Virtual Reality · Hardware

What industries will virtual reality (VR) disrupt?


March 21st, 2015

The market for virtual reality is not clearly defined. This can either suggest that the market is limited, or perhaps - and most people believe this to be the case - that the market and potential is limitless. Curious to hear about what entrepreneurs think about what industries will virtual reality disrupt in 2015? 

Steven Schkolne Computer Scientist on a Mission

March 21st, 2015

I don't think anyone knows what will happen with VR. I am working in the space, talking to tons of people in the space. We simply don't know.

In every direction you look, there are both problems and opportunities. Due to the hardware requirement (and the lack of clear consensus on hardware) web/mobile-style disruption does not feel imminent. However, the experience is so compelling, we move forward.

My instinct is that we will see VR grow first in entertainment. The experience is the strongest value-add, the need for better experiences is a never-ending pain point in the entertainment industry. Will this disrupt entertainment? My guess is that it will be an addition to entertainment, not strongly displacing other forms for many moons. While there are many many insiders pursuing VR filmmaking, I believe (today;) that gaming holds more promise.

There are many applications that people get excited about -- typically newcomers to the space. Things like virtual travel, virtual assistants, architectural walkthroughs, etc etc. I believe less in these being major early disrupters, in part because I don't see a strong value-add to the VR technology in these. Similar to 3dtv -- the enhanced visualization historically has not added much value. That's also why I believe less in VR film than VR games. VR film adds visualization -- but VR games add interaction as well as visualization, which is where ime VR really shines.

We have to remember that VR is 60 years old. I strongly advise anyone thinking of entering the space to study up on the VR bubble of the late 80s that lasted until about 1994. Many people have worked hard to get traction and stickiness with immersive applications but (short of a handful of cases) despite super-exciting demos, no one is coming back to use these on day 2, 3, 4, etc.

The time is different now, due to cheaper hardware and also the massive contribution of the many minds on our planet, working in hivelike consortium to innovate. I am investing in part because I see an angle in the creative industries. However, you absolutely have to look past the hype because there is tons of it. The crowd believed strongly in Google Glass, 3dTV, the Segway, Nintendo Power Glove, Second Life, and many other things that are now behind us. Let's all be discriminating in evaluating VR so as not to make the missteps of those who came before us. In particular thinking this is the next internet or mobile phone seems crazy -- these technologies provide connectivity and communication (not just experience).

Andy Tsen Startups

March 21st, 2015

I don't think VR will really disrupt any industries in 2015. It will continue down it's current trend of being mainly used in the military and enterprise. In 2016, the market will completely explode. Sony, Facebook, Samsung, HTC, Valve, and Razer are all launching flagship VR products that are already generating an incredible amount of buzz.

Current HMD market is around 200-300k. In 2016, it will probably grow 5-10X to 2-3 million. This will be fueled mainly by consumer demand based on the current players in the space and the pricing point (Oculus pegged VR at $300, which means devices will be a bit higher or lower than this)

The first wave of consumer products will probably focus on experiences that translate well in VR. Movies, games, and education strike me as the most obvious candidates. The challenges to these are manifold, and mostly are around solving input and having hardware capable of running at 75hz. 

If you want to get into VR, now is the time. In 1-2 years (or even 6 months) the amount of people in VR will grow exponentially, as the market proves itself out.

Tom Zimberoff

March 22nd, 2015


Dan Rubenfield Chief Technical Officer at VREAL

March 21st, 2015

No disruption yet, but expect an acceleration of  change over the next 3-5 years. Starting with the Oculus DK2 in 2014, the flights of fancy we were promised in the 90's suddenly became possible. Now, we've got Valve planning on launching the Vive in 2015, Sony's Morpheus in 2016, and an Oculus consumer unit, probably within the next 12 months. These products are not the disruptors, but as consumers begin to use these devices there will be an accelerating shift in expectations and behaviour. Post launch of these we'll see mobile vr and AR as the logical extensions. Once people start to use the v1 hardware, expect strong adoption. It's one thing to read about VR, it's another to use it, especially with top tier content. It can be a lightning bolt moment for a lot of people. 

As far as disruption, Game developers are going to have to relearn how to craft experiences. We need to learn the ins and outs of 3d cinematography, how the human sensory systems work, and most importantly, understand how our brains can combine these disparate signals into our actual perception. In addition, we need to keep people from getting motion sick, emotionally scarred by the experiences, and relearn how to keep the framerate at a sustained 90fps, even though we're drawing twice as much stuff (per eye).

