INTERNATIONAL BIG TECHS TO LEAD THE RACE
Virtual reality and augmented reality are some of the most exciting and well-funded emerging technologies of the last past years. With almost limitless applications, virtual reality offers a wealth of opportunities in almost every facet of our world, including education, tourism, games, design, and commerce.
Today, most of the major technology companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are investing large amounts of resources and money to develop the virtual and augmented reality industry, having created thousands of jobs, teams, departments or specific lines of business. Also, the extended reality industry has been the main theme of multiple reports from consultants such as Deloitte, Accenture, PwC and Everis for these last years.
Let's go through some of the most important modern milestones of these technologies through 10 technology companies that have strongly committed to its development and expansion:
1. FACEBOOK BUYS OCULUS, THE BEGINNING OF THE VIRTUAL REALITY MODERN ERA
Facebook's historic $ 2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014 was the takeoff of modern AR and VR. Facebook paid double the acquisition of Oculus to what it paid for the one of Instagram.
Currently, the company has an entire business unit called Facebook Reality Labs with more than 6,000 people dedicated to it, and the company has been acquiring different companies (like Playgiga, Sanzaru Games, Beat Games, Ready at Dawn Studios) in its aim of democratizing VR. Its latest release: the Oculus Quest 2, an all-in-one device at $ 299, has changed the consumer virtual reality landscape and with less than a year old, is already positioning itself as the headset that will take virtual reality to the masses.
2. HTC VIVE, THE EVOLUTION FROM MOBILE TO VR
HTC was a pioneer in the mobile phone industry, becoming one of the most relevant manufacturers. But as of 2011, its income was progressively falling. In early 2013, HTC was still a smartphone company, but it wanted to be more.
"We knew that virtual reality was very similar to the early days of smartphones", explained Daniel O'Brien, vice president of virtual reality at HTC. "This is a new medium, this is coming, we know it's coming. We need to be at the forefront."
That's why Valve and HTC announced their partnership to develop the HTC Vive virtual reality device that was unveiled during their Mobile World Congress keynote in March 2015. The development kits shipped in August and September 2015, and the first consumer version of the device was launched in April 2016 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Since then, HTC has continued to bet on virtual reality, both for consumers and professionals, with different devices over the years and is one of the leading hardware manufacturers and developers in the industry.
3. MICROSOFT AND ITS COMMITMENT TO MIXED REALITY
Microsoft is another of the companies that’s devoted to the development of these technologies. The first version of the HoloLens, an augmented reality headset developed by Microsoft, went on sale in 2015 with a price tag of £ 2,719. While price limited its adoption in the consumer market, the product offered high-quality AR and demonstrated Microsoft's success in developing this technology.
Regarding virtual reality, the company allied with hardware manufacturers such as Acer, Dell, HP, or Samsung in 2017 to create different headsets with a system called Windows Mixed Reality, which weren’t very successful. The same year Microsoft acquired the social virtual reality app AltspaceVR.
In 2019, Microsoft launched the HoloLens 2, a mixed reality headset that is a huge step up from the original HoloLens in virtually every way
4. SONY AND PLAYSTATION VR, A REFERENCE IN VR VIDEO GAMES
Sony's PlayStation games division is one of its most important business segments, and no other major video game company has been more aggressive in moving into virtual reality. PlayStation VR launched in 2016, and the company released a slightly updated version of the device the following year.
Sony's VR device has outperformed more advanced PC-focused headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive even though the PlayStation 4 user base is smaller than the PC one.
Unit sales of the PSVR since its debut in October 2016 topped 5 million dollars back in January 2020, making it the best-selling virtual reality headset on the market, and sales have only increased in the last 12 months.
Besides, PlayStation has just published on its official blog that a new generation of VR will come to PlayStation 5, but that it is still in development and will not arrive this year, but in 2022. It also ensures that "developers are already working on the creation of new virtual worlds for the new headset", and that PlayStation's commitment to virtual reality as a medium for video games is stronger than ever.
5. HP, PROFESSIONAL VIRTUAL REALITY HARDWARE
HP's journey to enable customers towards virtual reality began around CES 2016 when they announced their partnership with HTC to offer computers that were compatible with the HTC Vive headsets. Their success with HTC led to a partnership agreement with Oculus and they continued to market “VR Ready” workstations. They also launched OMEN's high-quality handheld virtual reality computer backpacks.
By 2017, the VR headset space had gotten stuck, and numerous companies making devices with similar capabilities crowded the marketplace. It was then that HP decided to chart a new course. Rather than competing solely in the consumer gaming space, HP decided to move forward into the professional market.
The result was the HP Reverb, a virtual reality headset with a higher resolution than the best devices on the market until date, created in partnership with Microsoft and Valve.
Currently, the HP Reverb devices have a second generation, and they even have a high-end business edition called “Omniconcept” that will be released soon.
6. SAMSUNG, THE INTERMITTENT ON THE XR
At Samsung, virtual reality has long been a focus of attention, something they demonstrated with the Samsung Gear VR in collaboration with Facebook and Oculus in 2015. Later, in 2018, Samsung, along with other manufacturers such as Lenovo, Dell, Asus or HP joined the launch of Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality, a line of virtual reality devices for PCs that were not very successful.
