Most of the tech behemoths have begun developing their own VR line. Take Google’s Cardboard – Similar to the Google Glasses, but exclusively for virtual reality experiences. It’s easily the cheapest VR headset around, costing just $15. However, there are compromises on the comfort of wearing Cardboard and the interaction is limited. Cardboard can be paired with any new Android and iOS phone.

Samsung’s Gear VR is another popular headset, priced $100. For the price, you get a comfortable, snug-fitting headset that’s padded (so it’s easy on your skin), a large touchpad, and a wider interface. Gear VR is compatible with all of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones – Just slip your phone into the headset and then begin using it.

Finally, there’s Oculus, a revolutionary VR company that built the technology behind Samsung Gear VR. Oculus has its own VR headset, called the Oculus Rift. In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion. The Oculus Rift is the priciest of the lot – Its current market price stands at $600. Aside from this, if you want to experience the Rift at its full capacity, you need a powerful enough machine. That’s going to cost you an additional $900.

4. Everyone Wants In On Some VR Action

It isn’t just Google, Samsung and Facebook – Apple has hired leading VR researchers, Microsoft created HoloLens (an AR device) and IBM’s Watson AI (An artificial intelligence interface) is already beginning to power VR experiences.

Several other billion-dollar companies, if not directly engaging in VR research and development, have invested in companies that are involved in VR, AR or MR. Most recently, MR developer Magic Leap came into the limelight for having received funding from the likes of Google, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins.

Other instances of investment – Disney led an investment round of $65 million for VR camera maker Jaunt. Lensar is a Florida-based VR company that makes VR technology to help surgeons better understand the human eye, thus improving the accuracy with which cataracts are removed. Alphaeon, a California-based healthcare company, acquired Lensar for $59 million in 2015.

5. VR Gaming Apps Are Everywhere

The gaming world has welcomed VR. Already, there are hundreds of VR apps that you can download and play, if you have Google Cardboard, GearVR or Oculus Rift. Almost all of these games (at least the ones that are high quality or are VR versions of existing, popular games) are paid apps – They cost anywhere between $10 and $25 to download and play. At over 1 billion potential users, that’s a lot of money!

6. VR Is For Entertainment, AR Is For (Pretty Much) Every Other Kind Of App

VR is an entirely immersive experience. This means that you will have to be seated or stationary, so you don’t bump into things. AR, on the other hand, allows you to see through your device (think Microsoft HoloLens or Magic Leap), which means that practically, it has far more application. Take AccuVein, an AR scanner that projects an image over a patient’s skin of all the nerves, veins and valves right underneath, so doctors and nurses find it much easier to draw blood.

Then there are AR headsets that pull up the map of the mall you’re in, with detailed, labeled instructions as to where you’re standing, how to get to your destination and the best snack stops on the way.

Education, branding, manufacturing, neuro-linguistic programming – The upside is unlimited with AR.

7. What are the most popular VR/AR apps out there?

Augmented Reality:

Yelp – Android and iOS:

Using the camera in your phone as a viewfinder, you can use Yelp’s AR app to find all the restaurants and other establishments on the road you’re on.

Field Trip – Android and iOS:

This is a computerized tour guide on steroids. You notify the app as to what you’re looking for: Historical sites, monuments, museums, restaurants, pubs, or anything else that you’d like to visit. Field Trip scans your surroundings in real-time and notifies you when you’re near your chosen destination, with a pop-up card detailing said destination.

iOnRoad Augmented Driving – Android and iOS:

This app helps you by giving you alerts as to when to turn, warning you when you’re too near other vehicles and providing other data, like how much longer you have to reach your destination, lane departure warnings, speed alerts and so on.

Virtual Reality:

Samsung Gear:

Altspace VR: This is a really interesting app, where, once you sign up, you get to hang out in virtual reality with other Altspace users, watching movies, talking to each other, playing games, taking quizzes or even watching stand-up comedies together.

Google Cardboard:

Cardboard Camera: This app made the list because you can actually build your own VR experience with it. Once you have the app, use your camera to take a panoramic photo, which cardboard camera then turns into an image that is viewable in 3D, and presto! You just created your own VR image.

Oculus Rift:

Half Life 2 VR: Half Life is an extremely popular game, with over 8 million users the world over. This classic shooter game just gets so much more interesting with an immersive experience!

8. How Many People Around The World Use VR/AR?

In 2015, there were more than 864 million smartphone users who had AR apps installed. Of the smartphone users in developed countries, 30% were seen to have used AR at least three times a week in 2015.

Here’s a breakdown of VR headset sales in 2016:

Samsung Gear VR – 5 million

Oculus Rift – 3.6 million

Google Cardboard – 5 million

So, it can be estimated that there are over 10 million users of VR the world over, with at least 500 million using AR in one form or another. These numbers are expected to grow rapidly in the future.

9. How Much Is The VR/AR Industry Expected To Grow?

Everyone is optimistic about the future of this market. Here are some statistics:

– VR shipments will create a $2.8 billion hardware market by 2020, up from an estimated $37 million market this year (Business Insider)

– Demand for VR headsets will be fueled by gaming on both mobile and console devices. There are 1.2 billion gamers worldwide, including nearly 1 billion mobile gamers alone. This creates a direct, addressable market for VR headsets (Business Insider)

– Projections suggest that AR apps will generate 5.2 billion dollars in revenue by 2017 (Digital Marketing Bureau)

– Market research indicates that as many as 2.5 billion AR apps will be downloaded onto smartphones and tablets by 2017 (Digital Marketing Bureau)

– By 2018, there will be 200 million mobile AR users (Augmented Reality Trends)

10. The Scope For These Apps Is Unlimited

When VR came out and AR followed, most people predicted that their applications would be limited to gaming. Now, however, the most unlikely of industries are embracing AR, and seeing great results.

Look at the Chimera Reader, which is like a VR Kindle. All you do is strap on your headset and read. As drab as that sounds, users have been most enthusiastic about it. Once you download the book you want to read, you can also create different ‘”rooms” where you actually sit and read them.

Public Speaking is another seemingly unusual idea that works great in practice. There is a simulated audience that’s sitting in front of you, waiting for you to make a speech. While the graphic quality of the audience itself isn’t great, it’s a pretty realistic simulation – from the lighting to the hushed murmurs of the people sitting there. It’s a great way to understand just what it feels like to stand in front of a crowd of people, and is something that educators and institutions can really use to help rid students of the fear of public speaking.

VR and AR took a long time to develop, and an even longer time to actually become accessible to the public, but now that they’re here, they’re here to stay. And grow exponentially. Find an app you like, buy a headset you can afford and get ready to experience the future!

Now that your customers are out there getting their very own VR headsets, is your business ready to give them the visual experience?

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