Ever since Facebook acquired Virtual Reality (VR) startup Oculus last year for $2B, it became a game changer for the VR space, with companies like Samsung, HTC, and many others, getting into the VR space. That said, many people believe that VR (Virtual Reality) can be primarily used for gaming. While this holds true, VR has the opportunity to impact many different industries such as Hollywood/entertainment, education, sports, retail/ecommerce, healthcare, tourism, and many others. In this analysis we are taking a look at how VR could impact some of those respective industries and highlight some of the current initiatives taking place in the space.
1.VR and wearables inspired the Spielberg’s generation. Hollywood is now betting on VR to revolutionize the Hollywood experience
Last year when I met Steve Mann, known as the faster of wearable computing, in Toronto he revealed to me that years ago many well know Hollywood producers and movie directors reached out to him about his latest inventions (connected glasses, smartwatches..), and got inspired by many of its creations in order to create special effects or predict the future in their Hollywood movies. “Back to the Future”, featuring Michael J Fox, is the perfect example of this.
My point here is that at the time they were not actually featuring “real functional “ connected glasses, VR headsets in their movies, but got inspired by experts like Steve Mann. This is important as many believe that Hollywood inspired Wearable Tech and IOT entrepreneurs to create their products. While this might be true in some cases, I think that originally Wearable Tech experts like Steve Mann never really got credit for it.
Interestingly enough, today the Hollywood industry seems to have caught up and now big names (Spielberg, Ridley Scott) are reportedly creating VR content for people who bought a VR headset. In my opinion, there is a great opportunity here to create new types of amazing viewing experiences within the movie theater. One could imagine a scenario where an individual could have the opportunity to rent or buy exclusive VR content and view it via a mobile VR device in order to experience a completely immersive 360 experience of a latest Hollywood movie at the movie theater or at home. Hollywood movie producers like Spielberg or animated movie studios like Pixar or Dreamworks, could also create associated VR games or exclusive scenes of their latest movies in order to generate additional revenues. The opportunities here are endless. Let’s not forget that major Hollywood studios also invested in a hot wearable tech startup called magic Leap last year, along with Google, for over $500M. My guess is that Magic Leap could become a big player here. Let’s face it: Why would Hollywood studios invest into a VR startup like Magic Leap along with Google?! Hollywood studios recognize the tremendous opportunity that VR could bring to their business. They have the opportunity here to create new interactive content, new viewing experiences and generate new revenues.
2. VR based Retail and e-commerce experiences could be another big opportunity for major retailers.
VR based retail and e-commerce experiences could become another big opportunity for VR. For instance, VR startup Sixense has already built a VR app that allows users to virtually shop and try different pair of shoes. This is the kind of VR app which I believe could allow major online retailers like Amazon to further drive their online sales. An amazon user, by using Sixense VR app and devices, would have the opportunity to try various items before making the purchase via a virtual “buy” bottom as part of the virtual experience. The challenge here will be to create a seamless virtual shopping experience. The adoption of VR devices is also still very small but one should expect the adoption of VR devices to increase in 2016 and beyond especially with the emergence of low cost VR mobile devices.
3. VR based Tourism, another opportunity for VR
The beauty of VR is that you can virtually “teleport” yourself anywhere in the world. I do know some VR startups that are building VR apps that would allow travel agencies or online travel sites like Travelocity or Kayak to create a new type of experience to make a sale much faster. The use case here would be for a VR user to virtual travel to a desired location (Hawaii, Paris..) and click on the virtual “book” bottom to book their next vacation right from the comfort of their home.
4.VR based live sports, another major opportunity for broadcasters, sports teams, and brands to create new sports fans experiences.
In countries like the US, live sports has become a big money maker for many broadcasters. With the emergence of VR, there is a new opportunity to create new types of sports experiences. Imagine being in an arena or the comfort of your home and being able to watch a live games (NFL, NBA..) through an immersive 360 VR experience where the user would feel like he/she would be right on the football field and get metadata or stats about the player as they are watching the game live. The possibilities are endless. Startups like NextVR are already working with the NHL and the NBA to offer a live VR sports experience. I expect many more VR startups to jump on the bandwagon, and many sports leagues to adopt such technology, but most importantly create new sports experiences and generate new revenues. Let’s face it: Who does not want to get a virtual “front seat” in the NBA final or at the Superbowl?! This is possible with VR and some die-hard sports fans would be willing to pay a premium for that.
5. Education, another major opportunity for VR. Could help bring more immersive experiences in the class room.
Education will become a major opportunity for VR as well. Imagine giving the opportunity through VR to young kids in Africa to virtually learn about history, geography, science, mathematics, or Astronomy. This could be accomplished through low cost VR devices. This is what companies like Immersive VR education which created a VR experience allowing VR users to virtually experience Neil Amstrong’s first walk on the moon back in 1969. Of note, the project will soon be crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Another example is the Mattel/Google partnership. Mattel, in association with Google, is bringing back its so called View Master thorugh VR, which will let users visit “famous places, landmarks, nature, planets and more in 360 degrees photosphere. To do so, Mattel is using Google cardboard. Mattel will release the new View Master in fall 2015 for $30, and will sell additional VR experiences for $15. I expect major toy companies, and companies like Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Facebook, to play a key role here. Facebook, which has 1B+ users, has a tremendous opportunity to bring new VR education experiences to billions of people, especially in areas where access to good education is limited.
Bottom line: 2016 is set to be a big year for VR. Through VR, new experiences will emerge and impact various industries like education, Hollywood, live sports, tourism and many more. We will discuss this particular topic at our upcoming Wearable Tech and IOT conferences in Israel (July 8, 2015), Los Angeles (September 3, 2015), San Francisco (October 27, 2015) and Hawaii (November 2015) where Hollywood movie directors, and speakers from major VR companies like Samsung, Avegant, Side-Kick, are already confirmed at some of those events. You can book your ticket at www.gizworldconf.com to attend those panel disscussions and meet the many VR startups that are coming as part of our big expo area of IOT startups across the world.