We are only a quarter of the way through 2020 and no one could have predicted what this year has already had in store. A global pandemic has left more than a quarter of the world's population in some form of lockdown.
Many people and businesses around the world have found themselves in unchartered territory where they are now having to navigate a new world of virtual living. From remote working to remote learning, remote conferencing to remote socialising and remote entertaining, we are learning new ways in which the virtual world can help us during these unprecedented times.
This is potentially the pivotal moment for Virtual Reality, with the current global pandemic set to accelerate many trends that were already underway as well as uncover some new ones. Will this make VR a necessity rather than an afterthought?
1. VR for Training
In PwC’s Seeing is Believing report into the state of the VR/AR market published earlier this year, one of the big business benefits they identified was using VR and AR to improve training procedures, both for soft skills and also scenario based training programs.
Last month we saw two major companies in this space close significant funding rounds highlighting their growth potential. Talespin raised $15m Series A round to further develop their XR technology for enterprise solutions and just this week Strivr announced a $30m Series B round to expand its immersive learning programs - previous clients include Walmart who invested in 17,000 Oculus Go’s to train their staff back in 2018.
And the cost and time saving benefits are real. Talespin created a soft skills VR training programme for 3,000 PwC employees. Results show that employees trained in VR require less time to learn (53% less than class room training) and VR deployed at scale can be less expensive (the cost of VR was 36% lower).
We are seeing the practical benefits of VR for Education right now with our own Healthcare service as British based company Virti have been drafted in to help retrain over 15,000 NHS workers on how to protect themselves from Covid-19.
2. VR for Gaming
Traditionally one of the biggest drivers for VR was for gaming. With the current lockdown, we are seeing increasing amounts of people dive into VR with Steam (online digital games marketplace) seeing record numbers.
This has been helped by the launch of VR only Half-Life: Alyx on March 23rd. Touted as the VR killer app in gaming terms, Steam recorded a peak of almost 43,000 players on launch day. Comparatively the previously most popular title was Beat Saber where peak players only hit 4,500. Interestingly, over 300,000 viewers headed to Twitch to watch streamers play Half-Life showing the barrier of owning a headset is still present. Currently more than 1m Steam users have a VR headset however as lockdown looks set to continue for a good while yet, we may see more gamers ready to splash out on a headset. Increased demands and shipment delays are already making it very difficult to get your hands on an Oculus Quest.
VR social hangout Altspace is already a success story, offering a place to meet up, attend live shows and socialise with people from around the world.
3. VR for Education
VR is already being used in a number of different ways to improve the way we learn. From Google Expeditions offering VR field trips around the world, to ClassVR whose end-to-end solution helps schools to get started in VR, providing headset and technical support for teachers and students.
Using VR in education has been shown to improve retention rates, we retain 10% of what we read and 90% of what we experience. The use of VR allows for personal experiences and practical learning opportunities which have the power to enhance learning for everyone.
In higher education, VR is being used to train medical students by giving the opportunity to practise procedures on virtual patients. Companies such as Oxford Medical Simulation are leading the way in this field. We are seeing the practical benefits of VR for Education right now with our own Healthcare service as British based company Virti have been drafted in to help retrain over 15,000 NHS workers on how to protect themselves from Covid-19.
VR also allows institutions and educators from around the world to get together remotely to collaborate on projects. Platforms such as Engage and Acadius enable group distance learning and multi-user demonstrations.
Emerging trends set to accelerate
1. Virtual conferences & meetings
With so many conferences and meet-up’s cancelled during the current crisis, business and events organisers are moving their physical meetups to VR causing a demand amongst businesses already providing these solutions on a small scale.
Existing providers and platforms are struggling to meet the demands the current crisis has thrust upon them as more people search for alternative ways to collaborate and communicate remotely. EngageVR hosted the HTC Vive Ecosystem Conference last month with over 1,000 attendees and 500,000 viewers on social media. They have since been inundated with requests to host virtual conferences.
MeetinVR, a platform to host virtual business meetings, is reportedly currently receiving over 500 additional requests per week for early access to their software.
Some other good options listed below which have been collated from a number of sources. VR Voice in partnership with HP ran a great crowd cast event last week which showcased a number of different VR platforms to facilitate meetings, collaborations and learning.
Trezi - VR for Architecture and Design
Theia Immersive - For 3D Visualization
Iris VR - VR Meetings for building industry
Spatial - VR shared workspaces
Rumii - VR for collaboration
Wonda VR - immersive Presentations
The Wild - Collaboration for Architecture and design
Inlusion - real time immersive collaboration
Paracosma - VR content creation and development
Avatour - Remote collaboration platform in real time
Namone - Vr collaboration platform for Science and research
There are lots of options available for VR conferencing as existing platforms add additional support for larger groups such as Altspace who hosted over 6,000 people for the International Educators in VR Summit.
2. Virtual Tourism
Lockdown for the foreseeable future has meant that any form of travel is off the cards right now. With many of us desperate for a bit of escapism, there are a number of platforms that give you the chance for you to virtually escape reality and head off on your travels. We may see the demand for this increase over the coming months
Hoppin’World adds an element of social interaction of your travels, allowing you to connect together and explore the world around you.
Google Earth VR a very simple free app that allows you to travel the world from the comfort of your own home.
Whilst the tourism industry is suffering at the minute, VR could also offer a lifeline in the future. There are a plethora of ways they can use VR to continue to connect with their consumers and promote their products and services.
3. AR/VR For Retail
Last week sportswear brand Asics held its very first VR shoe launch. Originally the launch was due to take place in Tokyo but instead the company created the experience in VR and sent Oculus Quest headsets to journalists to watch the event.
Retail is another industry suffering greatly at the moment, however there are a number of immersive innovations that could potentially help. Virtual shopping is already available via Spark AR on instagram. Users can virtually try on items and purchase directly through the social platform. Online-only retailers such as ASOS have been trialing different AR techniques over the past few years including Virtual catwalks and most recently ‘See my fit’ AR tool.
Platforms such as Obsess VR can help you create immersive retail experiences and product visualisations.
Find lots more insights on the future of Augmented shopping in a recent Deloitte report here.
We are yet to see what the lasting effects Covid-19 will be on our normal lives and it will take some time to show a clearer picture. Initially, perhaps a desire for real human interaction will mean we will go back to many of our old ways of working and socialising. However, we think we will certainly see an increase in businesses looking to VR platforms and services as they realise the real cost and time savings of VR for training and education.
If you want to explore AR/VR solutions for your business, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your immersive brief on https://market.blend.media/