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Virtual Reality and 3-D Games Open New Opportunities/Immersion Games to Grow, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Virtual Reality (VR):  One of the most closely watched developments in the technology sector, especially in electronic games, is virtual reality, or “VR.”  In addition to gaming, potential major uses for VR include training/education as well as entertainment in general.  Growth will be boosted by the ability to connect VR and augmented reality (AR) devices to IoT.
California-based Oculus VR headsets make virtual reality seem startlingly lifelike.  Its Oculus Rift S headset makes stereoscopic 3-D gaming players using PCs feel immersed in the game, using some components that are commonly found in smartphones and tablets.  This is sometimes referred to as “immersion” gaming.  The Oculus Go headset requires no PC, no wires and no controller, while the Oculus Quest headset works with an app and a game controller.
Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion in March 2014.  Today’s Meta Quest headsets (originally developed by Oculus) bring a realistic feeling to virtual meetings and entertainment, in addition to the obvious advantages for games.  Meta planned to release its latest headset, Quest 3, in 2023.
Sony’s virtual reality headset, the PlayStation VR, was released in October 2016.  Another virtual reality headset is HTC Corporation’s Vive.  Its price tag includes two wireless controllers and two base stations for 360-degree room-scale motion-tracking.
Google has had a major focus on the potential of VR since 2014.  It was the lead investor in a $542 million funding round for Magic Leap, Inc., the developer of an eyeglass-based device that can project computer generated images over real settings (a twist on VR called augmented reality).  The Magic Leap One device was released in early 2019.
Microsoft’s 3D offering, HoloLens, made its debut in 2015.  Another device that promises augmented reality, HoloLens imposes holograms over real views.  The headset is designed to allow users to play electronic games, build 3D models and conduct immersive videoconferencing.  Microsoft offers a HoloLens Commercial Suite for organizations and a Development Edition for individual developers.  In late 2019, Microsoft released Hololens 2, a next generation version designed for the enterprise sector with a wider field of view and hand and eye-tracking.  
Microsoft’s artificial intelligence capabilities (including its collaboration with OpenAI), its cloud computing platform Azure, its business enterprise tools and its video gaming products all have massive potential to work together with the HoloLens product to create highly innovative services and add-on tools.  Microsoft’s Windows operating system supports VR headsets from a variety of manufacturers including Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo Group and Samsung.  Samsung’s HMD Odyssey headset, for example, features OLED displays and includes headphones and a built-in microphone.
VR equipment sales have seen a disappointing adoption rate, particularly among video gamers, as of early 2023.  Sony launched PlayStation VR2 in February 2023, despite sales of its earlier version (PlayStation VR) coming in at only about 5 million units between 2016 and 2019 (less than 10% of the number of traditional PlayStation gaming consoles sold during the same period).  Meta Platforms’ sales of its Quest VR headsets have been similarly lackluster.  Part of the problem is the relatively high cost.  HTC and Samsung have also been developing VR sets.
Augmented Reality (AR):  AR is a technology that superimposes computer-generated, digital images on a real-time view, creating a composite view.  For example, health technicians may use smart glasses, with AR installed, to see the location of a patient's veins before drawing blood, or technicians may wear smart glasses to see schematics and instructions relating to nearby equipment that needs fixing.  AR equipment currently available includes Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 headset (at about $3,500) and Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 smart glasses (at about $1,500).

SPOTLIGHT:  AR Boosts Online Retail
Online shoppers are embracing AR as a way of “trying on” clothing, accessories, cosmetics and more, by imposing images of items for sale on their own faces or bodies captured by cameras on their mobile devices.  Warby Parker, for example, has long offered an app on which online shoppers see different glasses frames on their digital faces.  Cosmetics retailers Ulta Beauty and MAC Cosmetics launched an AR shoppable filter from Snapchat in February 2022.  Snapchat parent Snap, Inc. reported that as of mid-2022, 200 million people were utilizing AR on a daily basis.  The company commissioned a study from Deloitte Digital that concluded that online shoppers who use AR had a 94% higher conversion rate than those without.

     The Coronavirus pandemic accelerated the adoption of AR since social distancing requires people to stay far apart.  Business travel virtually shut down for several months and will likely continue to be curtailed even as businesses reopen.  AR technology allows team members to interact from a distance.  For example, due to a global curtailment of travel, an Intel engineer in Germany was unable to fly to a chip plant in Arizona that needed his expertise.  Intel relayed a video to the engineer of real-time work at the plant via AR goggles, and he was able to walk the plant workers through a vital repair.  Volkswagen AG’s Porsche subsidiary reported that use of AR glasses in U.S. service departments more than tripled during the pandemic when technicians got virtual help from counterparts in different cities and different countries.  Other sectors that are embracing the technology include health care and defense.
Apple, Inc. was investing heavily in both VR and AR technology.  Its headset, called Vision Pro, is expected to offer an 8K display for each eye and has an anticipated release in early 2024 at a price of about $3,500.  The company also offers certain AR features on iPhones which, as early as 2018, were equipped with cameras that enable composite images, and it offers tens of thousands of AR apps in its store.  Among the more popular AR features for iPhones are the ability to transform a screen within Snapchat with special effects—such as tropical flowers or a star-filled sky.  Arki enables users to visualize projects and designs in 3D.  The app from eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker utilizes AR to enable users to virtually see, on their faces onscreen, a pair of glasses that they are considering.  VR apps for interactive learning are also available.  For example, JigSpace enables an in-depth view of a coral reef, and the ability to visualize a machine such as a jet engine from the inside out.  Another retailer, IKEA, has an AR-featured app that enables the user to visualize pieces of specific furniture in their homes.
VR and AR uses are stretching far beyond   gaming.  Surgeons can practice complicated techniques before cutting into patients (Medivis is a pioneer in this field).  Corporate training is another area where VR is coming into play.  Wal-Mart, Inc., for example, now utilizes VR training in all 200 of its training centers, which serve 140,000 new hires per year.

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