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Using VR to create immersive, live sport viewing experiences

livelike“Broadcasters are starting to understand VR pretty well, but are still looking to start-ups and VR industry to build the features”, Andre Lorenceau Founder and CEO at LiveLike VR told a packed room at VR & AR World in London today. “They would rather let us pioneer this sort of this stuff and then license it from us.”

However, he stressed that broadcasters and live sports companies are investing in VR as chord-cutting begins to hit their audiences. “So they are switching to OTT and mobile, but this isn’t quite giving them the audience they need, so they are looking to VR,” Lorenceau said.

The difficulty with VR live spots is that they are expensive to create and offering just 360° viewing is not enough. At present, he said, there are only a handful of players in the VR sports space, including LiveLike. One of these is NextVR, which focuses on video “and being in the experience”. The other player Lorenceau cited was Voke, which also offers video, but also has some interests in hardware.

Also, bulk of equipment is important. “It needs to be usable on site,” he said.

He pointed out that with sports, you need to be interactive and social. He cited a company called Virtually Live, which works with Formula E on a VR recreation of the live race. “The experience is focused on the heavier tethered rigs, but they recreate the race,” he added, which allows users total immersion in the experience. He says that while this works well for Formula E, “for football, it loses some of the detail”.

“LiveLike is somewhat of a half-way house,” he explains. “We create lounge-like experiences. This allows us to shoot with cheaper rigs, but gives us a ton of interactivity.”

He also advised broadcasters to make sure any VR they offer works on mobile and tablet, so that they can reach bigger audiences.

He added: “You can then build a ton of stuff in VR, from social to gamification. Ultimately this is what broadcast needs right now. To get broadcasters to accept VR you have to offer end-to-end workflow and monetization opportunities, or the support in the industry isn’t going to be enough to support these experiences.”

Virtual Reality – Niche or Reality?

Virtual Reality – Niche or Reality?

FutureSource Consulting analyst Michael Boreham told attendees at VRAR World in London today that we have finally entered an age where VR can become a commercial reality as the hardware and, more importantly, cost had reached a tipping point.

However,Boreham told the audience in his session on Virtual Reality – Niche or Reality that “content is a bit further away, we are still in experiment mode”.

He said that thanks to the recent launches in gaming VR, “games are a bit closer than TV. But there is a lot of experimentation in broadcast”.

Boreham explained that one of the major challenges to the true uptake of VR was monetisation. “It is not cheap to produce this content. Often content is quite short, so getting consumers to pay is difficult.”

“From a consumer point of view, it is more accessible”, he added. “The PS4 and others have helped here. There’s is a lot to be done to raise awareness. But is there an appetite. There is a challenge there in terms of raising appetite.”

Another factor, he told the audience, was awareness. FutureSource research found that only 7% of UK consumers had tried VR, compared with 5% and 4% respectively in Germany and France. In the US, the figure stood at 8% in US.

“Many people, while aware of VR haven’t experienced a truly great VR experience yet,” he said. However, Boreham pointed out that the number of 19 to 35-year-olds that had tried VR was double the average.

“Retail channel is key here, to raise awareness,” he added, especially with the number of consumer releases in gaming. “The console space is beginning to get really interesting,” he said.

FutureSource believes that by 2020 total content revenue will be in excess of USD$6bn worldwide. This will be split 24% to video and 76% games. The gaming VR market, though, at US$4.8bn, is still only 2.5% of the overall gaming market.

“The ideamichael-boreham of video VR is an excellent concept, but not all of it works. You have to remember that it is not an extension of traditional TV and broadcast,” he warned. “We have to throw away 100 years of technique. VR is totally different.”

Boreham said that commercials were not a bad use case, as the short timescale “will get over the burden of having to wear a headset for a longer period of time”.

In terms of video VR content, “movies and news are a nice thought, but difficult,” he explained. “Sport is where a lot of trials are going on.”

