Virtual Reality (VR) devices normally have a screen – or two displays for each eye – that prevents any real-world interactions. Between the eyes and the screen are autofocus lenses that switch in response to the user’s eye motions, converting 2D images into stereoscopic 3D. The graphics are then made on the projector, either directly from another computer or from an in-built computing framework.
The mobile component ecosystem has played an important role in the development of virtual reality, but purpose-built silicon is leading the next generation of disruption. Nvidia and AMD are the industry leaders of VR/AR chips, but Qualcomm is a strong rival. The Snapdragon XR1 chip, launched in October 2018, was the first VR/AR-specific CPU on the industry, promising lower temperatures, increased battery life as well as a smoother audio-video experience.
The usage of the XR1 in Google Glass Enterprise Version 2.0 has fueled rumors that Google’s Daydream VR, which is reportedly powered by the Snapdragon 835 mobile processor, will get the new chip as well.
Virtual reality display technology has progressed over time, but audio has remained mostly ignored. DSPs, which increase audio quality while also making devices more powerful at the edge by reducing reliance on network connections, are quickly becoming common requirements in the VR industry. Dolby Laboratories, Panasonic, and 3D Sound Labs, both existing players in the 3D audio industry, are looking at new growth prospects in the VR sector. Audio DSP algorithms for VR headsets are currently being built by Goertek and AAC Technologies’ dedicated teams.
The increasing use of AI techniques in VR applications – especially machine learning, context-aware computing, and natural language processing (NLP) – is improving the intelligence of virtual characters and providing a rich interactive experience. Google’s machine learning software, for example, will apply 6DoF controller monitoring to any standalone headset with a pair of cameras, whereas Facebook’s DeepFocus platform uses AI to generate realistic focus effects in VR.
LG is using artificial intelligence to aid VR apps stop motion sickness. In China, Microsoft unveiled an AI and VR incubator, and Nvidia released a graphic design platform that uses AI to make 3D virtual worlds.
Conversational channels have been mostly overlooked in the VR room, despite being one of the hottest themes in consumer electronics. In 2017, Facebook launched Oculus Voice, but it was a simple service with just four commands. Oculus Voice struggled in contrast to other common virtual assistants due to its restricted capabilities. Facebook revealed plans for a new voice assistant on Oculus devices in April 2019, but no release date was provided. Daydream VR and Lenovo’s Mirage Solo, the first self-contained Daydream headset, are yet to receive Google Assistant integration.
Virtual reality vendors should expect scalability thanks to cloud computing. Cloud platforms can store applications, files, and memory in virtual repositories and stream them on-demand as the amount of VR-generated data expands. With new VR upgrades, low-latency, frictionless cloud-native applications can increase user loyalty. The convergence between cloud and VR is anticipated to help today’s cloud industry leaders – Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM – in the coming years, while VR businesses can gradually subscribe to their cloud services.
Low latency, high density, and increased stability are all advantages of 5G for the VR industry. Non-VR gaming today necessitates a minimum latency of 50 milliseconds, while VR gaming necessitates a latency of less than 20 milliseconds. As a consequence, 5G’s projected latency of 1 millisecond can have outstanding VR experiences. In terms of connectivity, 5G’s ability to accommodate one million devices within a single square kilometer without fear of streaming attenuation could aid the VR market’s development.
Telecom companies (such as AT&T, Ericsson, Verizon, China Mobile, SK Telecom, Orange, and Vodafone) will benefit significantly from the 5G-VR connection, with their rate of adoption, tariffs, and collaborations with VR vendors deciding their effectiveness.
Untethered Virtual Reality
While early VR headsets were largely tethered to a computer or mobile, recent gadgets such as the Oculus Go, HTC Vive Focus, and Lenovo Mirage Solo have popularized an entirely new trend: untethered VR headsets. To boost user experience, Facebook, Google, and HTC are gradually bundling more tools – 6DoF controls, eye monitoring technologies, and 3D audio – into their devices.
VR App Development
Virtual reality applications are becoming increasingly popular. VRChat, which has four million registered users, had more than 10,000 regular peak concurrent users in 2019, while Astro Bot Rescue Mission had over 58,000 watch hours on Steam at the time of publishing. BigScreen VR and Google Earth became successful non-game VR games, while Beat Saber was the first VR game to sell over a million copies.
At the time of publishing, Facebook has the most paid VR applications, while HTC is the only VR organization with an app store subscription plan, which it unveiled in early 2019. Google has lagged behind in terms of software growth, and its Daydream VR is losing ground to Oculus and HTC Vive. On Oculus Go, Facebook provides over 1,000 applications, and HTC Viveport Infinity offers over 600 VR apps and games for a monthly charge. Google, on the other hand, has about 250 Daydream games.