Virtual reality and augmented reality are predicted to be two of the most important trends for the next 10 years, but both have a long road to get there. At the end of 2017, VR is inside its trough of disillusionment, while AR is relegated to rough headsets and some interesting apps on mobile platforms. I am sure that these technologies will succeed in the long term, so let us see what 2018 can mean for them in their path toward mainstream adoption.
Virtual reality will have to escape from its current quicksand. To do that, it has to solve three pain points of its potential customers:
- Price. VR headsets and required PCs are too expensive;
- Ease of use. VR headsets require complicated setups and technical expertise;
- Lack of content. There are not enough interesting experiences to justify the purchase of a VR headset.
Virtual reality companies will take various approaches to solve these issues. First, we’ll see the rise of standalone headsets: these are all-in-one headsets that are portable and work out of the box, requiring no setup or technical expertise. HTC already has started pre-orders for its Vive Focus, while Oculus has announced two headsets of this kind for next year: Oculus Go and Oculus Santa Cruz. Oculus Go is Facebook’s weapon to try to make virtual reality mainstream: Mark Zuckerberg’s goal is having 1 billion people inside VR, so he is going to release this device that, being priced at only $200, can let many people enter the VR world.
Prices of existing VR headsets will continue to go down, following the current trend. In recent months, we have seen many discounts: in one of them, Acer VR headsets were even priced at $200. Most companies will bet on price and usability, while some others, like Pimax, will start offering premium headsets for a high price, and this will satisfy the needs of enterprises and innovators.
Regarding content, the latest release of games with famous brands like Fallout 4 VR or Doom VFR, and the announcement of funding of many other experiences by all the major VR companies, will ensure that VR appeals to more people.
In 2018 VR should grow, but not skyrocket, yet: Oculus and Vive likely will announce the new version of their tethered headsets, but they will be sold in 2019.
The ecosystem for augmented reality is years behind the one of virtual reality. Regarding AR glasses, the only big piece of news should be the release of the Magic Leap One, the eyeglass that the secretive Florida-based company has teased for years. This could be the only device able to disrupt the market because all the other important innovations, like the HoloLens 2 and the reported Apple headset, should be released in 2019 or beyond. Technology is still not ready for an AR glass that is not a device for developers and innovators.
On the contrary, mobile augmented reality will grow: Apple ARKit and Google ARCore will become available on more and more phones, enabling more people to experiment with augmented reality using the tool that they already have in their pocket. The AR apps for these platforms will become more widespread and will offer more interesting features than what is currently available.
Looking at the XR market today, it seems that 2018 could be a transition year toward 2019, when things should evolve fast. However, for better or for worse, XR technologies have always surprised me in these years, so I would also expect some developments that are unpredictable.
Editor’s note: For additional insights on augmented reality and virtual reality, download ISACA’s AR/VR tech brief.