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New Year, New VR

Last year we looked at the trends in research that we hoped to see trickle down into consumer software. Sadly most of those things have yet to pass. We don’t have touchable video, there are no virtual noses in evidence anywhere, and PSVR is still likely to make you all throw up. So this year we’re focusing on the past instead of the future, which we find is much easier to predict.

Here are some of the interesting trends we saw throughout 2017.

Headsets

Microsoft entered the race in a real way. While the HoloLens debuted in 2016, it remained developer and industry focused, with the price tag putting it far out of consumer reach. In 2017 rather than develop a consumer edition of the HoloLens, Microsoft chose to partner with companies like HP and Asus to release headsets that we at Hammer & Tusk refuse to call “mixed reality” because that’s confusing and bad publicity. They’re VR, plain and simple. They’re also cheaper than a lot of the competition, and are poised to be real competition for Vive and Oculus.

In other competition, Google has announced plans to release a headset with 4 times the specs of the best ones currently on the market. While this won’t hit shelves in 2017, it does show us where headsets are going next year.

Thanks to Boxing Day, we’ve now seen the sale of over a million headsets in a single quarter. PSVR took a big chunk of that cake, as well as Oculus, Vive, and Microsoft’s partners.

Augmented Reality

We mentioned above that Microsoft decided not to launch a HoloLens 2.0. However, they did announce this year that they were skipping ahead to the 3.0… but failed to include a release date for that consumer edition. So AR in 2017 faced a whole lot of crickets on that front.

Speaking of crickets, Magic Leap did a whole lot of nothing for eleven months and twenty days, and then suddenly burst out of the gate with a surprise reveal of the basics of their technology. They allowed a reporter with deep access to talk about what technology they’re using, how they arrived there, and where they plan to go. They even showed off actual photos of their headset! It’s not ready for release yet, and we still have no specs on the headset or battery life, but it’s real, people. It’s real.

The real excitement in augmented reality this year was Apple and Android launching AR capabilities for their phones — ARKit and ARCore. Neither of them have done anything with technology other than demos and stickers, but Harry Potter Go is on the way, and there’s just no universe where that doesn’t end up as a huge public event in 2018.

Experiences

Experience were a big winner this year. Sundance opened the year in January with a whole whack of cool movies, most of which never made it to consumer release, but were “pretty awesome” according to VR reporters everywhere. The Venice International Film Festival added a VR award category, with three different awards (won by Bloodless, Arden’s Wake (Expanded), and La Camera Insabbiata).

Collisions from Jaunt VR earned an international Emmy Award for Outstanding New Approaches: Documentary, notable because it wasn’t specifically a VR award. And Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible) won an Oscar, for which they had to invent a “special statuette” because there’s no VR category for the Oscars. Yet.

Predictions

A lot of last year’s predictions came to naught. Headsets didn’t take over the way we thought they would. We’re all still using our phones, obviously, and also our computers. The technology is still on the expensive side, which is hampering sales, but it’s also doing better than expected on the industry side. An AR drone brings disaster relief to dangerous environments. AR assisted surgeries have been huge around the world, and Spanish doctors see surgery times cut in half. So lots of rewarding and exciting headlines, and more to come in 2018. See you next year!

Written by Wren Handman for www.hammerandtusk.com.

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