“VR works better with smaller sports, like boxing or tennis matches, where you can get the best seat in the house. But it doesn’t work so well with big stadium sports because of an inability to zoom,” he continued.
The duration of sports is difficult too, he said. “The average time for headset wearing in sports is 10 minutes, so 45 minutes for a football match is difficult to see at the moment,” he added.

Boreham believes that in the shorter term pay-per-view will be the preferred way to monetise VR in sports, echoing the early days of satellite TV. “In the short-term, it will be PPV around key boxing matches or other sporting events that we tap into in that basis”.

He also suggested that major TV or movie franchises might also tap into VR. “This could include big studios or tie-in to gaming, as we’ve seen with Fantastic Beasts,” he explained. “It might be bundled, so it might be VR companion piece to our BluRay of a film.”

The watershed for TV will be 2018, according to FutureSource, when the technology and take-up will be large enough.

Finally, he pointed out the need to restrict the availability of good and free VR. “While this gets the message out there, we have to be ver very careful. There is a tipping point between free and paid for,” he said.


Commercialising VR: sound bites

Commercialising VR: sound bites

One of the biggest questions about VR is where the revenue will come from. A panel of experts at VR/AR World had the following to say on Day One of VR/AR World:

richard-li-84efea491f3291d3f998e1abc67715c4Huawei chief architect of future networks Richard Li: “I saw some data from a survey on this topic before I came here. Of the 650 respondents, 78% people say gaming is number one [revenue source]. The principle driver is the number of VR gaming releases at the end of this year and we are yet to have Black Friday sales. 40% think TV is the next most powerful driver, but is being slowed by network issues. I believe we should also be looking at things like real estate and other major retail areas that can be done remotely. We should also look at education, which is a big market, as is medical.”

daan-kip-6dc57ea8684cae7ee9292eaf90af4b32Daniel Doornink, founder & CEO VRBase: “Good content is going to be a big money maker, especially in gaming. But to get there you need a hit, but there hasn’t been one yet. If you want to make money in VR gaming, you need to check out all the learnings available now to try to get that hit. Robot Recall could become a big hit. You need to know what is good, what works and how to utilise this.”

Richard-Vincent-ba99d04d5d68c7667bf97c0241210e49.jpgRichard Vincent, partner at Fundamental VR: “think about things that VR actually makes better. It could be in HR, training or simulation, for video presence. For business. I brie ve this is the next platform, just look at how mobile accelerated. Now is the time to hone in on, what competency do you need. Now is the time to acquire that knowledge.”

randolph-nikutta-d7b826773c4243917c55f609ad733c3fRandolph Nikutta, leader interactive high-end media, Telekom Innovation Laboratories at Deutsche Telekom: “If you look at it from the consumer view. How speedy will the transition be between big screens and these screens. I doubt this will happen in the next three to four years. It is about fighting for consumer time. This is where the industry is still in a trial phase. and that’s where they have to spend money and time.“

mathieu-ducrot-2704e11c2f334c49a0044c1b94902102Mathieu Ducrot, head of apps anticipation & connected ecosystems at Orange: “We have begun building some premium experiences in content. We believe that if you want want day to have the right monetise you need to build a market now, with proper hardware and content to embed the experience in market.”

  • david-edge-ff480d1296ceaca4c769536c44c0f785David Edge, associate & visualisation leader at Arup: “We need to understand the holistic total picture for constructive dialogue of VR. It really changes the way we work. It means we can change and possibly descale rational work streams, from contrition, planning, marketing and more. It allows for a better level of understanding by letting you see from every angle.”

Overcoming the network challenges of VR and AR delivery

Overcoming the network challenges of VR and AR delivery

“Without doubt, VR and AR gives us new ways to work and share,” Huawei chief architect of future networks Richard Li told delegates at VR/AR World today. “But to deliver these benefits we have to identify which areas to focus on to understand the technical requirements for the networks that deliver them.”

To do this, he says, the Chinese electronics giant “started with a few used cases and identified the requirements”, identifying three main areas: video, gaming and shopping.

