Welcome to my March picks. This is a regular feature where I choose my most exciting highlights from the previous month, and speculate as to where these developments could take immersive technology next. If you agree, disagree or have something you think I should cover, drop me a line via firstname.lastname@example.org
Headset, ready, go!
The month of March saw no fewer than six shiny new virtual reality (VR) headsets launch. An interesting observation here is how they’ve each been pitched, with the HP Reverb and Varjo VR-1 aimed squarely at the enterprise market.
The VR-1 strikes me as the most intriguing, because it doesn’t have the large Oculus, HTC or HP brands behind it, and Varjo intends to sell it for a whopping $5,995, making it a serious investment. But what’s under the hood?
Varjo said the headset boasts a resolution of more than 60 pixels per degree, which is 20X+ higher than any other comparable device currently on the market. It also comes with integrated eye tracking, enabling high-precision analytics and interaction with human-eye resolution VR content.
Of the consumer contenders, the Nintendo Labo VR Kit stands out. While not technically a headset, it does promise to convert the successful Switch into an immersive device, and at a considerably lower cost. As it’s aimed at kids and families, there is also the possibility that it could lay the groundwork for a whole new generation of VR users and developers. Potentially a market maker.
All of these releases promise to make 2019 an important year in VR. Indeed, shipments of headsets are predicted to reach 8.9 million units this year, as users prepare to adopt immersive technology en masse early in the next decade.
VR: It’s not a game
The headline of the month came from my own grey and dreary shores in the form of the formal charge of a British Army soldier who grew bored and killed a comrade during a virtual battlefield exercise.
The lapse in discipline and the solider’s subsequent punishment aside (because that right there is a whole moral debate that is yet to rage but when it does, oh boy), the story highlights the importance that armed forces and governments are placing on VR, for training, crisis response and a lot more.
There’s an incredibly timely VR/AR Association committee meeting on 8 April that promises to consider the best uses of virtual and augmented reality within military training and simulation. Stay tuned to VRWorldTech for what comes out of that.
AR: That’s a bit of me
A major development in augmented reality (AR) is NexTech AR and its platform for online shopping. Try-It-On enables consumers to see what they would look like wearing glasses, headwear, jewellery and more. I got to try it out and I found the whole experience to be very intriguing, not least because I look much cooler in digital sunglasses than I do real ones. But in all seriousness, the prospect of their online customers interacting with their products in the same way as visitors to their stores must be exciting retailers.
NexTech chief executive officer Evan Gappelberg told me last month that retailers are beginning to understand the potential of this technology. He said: “There’s a $30 trillion global marketplace for retail, and most consumer transactions are still happening in brick and mortar stores. And that’s because consumers want to ask questions and try products for themselves. All of that goes away with AR. You don’t have to go in anymore. You can do it all from home. It’s going to accelerate the adoption of online shopping.”