FutureSource: Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality set to become mass-market proposition

Interactive ‘experiential’ entertainment in the form of virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) is set to become a mass-market proposition in the general market, with sport broadcasters and content providers using this technology as a complementary service, writes Heather McLean. Innovative, cutting edge technology and what it means to consumer entertainment continues to be on the forefront of the agenda at Futuresource Consulting as it announced the imminent release of its latest report covering VR and MR, which is similar to augmented reality (AR), but requires the use of a headset such as Microsoft HoloLens or Magic Leap.

“Virtual reality is still very much in the ‘innovation’ stage, but this will start to change over the coming months as a variety of major first generation headsets hit the market,” commented Adam Cox (pictured), senior analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

“Some of the world’s largest and most prominent companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Sony have a great deal of faith in the new technology and are putting in place the ecosystems required to pave the way for a successful introduction to the mass market,” added Cox. “It is still extremely early days for VR, but with the backing of such prominent companies that have brought about significant changes in how we live our lives before, its outlook is exciting.”

As to where Cox sees the major opportunities of VR and MR in the sports business, he stated: “The obvious one here is the ability to put the viewer in the crowd at an event using VR. That’s hugely compelling if done correctly. It won’t be for everyone and it’s not for every sport, though; the pitch or court has to be small enough for it work. Using today’s [VR] technology, American football, soccer, rugby, some athletics and other similar sports wouldn’t be possible.”

On the direction that VR and MR are going in within the sports broadcasting area, Cox commented: “There have been a number of trials, but the cost of doing this is still extremely high. We’re looking at commercial services within three to five years depending on consumer uptake of headsets and production costs.”
Cox added that MR and VR will not revolutionise sports broadcasting, but will provide an interesting complement to what is already there, as VR is a solo user technology rather than a group participant exercise, the latter of which defines today’s sport’s viewing experience.

“It will complement it; essentially watching sports is often a group experience and VR is a solitary experience. It will happen, but there’s a lot to be said for traditional sports coverage in being able to see everything that’s going on!”
VR and MR will become mass-market propositions, said Cox. He explained: “They are science fiction made real. We are at a very early stage, though and so it may need a few generations of equipment to be released, and for content to be developed alongside too, for this to happen, but this is a game changing technology. There are several challenges that need to be overcome first, though.”

Cox said there are a number of significant challenges. “At this stage the three that jump out are motion sickness, standards (or lack of) and having to rethink the way content is made from the ground up, not just for video and movies, but for games as well.

“A lot of people we’ve spoken to say that the motion sickness issue will be sorted in a couple of years and standards will come in due course,” Cox noted. “There are also social and ethical questions that VR raises, but these won’t be barriers to adoption, more something that will have to be tackled once the technology reaches mass market status.”

On what different vendors are doing specifically in creating ecosystems to foster VR and MR, Cox stated: “A huge amount is being done by some such as Oculus creating its own content studio, whereas Sony and Valve have ecosystems that already exist (Playstation and Steam) through which VR can thrive. Samsung has a relationship with Oculus and is looking to take advantage of the work being done there.”

As to how Cox believes VR and MR will be picked up by end users, he commented: “There’s going to be huge excitement around VR over the next six to 12 months, with the first headsets hitting the market at Christmas and into the New Year (expect a VR-focused CES). This Christmas, many low end headsets will be given as gifts, but as a wider trend, VR is expected to be led by gamers and by technology early adopters.”


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