Drilling deeper into video, Li said the requirements were to get 360 video for live event casting, including user interactivity and changing viewpoints. The issue here is the current bitrate is too slow. “There are two main issues, throughput and latency,” he said.

richardliHe explained that standard definition (SD) VR needs a bit rate of 100 Mbps.  However, he explained that with the advent of HD and UHD TV, the future requirement would be for 4k VR. “4k 3d needs 5gb per second. So how can you provide this?” he pondered.

In terms of latency, Li suggests: “We need to be at around 5ms to 7ms for VR and AR. Edge or fog computing could provide an answer.”

For VR gaming, which Huawei believes will be worth US$11.5bn by 2025 and have 216 million users, Li says it is all about developing interactivity with objects and players, which he says could develop “beyond user experience into true social interaction”.

In shopping, Li pointed out that you can already use Buy+ from Alibaba’s VR/AR lab and, while there are great advances here, it needs the development of real-time interaction with objects.

He suggested that it is limited by cost and naked-eye 3d technology, but pointed to the US$1.4bn investment in Magic Leap as an indication that things were moving  in the right direction.

Virtual reality – real or hype?

paul-jackson-660x825In a talk where he tried to avoid numbers, Ovum Principal Analyst Paul Jackson described how Ovum sees the VR/AR market shaping up over the next four years.

He stated that, while there are still a lot of technical challenges to overcome, VR and AR is finally set to become a mainstream reality.

He remarked that the technical challenges were “something Huawei and others are really getting to grips with,” pointing to upcoming sessions at VR/AR World on this topic from the Chinese electronics giant.

He stated that, while there are still a lot of technical challenges to overcome, VR and AR is finally set to become a mainstream reality. He remarked that the technical challenges were “something Huawei and others are really getting to grips with,” pointing to upcoming sessions at VR/AR World on this topic from the Chinese electronics giant.

“And now in a talk without numbers, here are some numbers,” he joked, before pointing out that by 2020 there will be 330 million VR or AR headsets in people’s homes and offices, according to Ovum’s forecasts. The research house also believes that the global VR market will be worth up to USD$285 billion by 2020.

He said this revenue will predominately break down into three areas: apps, games and video. He added that once the technical challenges of broadcast VR are overcome, the VR video market is likely to slowly overtake the games market. He also pointed out that revenue from content would overtake hardware by 2018 as technology and the companies developing hardware mature and consolidate respectively.

Jackson also predicted the winners and losers in VR over the next few years. The winners included:

  • Headset makers and content generators
  • Platform owners
  • Mobile operators
  • Multichannel content firms
  • Social platforms
  • Virtual reality venue owners.

He pointed out that multi-channel content firms, such as Sky TV and Netflix are in an ideal position to carve a large chunk out of the content market.

In terms of losers, Jackson highlighted:

  • Infrastructure providers
  • Telcos operating walled gardens
  • VR Hardware manufacturers
  • Traditional game developers

He said that there are too many VR Hardware manufacturers at present and that there would be consolidation here, “with some vertical niches emerging”.
He explained that game manufacturers were on there because it is a “substitution market”, where customers switch from one game to another. He said VR will become a mainstay of gaming, and that games companies will need to respond to it to gain growth. He added: “If you’re not doing VR it’s not going to bankrupt you but could be slivering a couple of percentage points off your revenue.”

He wrapped up his keynote session to an enthralled full house at VR/AR World by pointing out the things to watch out for.

The first was Venue VR and VR cinema. He said that iMax was already trialling VR cinema. “An out-of-home consumer application for VR.”

Another innovation was light field technology and computational photography. He described it as “a technology that blurs the difference between a rendered experience to a live filmed, but still interactive”.

whalemagicleapAnd then there’s Magic Leap (pictured left), he said. The Minority Report-style AR company has gathered USD$1.4 billion in investment, but a “product is still rumoured to be 18 months out”.

The final one to watch: On-demand VR content, with a move towards live VR coverage by 2020.

Stay up to date with all the session at VR/AR World on Twitter and look out for our live streams