Already in 2020, although rumours of patents for new devices were arriving, Samsung announced the closure of its virtual reality services, leaving the Samsung Gear VR without support. However, recently some videos with two conceptual models of augmented reality glasses have been leaked.
Under the name of Samsung Glasses Lite and Samsung AR Glasses, we have two augmented reality glasses with which you could consult content, play games, attend holographic virtual meetings and other similar scenarios. Although it is only about concepts, it seems that the efforts of the Korean company to continue in the immersive technologies industry continue.
7. MAGIC LEAP, THE PEGASUS XR THAT LOST THE WINGS
Magic Leap was founded in 2010 with a fund of more than 2,000 million dollars from companies such as the Japanese Docomo, the production company Legendary Entertainment, or companies such as Disney, Alibaba (AliExpress), Qualcomm or even Google. In fact, in 2016 it raised $ 793.5 million in what was the largest "C" round in Internet history. In 2018, Magic Leap finally released a tangible product after years of advertising, high-profile investments and excessive hype with which it raised more than 2.6 billion dollars of investment.
While the Magic Leap One device made improvements over previous alternative HMDs, it failed to impress the tech community and sold far fewer units than expected. Although Magic Leap has not managed to sell a large number of units, the company has up to 50 granted patents, which is why the company's valuation grew so much.
Even so, Magic Leap is still considered a "top player" in this space and after the departure of its previous CEO, it has expanded its partnership with AT&T to create solutions for businesses. The first three industries to benefit from this union will be manufacturing, retail and healthcare, and Magic Leap is officially working on the second version of its device.
8. AMAZON, TAKING POSITIONS FOR VR AND AR COMMERCE
The company launched Amazon Sumerian in 2018, a development suite for creating virtual reality and augmented reality applications that can be run in web browsers. Sumerian is part of the AWS Management Console and was designed with a variety of industrial and creative applications in mind. Its features could be an attraction for the company's cloud services, specifically for developers looking to create virtual reality and augmented reality experiences distributed in the cloud.
With a broad presence in the technology sector and leadership positions in e-commerce and cloud computing, the company led by Jeff Bezos would have many ways to benefit if the virtual reality market explodes, and indeed, Amazon Web Services (AWS ) already provides tools to help in the creation of virtual reality applications.
9. GOOGLE, ONE OF THE FIRST TO BET ON VR AND AR
Alphabet's Google division dominates the search engine and digital advertising markets, and these strengths have made it one of the most important success stories of the internet age. Like Microsoft, virtual reality remains a very small component of its business strategy, yet it was one of the first to enter this space.
In 2014, Google Glass was revealed; some smart glasses with some augmented reality functionalities were made available to consumers. While not as successful as expected, the potential of what portable augmented reality could be was demonstrated, and the second edition is much more useful, especially in the business area.
In the consumer virtual reality space, the company made its first launch in 2014 with Google Cardboard. The low barrier to entry allowed Google Cardboard to achieve relatively high levels of adoption and put basic virtual reality experiences in the hands of millions of mobile users.
After that, Google Daydream came in 2018, and previously the possibility of viewing 360 videos on YouTube. However, mobile virtual reality lost interest and the company abandoned the DayDream platform.
In 2017, it launched ARCore, Google's platform and set of tools to create augmented reality experiences for Android devices, but also designed to be compatible with the web, and therefore we find a multitude of elements that can be viewed in 3D and augmented reality through the search engine Google.
10. APPLE, THE LONG-AWAITED MESSIAH OF EXTENDED REALITY
Apple has acquired several smaller virtual and augmented reality companies over the years, bringing together industry experts and filing patents for various devices of this nature.
Before these increasingly common and confirmed rumours, Apple opted for advances such as adding depth-sensing cameras and computer vision chips to the latest iPhone models.
People has been talking about Apple's entry into the extended reality market for years, and its investments have been several (Vrvana, Metaio, Flyby Media), the most important being the purchase of the firm that developed Microsoft's sensor technology Kinect, PrimeSense and in 2020 from NextVR, a California-based company that streams live events to augmented and virtual reality devices, for $ 100 million.
Also in June 2017, it introduced ARKit, a set of tools that allows iOS developers to create more advanced augmented reality applications, after which came to the purchase of Akonia Holographics.
Apple's virtual reality headset is on the way, according to the latest rumours and exclusives. The first unofficial information came from an analyst at JPMorgan Chase Securities Technology Industry, who ventured that Apple would launch its first VR headset with AR features in the first quarter of 2022. This was followed by the news that Dan Riccio would have left his position as Head of Hardware Engineering at Apple Inc. to oversee the VR / AR headset development team.
These are only 10 of the technology companies betting on virtual and augmented reality since there are many other large companies behind setting trends in different verticals of this industry with millions of dollars of investment such as Nvidia, Unity, Unreal, or Autodesk among others.
While it is important to note that the market for immersive technologies is still very young and will take some time to develop, it is an industry that has the potential to generate a $ 1.5 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030, according to PWC's 2019 “Seeing is believing” report.
Businesses, economy and society are at a crucial stage in the adoption of virtual and augmented reality. It is the perfect time for the adoption and take-off of these technologies, which have already fulfilled their original promises by improving how organizations operate, making production processes faster and more efficient, and above all, creating incredible experiences impossible to live in other media.
From BeFootball we will continue with the mission of bringing those experiences
and benefits to the global world of football.