The Year 2018 is upon us. Strategic plans are being placed into gear, focus is realigned. Some are joining gyms. As we look ahead to a new year filled with potential and promise, the team here at 360VR Community would like to take a moment to wish you all a fantastic 2018. May this new year bring you everything that you have worked hard for. Above and beyond all, we would like to wish you all a year full of great Health.
The Year 2018 brings mounting expectations for the VR/AR Industry. Many Product Launches and Events carry with them the hopes and dreams for our burgeoning industries. Before we get ahead of ourselves and look too far off into the Future, let us first take a quick look at some of the past year’s highlights, which should give us a less clouded (dare I say romanticized) outlook on what to expect of the year ahead.
The Giants did what Giants do: They Surprised, and they Disappointed.
Google could be considered as one of the heavy hitters of 2017, with pleasant surprises coming through its announcements made at Google I/O, onto its latest round of Platform & Product releases. In August, Google’s Clay Bavor confidently stated that he expected “north of 100 million smartphones” to be using ARCore “very quickly”. A few months later, as they unveiled the Pixel 2, Google stunned quite a few by releasing more hardware in more categories than ever before. The product categories can be seen as a direct assault of Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. Meanwhile, its AI keeps being recognized as the Best in Class. Despite what can be seen as disappointing Sales numbers in the VR Category, overall a pretty good 2017 for the Big G.
2017 can be seen as the Year of Redemption for Apple, when it comes to the VR/AR Industry. What seemed to many observers as a lack of strategy for those specific sectors was quite the head scratcher, but the Tim Cook-led team made up some ground. While others had been paving the way for Augmented Reality, we must give them credit for what they accomplished with ARKit. Nobody makes a splash on the consumer quite like Apple’s Marketing acumen. This was the year that Apple would finally enter the VR sphere (see what we did there?), releasing the first-ever VR-Ready iMac Pro, targeted for Devs. And then… Just before the year ended… Quietly, while no-one was looking, Apple purchased Montreal-based VRVANA. The Mixed Reality headset was very well known and highly praised. This was most surprising and exciting, despite the lack of media coverage this move received. Oh, and then we found out about how they kill your iPhone batteries on purpose. 🙄
You can’t go this far into a VR/AR Article without talking about Oculus, Facebook, and Zuck. During the OC4 Conference, Mark Zuckerberg made a statement that has found its way into pretty much every single VR-related Pitchdeck and Keynote presentation: He wants 1 Billion People in VR. Talk about Quality Content, huh?! The company also unveiled Facebook Spaces and LIVE 360 during OC4, but the Star of the Show is undoubtedly Oculus GO, which is quite possibly one of the highest-anticipated product launches of 2018. But the Holy Grail of the VR Industry is always going to be a Wireless, Standalone VR Headset with 6DoF capabilities. This is exactly what Facebook’s Project Santa Cruz promises, and rumors of a late 2018 announcement are keeping the industry on the edge of its seat.
2017 was quite the rollercoaster year for HTC. Financial woes forced the manufacturing giant to make a strategic move by selling off part of its Mobile division to Google. The $1.1Billion-dollar sale sent over 2000 staff to Google, while allowing it to focus its efforts on VR, namely HTC VIVE. And boy did they ever, creating a list of partnerships too long to list. One of the more eyebrow-raising moves was to release the first truly standalone VR Headsets in the world: the HTC Vive Focus. The caveat? It is strictly available in China. Queue Bart & Lisa Simpson asking “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”…
While the previous names were already a known player in the VR/AR game, not many expected Amazon to come in swinging like McGregor Vs Mayweather. The eCommerce giant took the logical step towards Virtual Commerce, announcing VR/AR abilities to its App. Amazon’s focus on providing infrastructure should not come as a surprise to anyone, yet our collective minds were blown by the unveiling of AWS Sumerian, and many more. During her weekly VRScout Report Podcast, which we strongly suggest you subscribe to, Malia Probst & co-host Jonathan Nafarrete made a funny yet brilliant observation: Amazon is not-so-quietly becoming the complete funnel. Think about it for a minute.
Lenovo. Now that’s a name you most likely were not expecting on this list, right? Those of you sleeping through the year may not have noticed that the company teamed up with none other than Disney to provide us with one of the coolest toys of the year: The Star Wars Augmented Reality headset. Lenovo is also one of the 5 manufacturers to collaborate with Microsoft to release a Windows Mixed Reality headset. But wait… there’s more! All the rumours point to a major unveiling at CES next week: Lenovo should be (finally!) ready to show off its Google Daydream-powered Standalone VR Headset.
Samsung continued its Mobile VR dominance with sales of the Gear VR continuing to grow, thanks in part to compelling content and award-winning advertising, but mostly due to the strategic decision to include them along with the purchase of Galaxy Smartphones. The South Korean giant understood that the best way to explain VR to the Consumer, is to literally put it on their faces. Another strategic decision was to provide tools for the consumer to create their own 360VR Content. 2017 saw a redesigned Gear 360 camera, one of our favorite tools for consumer/entry-level 360 content creation, as well as the culmination of its not-so-secret Project Beyond: the Samsung 360 Round, a Pro-Level Stereoscopic 360° with Livestream capabilities. Last but most definitely not the least, Samsung launched the Samsung Odyssey, part of the Windows Mixed Reality family of 6DoF headsets, to great critical acclaim.
While nobody was watching, Microsoft went ahead and gave VR a new breath of fresh air. By acquiring AltSpace VR, they saved one of the coolest platforms available in all of VR. Period. Then they went out of their way to mention their “much stronger Brand Recognition” (than Oculus & Vive) when announcing the Windows Mixed Reality platform and Headsets. Their numbers must have been solid, because over 300,000 Microsoft headsets sold in its first quarter, beating both Oculus VR and Vive on their opening quarters. Too bad they went a little too far out of their way by branding these headsets as “Mixed Reality”, when they are essentially VR Headsets… That being said, all 5 Manufacturers (Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Acer) delivered quality VR HMDs, winning over critics. Heck, they gave us HALO in VR! Also while nobody was watching: MS Stock value pretty much doubled in the past year. Woah.
Last but most definitely not the least, is Sony. Its PlayStation VR system continued its trailblazing ways by taking ownership of yet another milestone: Selling 1 Million units during a single fiscal quarter, a feat they accomplished during Q3. We highly anticipate sales reports following the Holiday push, and very much expect them to have bested those numbers during Q4.
In 2017, VR earns its 1st Oscar Award+ the 1st Emmy Award
VR is not all about the Gear. More often than not, we’ve tossed around the “Content Is King” line on this site, so you know how we feel about that by now. On an Artistic level, 2017 had a few great achievements. Our two favorites were when Felix & Paul took home an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program, and when Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Virtual Reality Installation“Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible)” received a Special Oscar Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “in recognition of a visionary and powerful experience in storytelling”. The Academy rarely extends special awards. The last time any such accolade was presented was in 1996, when Pixar’s “Toy Story” received a special achievement award from the organization. Only 17 of those have been presented over the years, so this is quite the accomplishment for Inarritu, who also won the Oscar for Best Director in 2015 for 2015 and “The Revenant” in 2016.
One does not simply write all this stuff and not make any comments about Magic Leap. After the $2B worth of investments, they finally show us something. Note that this is a “dev product” and not their final Consumer product, so I’m not overly judging the “looks” of it yet… Although its looks are 3D Renders rather than actual Product shots, so until we see one of you with a dev kit in their possession, we’ll call it like we see it: #Vaporware
What a Year it has been. What a Year it will be.
Tune in next week as we discuss CES 2018 announcements and provide you insight on what to expect for 2018.