Although the first prototypes of virtual reality (VR) devices appeared in 1960s, the application of the technology and its close relative augmented reality (AR) has never manifested itself as widely as it did with the recent Pokémon Go craze. According to Tomas Kandl, a VR and AR expert working for Accenture Strategy, a technology arm of the global consultancy, this is just the beginning.
“We are now at a point where the cost of VR hardware will enable a lot of people to buy it,” he says. “This holiday season and next we will see a lot of people buying VR gear.”
The use of VR and AR technologies goes beyond chasing Vaporeons, Dragonites and other Pokémon, says Mr Kandl. “We have recently worked with a cruise ship company that noticed that they have a hard time to get new customers who have never been on a cruise as they are unfamiliar with what to expect,” he says. “Thanks to VR technology they can offer an immersive experience and show what to expect when on board in a much more realistic way than just presenting beautiful photos of a boat in a promotional folder.”
Among other industries that are likely to embrace VR and AR technology are healthcare, which can give doctors access to the medical records of their patients in context and location, and the automotive industry, where it can help both with repairs and with the customer experience in the dealership.
Tech giants such as Apple, with its Oculus device, Google with Google Glass and Google Cardboard, and Microsoft with HoloLens have already jumped on the AR and VR bandwagon. However, according to Mr Kandl, VR and AR, being new industries, are still a level playing field for newcomers, especially when it comes to producing software.
Pieces of the puzzle
“We can see a lot of boutique companies working on use case applications catering for this technology,” says Mr Kandl. “There is a lot of fragmentation when it comes to this industry given where we stand in the maturity cycle.”
The same goes for its geographical presence. “At this point in time, companies working on AR and VR can be found all around the world,” says Mr Kandl.
That being said, AR and VR clusters are most likely to form around locations with industries that can use their capabilities, such as healthcare or automotives, and with a supply of employees who can provide the skills needed.
“If I was to establish a VR or AR company in a certain area, I would go close to a talent pool in areas such as data analytics, user experience design and experts focusing on how people interact with machines and how machines interact with their surroundings,” says Mr Kandl.
That gives an advantage to already established tech hubs, but not necessarily only those. With new industries come new opportunities, and just as Pokémon Go created an unexpected buzz around a dormant franchise, AR and VR might give a boost to new contenders, given that they provide the fertile ground in which the industry can grow out of its infant stage.