Virtual Reality is hardly new to the tech landscape, and the past few years have arguably seen the VR market taking a backseat after a period of descent. The shift was perhaps an inevitability, as might be expected for any ultra-modern innovation ahead of its time, inescapably attached to over-hyped sentiment and exclusivity.
The climate however seems to have evolved, and VR, alongside its cousin Augmented Reality (both commonly referred to as “extensive realities”), seems to be re-emerging from its slump. VR has shifted away from its traditional characterisation where headsets were no more than a gaming fashion accessory. Now these large immersive technologies are advancing alongside an impending technological revolution with Artificial Intelligence, 5G and the “IoT” (Internet of Things). Whilst the post-2010 market saw fluctuating shares and investor sentiment, this new wave is broadening conversation and application, and we can now see these immersive technologies erupting into all aspects of our life. So, where does this new investment lie?
1. In Education
The education system is embracing a new era of digitalisation - VR is enabling companies to utilise new technologies to guide a younger generation.
Newly listed on the LSE, Dev Clever holdings is a leading developer of mobile and immersive educational experiences. Recently, the company released its latest virtual reality experience “VICTAR” (Virtual Interactive Careers Training & Apprenticeship Robot), the world’s first interactive VR careers guidance experience, to schools across the UK as part of their division EDUCATE. VICTAR is used to create an immersive experience for students who receive career guidance based on their personality and interests. VICTAR is addressing the critical national issue of bridging the UK Skills Gaps, which the government estimates will cost the UK Tax Payer £90bn per year by 2024.
VR Education focuses on evolving educational and corporate training content, with its core business focus, the online virtual social learning platform 'ENGAGE'. In addition to this, the company has also built downloadable VR experiences including award-winning Apollo 11 and the Titanic VR experience. VR Education is a portfolio company of London listed venture capital fund which targets investees growing innovative technologies ranging from VR and AI to “IoT”.
2. Pharma & Healthcare
AI in medicine is already becoming a driving force, with Frost & Sullivan predicting it will generate $6.7 B health care in three years in 2021. According to Grand View Research, the VR and Augmented Reality (AR) healthcare industry will be $5.1 billion by 2025.
The “IoT” investment company announced last week that its portfolio company Fundamental VR had secured an initial order of £150,000 to create a VR simulation, for a world leading pharmaceutical company. Chief Executive of TERN, Al Sisto, commented that the platform is expected to have “a profoundly positive impact on medical outcomes and products around the world".
The Israeli health tech company announced a partnership with Oculus on September 27, bringing to market new health solutions using Oculus' products in the healthcare industry. According to Forbes, VR Health’s CEO Eran Orr sees the need for VR in healthcare outpacing that of gaming or social. "The technology in the VR market is still growing”, he comments, “it's like the first stage of the iPhone, but as big tech companies, like Oculus, create and evolve their technology our business grows as well."
3. Defence and regulated civilian sectors
Immersive technologies are also revolutionising the way companies provide training for employees and students.
Investing in areas they consider to be main drivers for business success, Pennant International Group focus on training a new generation of engineers in defence and regulated civilian sectors. Their VR division remains in line with their core strategy - investing in innovation, they provide extensive virtual training solutions. In their final results, the past year saw the successful launch of the company’s Virtual Aircraft Training System and Virtual Loadmaster Training System, alongside an order for its virtual parachute training systems (worth circa £370,000).
4. Media and Entertainment
The face of entertainment continues to evolve and extended realities are becoming increasingly collaborative and mainstream.
Another investee of Sure Ventures, Immotion Group, the UK-based immersive VR out-of-home entertainment business, has developed a range of 12 high quality immersive experiences. Alongside this, the group has secured partnerships with huge entertainment businesses including Merlin, the largest entertainment business in the world after Disney. Today’s final results sees the company on track to establish themselves as a major player in the VR market. Chief Executive, Martin Higginson, reflected on the company’s positive growth, stating that “2018 was very much a year of investment.”
Software company Oxford Metrics recently announced that its motion measurement unit, Vicon, had formed a partnership with Sandbox VR, targeting the fast-growing Location-based Virtual Reality ('LBVR') market. According to Forbes, Location-based VR is considered “the next phase of immersive entertainment”, enabling a mainstream customer base. Nick Bolton, Chief Executive of Oxford Metrics relayed his positivity to the company’s investment within the immersive market, commenting, “LBVR is one of those new, fast-growing markets - experiences are launching all over the world and Sandbox VR are at the vanguard of this movement.”
Many factors are pushing virtual reality (and the wider, ‘extensive realities’) towards a mainstream adoption. In the current climate, we are likely to see further investment as we enter a new age of tech usability - the emergence of 5g, dubbed “the fourth industrial revolution”, will work to close the gap between industry and technology, presenting huge market opportunities for VR across the industries we’ve seen and more.
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