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/ 19.12.2019

The Top 10 Immersive Developments of 2019

It’s fair to say that 2019 has been a year full of progress for augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). For those working in the industry, there have been many developments which lay the foundation for positive growth. 

So, it’s no surprise that there are lots of encouraging stats emerging. PwC’s recent Seeing is believing report predicts that AR and VR will add $1.5 trillion to global GDP by 2030. Immerse UK’s second reporton the immersive sector in the UK shows that there are around 1,250 active immersive specialists in the UK and there are numerous growth opportunities across a wide range of sectors, underpinned by £33 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

As 2019 draws to a close, and we embark on a new decade, it’s the perfect time to look back and reflect on all that has happened this year in the immersive space. In no particular order, here are my immersive highlights of the year.

1. Oculus Quest

Oculus Quest, Facebook’s standalone headset, has created a lot of interest and momentum in the industry. The headset launched in May and sold out across multiple stores a week after launch. SuperData Research estimates Facebook sold around 180,000 Oculus Quest units in Q3 of this year (with a value of $72 million)—nearly double the combined sales figures for the Oculus Rift S and Oculus Go. This brings the estimated total of Quests sold to 400,000 so far.Today In: Innovation

And now, thanks to Oculus Link, Quest owners can connect their headsets to gaming PCs with a USB-C cable. This means you get the benefit of a standalone, highly portable device for simple experiences, but you can also run more complex PC driven VR when you want it, plus access all the games in the Rift library.

Oculus Quest headset
FACEBOOK / OCULUS

2. Hololens 2

HoloLens 2 was announced back in February this year and it began to ship to customers in November. Boasting an increased field of view (52° rather than 35°), a lighter carbon fiber build, hand and eye-tracking, and an improved resolution of 2048 x 1080 per eye, it offers a significantly improved experience over its predecessor. Its $3,500 price tag means that it remains an enterprise-focused headset, but the capabilities of this new model have set the benchmark for exciting things to come in the MR space.

Day 4 - GSMA Mobile World Congress 2019 HoloLens 2, a AR headset designed by Microsoft, exhibited during the Mobile World Congress, on February 28, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. 
 (Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES

3. Beat Saber 

Since its release, Beat Saber has remained solidly in the top 10 most purchased list on the Oculus store. It’s a firm VR favorite. In March 2019, Beat Saber officially announced that 1 million copies of the game had sold across all platforms. They also released limited-edition music packs with Imagine Dragons, Panic! At The Disco, and Monstercat. Recently acquired by Facebook—to be a part of the Oculus Studios VR gaming group—the future for Beat Games (the studio behind the game) looks incredibly bright.

Beat Saber
BEAT GAMES

4. Advances in resolution—HP Reverb + Varjo + Varjo 2

This year, we’ve seen a number of hardware releases that have pushed the VR user experience in terms of visual and audio fidelity, helping to propel the industry forward. Take HP’s new virtual reality headset—Reverb Professional Edition. With a staggering 2160 x 2160 panel per eye, a 114-degree field of view, inside-out tracking, and lightweight design, it delivers across the board.

Finnish company Varjo is also a leader in this space. Varjo’s Bionic Display™ delivers an unprecedented resolution of 60 pixels per degree—the equivalent of 20/20 vision. This means you can read text just as you would in the real world. Colors, contours, textures, and illuminations appear just as they should. The clarity ensures that professionals who work in fields that need extreme precision and detail—e.g. engineers, architects, and designers—can use VR. 

The company has just made its XR-1 Developer Edition Headset available. With the Bionic Display, integrated eye-tracking and now, passthrough cameras—this headset promises to deliver on AR and VR for the enterprise market.

2 vr headsets
HP / VARJO

5.  Valve Index and Index Controllers

The Valve Index was released in June 2019 and gave us a glimpse of the future of VR. With a resolution of 1440 × 1600 for each eye and a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, which makes for a best-in-class visual experience, the Valve Index was the next generation VR headset we’d been waiting for.

Then there are the Index Controllers (AKA ‘Knuckles’). The controllers feature hand straps so you can release your grip without the worry of dropping them. The pressure-sensitive panels mean that you can grab things in VR in a much more natural way, due to the finger tracking. Check out Road to VR’s video on the Knuckles, showing in-game performance, here.

Valve indeex headset on lady
VALVE / STEAM

6. Lion King and Virtual Production

This year, we saw the future of cinema when the remake of The Lion King was shot entirely in virtual reality. In this film, rather than being a handy filmmaking accessory—like in Ready Player One—VR became a medium in itself. Magnopus created a system that allowed Jon Favreau to direct a movie with high quality, real-time, interactive components—‘shot’ in context—while still making a completely computer-generated film. This represented a huge leap forward for filmmaking and VR.

VR filming of Lion King (2019)
IBC

7. LBE Reaching new heights

Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) is going from strength to strength because of the unique, shared entertainment it offers. 2019 has seen a number of wins for this sector of the industry. From Sandbox VR getting $11m in investment, to Zero Latency hitting half a million plays in August 2019 and HOLOGATE reaching 5 million players worldwide—the popularity of this form of entertainment is undeniable. I recently took a look at the companies making waves in the LBE sector—you can check that out here.

people in LBE
THE VOID

8. holoride 

2019 has been a huge year for German startup holoride. holoride links Extended Reality (XR) visualization (e.g. virtual reality) with a vehicle’s motion data in real-time, creating an extremely immersive experience for passengers, which also helps to reduce motion sickness. This technology introduces a new content category that is highly adaptive and always matches with type and length of the route—Elastic Content. 

After the company’s successful launch at CES in Las Vegas (holoride was named “Best of CES” four times), it gave an alpha version of the SDK to a select group of leading production studios to create the world’s first holoride experiences— its first public experience went live in LA in October. holoride’s constant success has seen it named in Time’s 100 Best Inventions of 2019, alongside other huge names like Oculus, Dyson, and Bose.

holoride bride of frankenstein key image
HOLORIDE

9. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite 

Tipped to be the hottest game of 2019, the makers of Pokemon Goreleased Harry Potter: Wizards Unite on 20th June. This AR game claims to put magic in the hands of players as they become witches and wizards immersed in the Wizarding World. While downloads fell far short of the initial downloads for Pokemon Go, the game still generated a lot of interest and hype in AR, giving the medium a boost.

10. 5G

EE turned on the UK’s first 5G network on 30th May 2019 across London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester. The low latency, super-fast speeds and stable connections that 5G brings will herald in a new era of VR. Experiences will be more accessible, more reliable and ultimately more immersive.

Telecommunication network above city, wireless mobile internet technology for smart grid or 5G LTE data connection, concept about IoT, global business, fintech, blockchain
GETTY

And finally…

While this didn’t quite make it into my top 10 of 2019, it really made me smile: “Virtual Reality Used To Relax Cows Into Producing More Milk’. Yep, you read that right—a team of researchers and vets in Moscow have developed bovine-sized VR headsets to trick cows into thinking that they are in a sun-drenched field, rather than their bitterly cold Russian environment. They claim that this helps relieve anxiety and makes the cows produce more milk!

Cow in VR headset
MOSCOW MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD

Adobe acquiring Oculus Medium, a virtual reality sculpting tool, is also worth a mention. This new chapter should see improvements and more features coming to the creative tool as Adobe promises to keep Medium growing and improving. 

Whether it’s encouraging cows to chill out, or forging the future of in-car entertainment, VR, AR, and MR have managed to make an impact on a number of different industries this year. The advances have laid a strong foundation for further progression in 2020—bring it on!

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