What to Expect from Virtual Reality in 2017

Virtual Reality continues to make headlines in spite of its lackluster holiday retail sales in 2016. Consider last week’s Sundance Film Festival's New Frontier exhibition, where visitors experienced a crossover between the world of performance and reality through avant-garde VR technology like the vibrating full-body Synesthesia Suit and VR/AR hybrid art installation Hero. The exhibit was such a success, eager visitors required tickets in addition to credentials and passes to access the experience.

Combine the demand of Sundance with the nomination of Google’s VR film Pearl for best animated short film of 2016 and it seems like it is gearing up to be a stellar year for the mind altering technology. Unfortunately, while Hollywood and the Silicon Valley continue to embrace VR, consumer adoption rates continue to be low.

In a study from digital and video advertising provider YuMe, 86 percent of U.S. respondents say they are aware of VR technology, and 60 percent of consumers who have tried VR believe it creates a positive view of brands yet only 16 percent have taken the plunge to purchase an “immersive technology device.” The issues, according to the report, are cost (38 percent), lack of availability of content (11 percent), fear of motion sickness (10 percent) and concern for the technology becoming obsolete (9 percent).

Partnerships between cutting-edge startups and large corporate players -- similar to TechNexus’ venture collaboration model -- are key to advancing the technology’s mass market adoption. Though several major technology providers have established VR hardware, many of the hurdles preventing mainstream adoption remain unsolved: all-day battery life, mobile connectivity and larger app ecosystem.  

Mobile device companies have already adjusted to these issues, making them strong contenders in the next wave of hardware development. Google Cardboard and others have already made mobile accessories to transform phones into VR gear for a relatively low price. Nonetheless, the market has yet to see a true hero device take the lead in adoption. This leads us to question, what form will the device come in and who will provide it, especially as Apple has been largely absent from the VR scene.

To address these challenges, expect to see an increases in corporate investment both in mergers and acquisitions and internal development, accessibility to the technology and user adoption.To escape from the gaming and entertainment oriented focus of most current VR experiences, specialized enterprise applications of VR, such as architecture, construction and engineering, are expected to grow, advancing from small ventures to larger software publishers.

When considering VR’s long-term potential, it is important for ventures and investors alike to question the true disruptive potential their product offers. Can the application operate well on an existing tablet, mobile or laptop screen, or is VR crucial to its functionality? Will the application be used consistently, every day or week, a year from its release? Together, the collaboration of ventures with corporate partners has the potential to make 2017 the year that VR makes a true impact beyond consumer entertainment. Stay tuned to learn more about the future of VR in subsequent TechNexus articles.

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