Augmented & Virtual Reality: What the Future Holds
Recent years have seen a spike of interest in both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). As technology catches up with developer's imaginations, we're likely to see widespread adoption across a multitude of verticals. Whilst VR was traditionally associated with gaming, many believe it could ultimately change everything from the way we learn, to how we consume, work and play.
What's the difference between VR and AR?
The terms virtual reality and augmented reality are often spoke of in the same breath with little or no differentiation. However, whilst they often share the same features, and are used to compliment each other, there are some important differences. Virtual reality technologies transport the user into a virtual world by using computer simulations of 3D images or environments. This is done with the use of peripherals such as headsets, gloves and body sensors. The aim is for the VR experience to be totally immersive, with the user being unable to determine between the virtual world and the real world. Whilst we're still a long way from that point, the opportunities are both endless and exciting.
Augmented reality on the other hand adds to your reality by layering computer-generated enhancements on top of the real world. AR technologies are incorporated into apps and are designed to augment or improve a user's experience of the physical space by providing additional imagery or data. It's likely that AR will reach full market penetration far in advance of VR. Pokemon Go was a great example that consumers are ready to use AR and are excited about what it offers.
The other area to be aware of is mixed reality which lies somewhere between VR and AR. Mixed reality augments the real world with objects that are designed to look as if they are really placed in the physical world. Microsoft HoloLens is a key example of this and with so much money being invested in mixed reality, we're likely to see great strides in this area in the coming years.
What impact will VR and AR have for businesses?
Whilst traction for VR has been slow, many believe that both VR and AR will be commonplace in the future. In a Bloomberg interview last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asserted that VR is "a good candidate to be the next major computing platform." Whilst he admits that traction will be slow, he believes that VR could be a primary form of communication technology in the not too distant future.
In our view, VR's application will only be limited by the imaginations (skills) of developers, and the bravery of its investors. In a recent interview, Sasa Marinkovic, head of VR at semiconductor firm AMD said that “From retail to education, travel to e-commerce, the potential VR applications are limitless.” For now, VR and AR have found a natural home in the gaming and training sectors. As Brett Leary of Digitas so poignantly put it, “A lot of players have dipped their toes into the water, but few have taken the plunge.” However, as technology improves and headsets become more commonplace, it's likely that VR, AR, and mixed reality could become as commonplace as the smart phone.
What skills will developers need in the future?
According to Road to VR, the demand for job candidates with VR knowledge is up 37% over last year. As more and more companies get on board the VR train, it's likely that employers will be hit with skills shortages as demand increases. Nate Beatty, co-founder of IrisVR in New York City said in a recent interview that, “The virtual reality space is taking off, and I believe the job opportunities are only going to grow in the next few years.” In our experience at Softweb, companies developing VR or AR software in the UK are looking for C++, C#, 3D graphics, OpenGL, GLSL, Cg, Unity3D and Unreal skills. Candidates with the necessary skills are in hot demand and the industry is seeing exciting growth. According to Digi-Capital, the combined AR and VR market will be worth $121 billion by 2021. That's a staggering increase of around $100 billion. If you're a developer and want to work in this area, get in touch with our team and let us know.