Google announced last week that the latest version of Chrome, its popular web browser, will support virtual reality (VR) on the web, allowing any user to view VR content on any device, across any platform.
For a more immersive experience, users can view WebVR content on Daydream-ready devices, such as the Pixel. Users without a Daydream headset or compatible device can still view the content, but in a 360-video-type fashion, similar to Google's Street View.
For now, only a few websites offer VR content, however, Google is working with developers to increase this number. The company also revealed it will be opening WebVR to other VR headsets, like Cardboard and Oculus Rift.
WebVR has gained plenty of attention recently, with Facebook's Oculus and Samsung Gear VR both adding WebVR support in the last few months. That’s because WebVR has multiple benefits for consumers and developers alike, which ultimately helps platforms:
- * WebVR makes VR much more accessible to consumers. WebVR is more accessible to consumers than the less affordable computer- and console-powered headsets, like the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. It's also available on both the web and the headset, therefore broadening the content base.
- * WebVR could incentivize developers to build more VR content. Support for browser apps could lure in developers that were initially reluctant to make moves until they assessed how adoption of the technology would evolve. As competition between VR platforms continues to heat up, having more developers building content is key to attracting the best VR experiences.
- * Web apps also make it easier for potential users to sample new VR content without needing to download and store it on their phones. Because of the complexity of VR content, it can be a drain on both phone storage and battery life. Accessing this content over the web fixes at least one of these issues since users can essentially stream the content from the web.
Broad adoption of VR content could make the tech more appealing to businesses looking for new ways to engage with consumers. Currently, VR is probably most suited to gaming and video viewing, however, it also has ample opportunity to disrupt mobile applications focused on education, conference calls, and medical procedures, for example. And although the technology is still fairly nascent, early studies indicate that the immersive nature of VR video content is leading to higher engagement and emotional responses to ads shown over the medium, according to YuMe. As adoption increases, it will be integral to have a VR-video strategy in place to reach these consumers.
The virtual reality (VR) market has made significant strides throughout 2016.
New VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive debuted amid great consumer anticipation, while VR content launches kept pace, with Batman: Arkham VR and Chair In A Room garnering encouraging download totals.
At the same time, industry groups and conferences brought developers, investors, and content producers together, helping to further ramp up buzz in this nascent space.
BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, forecasts shipments of VR headsets to spike by 1047% year-over-year (YoY) to 8.2 million in 2016. This growth will help propel the virtual reality space to exceed $1 billion in revenue for the first time, according to research by Deloitte. Powering that growth is an estimated 271% increase in investment in AR (augmented reality) and VR companies from 2015, according to estimates from CB Insights.
But while 2016 has indeed been an important year for the VR market, it hasn’t necessarily been a big one — at least not compared to its future growth potential.
VR headset shipments will continue to grow in the years ahead, driven by the introduction of new content that will appeal to a broad swath of users.
Jessica Smith, research analyst for BI Intelligence, has compiled a detailed report on virtual reality that explores the highly fragmented and volatile VR market that emerged in 2016, lays out the future growth potential in numerous key VR hardware categories as driven by major VR platforms, and examines consumer sentiment and developer excitement for VR, presenting which headset categories and platforms are most poised for success in the near- to mid-term.
Here are some key takeaways from the report:
- * This has been an important foundational year for the VR market. New hardware and content have brought more options to market to appeal to a wider set of consumers.
- * But the growth seen this year is merely a foreshadowing of the future. The highly fragmented VR market today will eventually narrow as the market grows and matures.
- * After considerable progress in 2016, the VR market is ripe for transformation in 2017. Developers, consumers, investors, and hardware makers have a host of options from which to choose, each with their own strengths and shortcomings.
- * The environment is poised for the first killer VR app to hit the market sometime in 2017, which will be a major catalyst for consumer adoption of VR hardware.
- * Not all headset categories and platforms will emerge as winners in the near future. More immersive headsets that offer the best VR experiences are too expensive for most consumers. Alternately, affordable headsets that rely on smartphones as processors offer sub-par experiences that can induce sickness.
In full, the report:
- * Identifies the major players in today's VR hardware and platform markets.
- * Estimates future growth of each of the major VR categories.
- * Explores barriers to mass market consumer adoption for each of the VR hardware categories.
- * Considers how developer sentiment is driving the growth of various platforms.
- * Assesses how the market will shake out over the next five years in terms of size and the success of various VR hardware categories.
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