Regardless of whether you're an extrovert or an introvert, a few weeks of isolation is bound to induce cravings for human interaction. The global pandemic has created a massive surge in traffic to social media platforms as people are turning towards virtual communication to fuel their much needed daily dose of social interactions. People are flocking towards platforms which allow them to feel connected during social-distancing, but social media platforms and video calls are still lacking an essential ingredient social creatures require as part of a sustainable social diet. Lockdown life has geared people and businesses towards searching for more innovative and creative ways to connect, which may just be the well deserved break the Virtual Reality industry has been waiting for.
Virtual Reality is by no means a new concept, but the tech industry has been struggling for years to initiate wider VR adoption. The price of quality VR equipment coupled with the lack of available content, has discouraged consumers from adopting VR technology, but according to Kirk Soderquist, Partner at Perkins Coie, VR Headsets are becoming smaller, more affordable and more powerful, which will undoubtedly result in wider market adoption. As Lockdown life persists, the demand for a new reality (even a virtual one) is growing, which will most likely lead to a boom in the VR market, both for personal and business use.
Due to international lockdown, air travel has reduced by 95% and the travel and tourism industry has undoubtedly taken a hit. Notions to incorporate VR in the travel industry to help sell holiday packages has been in the pipeline long before lockdown, but very few businesses have made the leap to adopt VR into their selling tactics. Quarantine protocols have forced the travel industry to reconsider VR solutions, providing clients with alternative forms of escape for the time being.
One of the most successful VR travel applications on the market is Google Earth VR, which allows you to become a virtual tourist and travel to any location in the world. Whether you want to prowl through the streets of Tokyo, see the Space Needle in Seattle, or experience the beauty of the Florence Cathedral, all of this is possible through Google’s free application. Although there are numerous similar applications on the market, wider VR adoption and more extensive application development will most likely take place in the next few months, in an effort to preserve the travel and tourism industry. Naturally, some may feel that offering virtual tours are counterproductive, but ultimately travelling encompasses more than just sightseeing, and these VR experiences are merely there to fill the gap and create demand until the travel ban is lifted.
Unsurprisingly, the gaming industry is booming during lockdown. Steam, a major PC digital game distribution platform has surpassed their highest user count in history, sporting 19.1 million users in February. Other popular gaming platforms such as Verizon and Twitch, have also experienced a spike in users, reporting a 75% and 20% increase in gaming traffic, respectively. According to the Console Games Global Market Report 2020 released earlier this month, the gaming industry is expected to grow from $40.6 billion in 2019, to $57.9 billion in 2020, stabilising at a 13.4% compound annual growth rate by 2023. As the market continues to grow, key industry players are continuously focussing on innovative ways to beat their competitors, and will most likely place greater emphasis on the development of VR compatible games.
ARVI VR Inc, one of the world’s leading innovative VR escape room development companies, has recently made their top VR games available for download. In the past, ARVI VR games were only playable in special VR escape rooms, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ARVI has decided to make their games available to users on Steam, Oculus and Viveport. According to Michael Dementii, Ceo of ARVI VR, the motivation behind making their games available for at home use is purely to help users beat boredom during lockdown. Hopefully, more VR gaming companies will follow ARVI’s lead and provide gamers with a larger variety of VR games to choose from, pushing more users into adopting VR.
Zoom calls are currently the new normal for business professionals, but as the lockdown period drags on, companies are pushing past generic zoom meetings and embracing VR meetings. HTC, a Taiwanese Smartphone company, recently launched a remote meeting service called VIVE Sync, which allows users to conduct “face-to-face” meetings at a distance. Using the VIVE Sync VR service, users can send their personalised avatar to the event and view the avatars of their colleagues during the virtual meeting by means of a VR headset. VIVE Sync events can accommodate up to 30 people at a time and even allows participants to look at show-and tell material in 3D or stream cloud storage files during meetings.
VR meetings will become more prevalent during lockdown, but wider adoption will most likely only occur at a later stage. In the past few months, companies have been forced to switch to remote working and many are entertaining the possibility of remaining remote based post-lockdown. Working from home may become the “new normal” in the near future, and hopefully the same can be said about VR meetings.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed the natural rhythm of the world and has left no aspect of society untouched. The extent to which this outbreak will impact the future is still uncertain, but like with all major tragedies throughout history, these trying times will lead to a wave of innovation. Over the past few years, Digitisation has steadily taken root, but amidst the outbreak our migration to virtualisation has simply been expedited. Mass VR adoption is just another step towards blurring the lines between reality and the digital world and we look forward to seeing how different sectors will incorporate VR into their inward- and client facing strategies.