Apple CEO Tim Cook argued in an 2017 earnings report that augmented reality (AR) is going to “change the way we use technology forever.”
Ditto for virtual reality (VR), AR’s technological cousin. Where VR transports the user to another time and place, AR enhances his or her current circumstances. And to Cook’s point, 2019 offers great promise in the latter space, with his company expected to produce an AR headset (in hopes of distributing it to consumers in 2020), and with Microsoft set to launch a headset of its own.
Further down the line is the anticipated release in 2020 of Apple Glasses, which will also employ AR technology. More innovation is sure to follow; one report noted that the global VR market, valued at $2.2 billion in 2016, is expected to balloon to $26.89 billion by 2022.
AR/VR has found considerable footing not only in entertainment and gaming but also manufacturing, healthcare and logistics. In addition, it is fast becoming a common educational tool. But the truth is, the surface of this technology has only been scratched.
It actually dates back some 30 years, having first been used as a training tool for military pilots. And if AR and VR are not yet fully immersed in the mainstream — cost is a major stumbling block — it seems only a matter of time before that is the case. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents in one survey believe the use of AR/VR will become commonplace in the next five years.
Certainly there have been hints of this technology’s potential in recent years. Consider the popularity in 2016 of Pokemon Go, a mobile AR app that could be downloaded to a smartphone (and the goal of which was to catch virtual creatures). Consider Wayfair, an app that enables potential furniture buyers to envision how different items would look in their homes.
The drawbacks, however, are that AR/VR lacks a suitable field of vision, and that its resolution and brightness could be improved. There are also concerns about battery life and 3D capabilities, but experts believe all those things can be ironed out over the next few years.
That will likely trigger further growth. Consider, for instance, that 48 percent of the companies responding to one survey say they have VR initiatives on their agendas in the near future, believing it can help train employees in skills ranging from equipment usage to the proper way to give an oral presentation. AR/VR can also increase brand awareness and customer convenience; a presentation by former First Lady Michelle Obama was given as an example of the former, IKEA’s Place app (which performs a function similar to that of Wayfair) as an example of the latter.
Then, too, there is the aforementioned impact on e-learning. According to a 2016 report, revenues from VR/AR educational software are expected to reach $300 million by 2020, and $700 million five years later.
Having given consideration to all these positive forecasts, I would conclude that AR/VR appear to be technologies that will indeed continue to grow in prominence in 2019 and beyond — that they merge new products and advanced capabilities. Consequently, I, for one, am actively seeking out ground-level investment opportunities in this exciting, high-growth space before the market skyrockets.