Longer term it's anyone's guess. When I first used the DK2 my firt thought was that in 10 years we'd all live in cardboard boxes and wear headsets all the time. It's a bit cynical, but with VR we can craft the exact reality we want to experience. That's powerful. 

Widespread adoption of VR and AR are drastic changes to how we'd live. Physical objects in the world become ephemeral. No more tv on the wall, no more walls if you're in VR. Anything that you interact with only visually can be virtualized. Tangible objects that you physically touch are still functional, but only until Haptic tech develops to a useful level. The list goes on and on. 

All of this is a flight of fancy right now. But unlike the VR of the 90's, this stuff actually works. And that's a pretty exciting future to be in, even if we need to relearn how to craft these worlds. 

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

March 22nd, 2015

I tend to agree with Dan.  we don't exactly know.  because of the learning curve involved....I think that augmented reality. AR like msfts HoloLens will see the first broad application.  because it's only an incremental step to overlay it on existing training and info dense operational environments.
entertainment is the obvious consumer application. but as was pointed out. there's  steep learning curve ahead for developers

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

March 22nd, 2015

meh.... I think 4k screens will disrupt that more.   I've been looking at 4k screen TVs post CES and all of a sudden makeup and prosthesis that look pretty cool in HD.. look really fake.  You can suddenly see the macquilage lines and the greasepaint crinkling... 

Dmitri Bouianov HoloLens Application Development

March 23rd, 2015

I think in 2015 VR will disrupt entertainment as more studios are working (in many cases exclusively) on interactive VR content and immersive video. Interactive VR is disrupting HCI since input and immersion provide new challenges and opportunities to innovate. We'll also see more enterprise adoption since VR is a much more affordable and mobile alternative to CAVE systems.

Automatic creation of 3D content will probably be the main scalability driver for serious applications of VR. Companies such as Google, Occipital, Matterport, among others, are pushing the envelope of 3D scanning technology, and we'll see wider adoption and convergence across AR/VR/mobile as this becomes more affordable.

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

March 23rd, 2015

A lot of big budget movies since 2009 have been shot in 3D even if they were not released in 3D

the reason is that the studios are "futureproofing".. and running 2 cameras instead of one on the same dolly isn't that much more expensive if the 2nd camera is slaved to the first. 

so 3D content isn't the issue from a film perspective.  The real issue is the "immersive environment"  - which is why I think AR is going to have to be the bridge.  

Imagine a high end Jaguar coming with the HoloLens as part of the kit  A hololens that puts up nav info and auto tracks driver alertness.

Or as a wharehouse management app - where each forklift drive has a HoloLens that routs him/her to the appropriate pick point.

and then of course the traditional uses such as in maintenance of complex machinery.

I can also see someone doing a PaintBall meets World Of Warcraft but where you carry your laptop in a backpack and have a "lightsaber"  like weapon.  

George Calvert

March 23rd, 2015

I concur: I find it useful to see AR and VR as a spectrum.  Being primarily an informational overlay, AR lends itself well to business and other task-oriented applications like the heads-up displays for forklift operator, car driver or Strava cyclist.  OTOH, VR constructs a new environment -- or at least an otherwise impossible view of an existing one.  It's about the experiential, so it's good for games, tours, etc.  Blending the two, there's stuff like robotic medicine and 3D design / modeling.

The challenge with VR -- particularly if we're talking about layering virtual onto real -- is rendering that 3D reality.  Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs shows how it's getting pretty straightforward to layer VR onto a known space, but layering that onto an unknown space in real-time is something else.

There's a lot of buzz about Magic Leap, with the latest being their teaser video.  (And the video nicely illustrates the AR-VR spectrum.)  If they've figured out how to, say, use a scanning lens with autofocus to understand an unknown 3D space in real-time -- well, that $524M valuation would be well worth it.

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

March 23rd, 2015


To add to the excellent answers here, personally I think simulation is a killer app for VR. Today's VR technology might be able to reproduce a 90's or even early 2000s full scale flight simulator graphics. Only that justifies the investment in "prosumer" VR gear. Not counting many other scenarios on which simulating professional activities is important.

In our case we do AR, and while not same as VR, as Dan mentioned, both AR & VR are changing the way we interact with machines, and that's a big deal.