Virtual Reality Industry


As everyone knows, virtual reality is one of the new UX in the video and technology industry that is anticipated to drive the future. Both Sony and Microsoft have released their schedule of general availability of the new system and the head-mounted display (HMD).

Like other new technologies, for VR, there are opportunities as well as challenges, and the slope of enlightenment does not reach its peak until the problems get recognized.

My take is:

1) The term virtual reality is not appropriate. It should have a different name.

2) The size of SAM is significant, but the benefits may not outweigh the hurdles to make a full migration.

3) Actual virtual reality requires more than what we talk about VR today.

Let me share my thoughts with you.


The Term that Virtual Reality Industry Named

First, the term “virtual reality” was coined in by Mr. Jaron Lanier in 1987. He sold through his company very expensive goggles and gloves for users to experience virtual reality. Since then, many products followed, including Sega’s prototype and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy.

Now we have HMD from Oculus, Sony, and HTC, as well as Samsung, and even Google Cardboard. While each of the new HMD has a somewhat different implementation of a stereoscope headgear, the critical enabling technologies are the same. First, the small display technology has advanced considerably and enabled high-resolution video, which is essential for a detailed and realistic image. Second, the advanced semiconductors, including motion-sensing devices, processors, data storage, have allowed the size and weight acceptable as a wearable headgear. All benefited from the technologies that were developed for and applied to smartphones.

As you see it, using HMD is thought of as the act of VR at present. However, in the original context of Lanier’s VR, the users got haptics from gloves.

No regulation or standardization body defines the name, but it has to be clear and accurate as to what VR means. We have seen so-called cloud washing in the computing industry, and I am not in a position to name it, but the recent VR HMD boom is making me remind of a new emergence of VR washing.

Then what makes us feel real? That is the question that needs to be answered before developing responsive and high-resolution displays for “VR” HMD. We gather lots of information around us through our equipped natural sensors. Our brain then processes each of them, integrate them simultaneously, and then get the holistic understanding, which we call as reality. The current development of VR is so focused on one aspect – vision – of them and, to a lesser extent, sound.

If we apply a precise definition, the so-called VR is a 360 degrees 3D video and sound.  It is a one-step forward from the stereoscope 3D video or the wide-angle stereoscope 3D video of IMAX.

I think the current headset based implementation requires a new and appropriate name, and I propose here that it should be called as virtual vision. Not VR but VV. Or you could add VS as a virtual sound.

For that, Oculus has already started to address this issue by bringing a new controller, which is undoubtedly a sign of progress toward real VR. The proper implementation of it delivers a better experience (as TechCrunch reports it), which proves my point of argument. However, the haptics development lags significantly against the virtual vision and needs a significant boost to catch up with another fabric of “VR.”

Presumably, the haptics technology development will be much more significant in the next several years than many currently assume.


Vision and Reality of Virtual

Second, VV (or VR) for video entertainment has a meaningful SAM. The early-adopting device is no doubt, a video entertainment system because the 360 angle view alone is beneficial in particular applications. One of them that fits this criterion is a shooting game with a first-person perspective. The field is a designed real environment, and the player has to survive and succeed. To avoid the bullets or the attacks from invisible angles is critical, and to keep a broader perspective is strategically essential.

According to Statistia, the market research firm, the share of the video game by the category is reported as:

Shooter 24.5%, Racing 4.1%, Fighting 6.7%, Action 22.9%

Those categories work better with virtual vision technology.

Additionally, based on my observations, the forecast of the potential conversion rate to the head mount display is:

Shooter 80-100%, Racing 25-50%, Fighting 15-25%, Action 10-15%

Those figures are close to my intuitive impressions on the viewing style. There are remaining significant challenges if people play together physically in the same location.

Given these numbers, roughly between 25% and 30% is the estimated achievable market share of the current HMD when the conversion is done. I think this is an excellent opportunity for HMD, but I have seen higher figures somewhere.

On the other hand, migrating customers from the standard vision video to the virtual vision video has had mixed results.

The anecdote is 3D TV and 3D movie contents. They were expected to drive the display and entertainment industry, and the critical technology behind is based on the same legacy stereoscopic effect.

You see two different images and combine them in your brain. The higher the fidelity of the picture becomes, the more natural the experience becomes. It is required to wear a set of unique glasses to split the combined image.

Not only wearing a set of unique glasses was inferior user experience, but also watching two images and processing the stereo effect for a long time has been a significant source of uncomfortableness for many individuals. The new HMD of “VR” helps the latter, as the precise split and control of the image enables to reduce “uncomfortableness” because of the measured distance between eyes and screen in the headset and short latency and high frame rate at 90 -120 fps. The downside is that HMD is more significant, heavier, and more expensive than the special glasses.

So, net, I think for the video game entertainment system, the virtual vision headset will be somewhat better positioned than 3D movie/TV has been. The 3D film penetration rate has stopped increasing since a couple of years ago, which stands stable at around 15%, according to MPAA. I anticipate a somewhat better figure. However, it is not without challenges as having been discussed.


FIVE SENSES as Reality

Third, as I have mentioned, real virtual experience requires first and foremost, the correct implementation of advanced haptic technology. It has a higher priority than other remaining senses out of the five senses.

There has been an increase in the number of ventures to develop and demonstrate new haptic controllers, gloves, and sensors. However, in my view, they are still in the development phase and fragmented, and the solutions tend to be local rather than holistic. The integration of haptic sense and vision is not at the systematic level. It needs to be managed individually, which tells the status of the development of haptic devices.

At the fundamental level, a human has the five senses which converge analog information around into signals that are processed in our brain. Until the technologies are developed and implemented to enable all of those to get presented virtually, what the technology does is only partially real at best. In other words, the pursuit of genuine VR will remain as a challenge, an opportunity, and a risk for both venture business and financial community.

And lastly, there remains a question. What incremental benefits will the full & complete VR give to us? We develop technology to answer it.