In mid-August, ICT.Moscow launched the VR/AR knowledge base, which includes more than a hundred Russian and foreign practices for the implementation of virtual (VR) and augmented (AR) reality technologies since 2017. The analysis of the practices revealed several notable trends that confirm the growing interest of various industries in technology.
The experts who were interviewed by ICT.Moscow also show their interest in these technologies. Communication with them enabled us to understand the current state of the VR/AR industry, take a fresh look at the trends and consider some non-obvious aspects of its development. Representatives of companies that piloted projects in the field of VR/AR also spoke about the effects and prospects for further application of the technology.
According to PwC study presented in 2019, the market of immersive technologies will grow rapidly. In particular, it was predicted that the market size will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2030, and over $1 trillion in the augmented reality segment and $450 billion - in virtual reality. Valuates Reports’ latest forecast for the augmented reality segment also looks optimistic: analysts predict an increase in the size from $849 million in 2019 to $3.7 billion in 2026.
Representatives of the Association of Augmented and Virtual Reality AVRA explain, why the forecasts remained so positive even despite the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It should be noted that VR/AR have a great potential in industry, education, medicine, tourism and the military. This applies to both business and consumer projects. Requests for project development fell this year due to the reduction of offline activities: business events and exhibitions, festivals, entertainment events. However, the demand for retail solutions with augmented reality, remote communication with both AR and VR, as well as platforms for communication, holding events and meetings has increased.
CEO of AVRA Association
Ekaterina Degay, Head of Industry at AVRA and CEO of Formika Lab gives an actual example of positive effects in this area.
The comments of experts are supported by the practices collected for the knowledge base: more than 25% of practices are from 2020. 14 of the the 30 cases selected for the current year are Russian. Moreover, there were Russian examples of solutions developed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Modum Lab developer from Saint Petersburg has created “Kollaborativnye prostranstva” (“Collaborative Spaces”) project, which enables employees to work remotely using VR. Dmitry Kirillov, President of the company, tells ICT.Moscow that he sees no impediments to the development of immersive technologies either in the context of the pandemic or in general.
The market is being formed and is growing. There are large-scale projects in Russia and abroad. There are more and more government and commercial tenders for VR/AR, there is a market, and it is being actively filled with projects. It is obvious that VR/AR technologies will be further developed. The rest depends on the company: whether the team can apply the technology within the framework of a specific project, evaluate costs and revenues, enter the market and stay afloat.
President of Modum Lab
Konstantin Negachev, co-founder and CEO of VRTechnologies, notes that now is the best time to invest in VR/AR projects.
But then again, optimism still has to be careful. Denis Zakharkin, CEO of VR Concept, recalls that things are not so smooth in the VR/AR market.
Some recent projects collected for the knowledge base are still at the launch stage, or they have been launched, but the results of piloting have not yet been announced. The reasons were explained by Ilya Flaks, Head of the LANIT Competence Center in the field of VR & AR:
There is not much money in the b2c market, and developers are waiting for the time of consumer VR. Another thing is the b2b segment, where the use of virtual reality technologies is growing every year. Areas of application are: training hard skills and soft skills, simulations, medicine, retail and real estate sales. In the b2b segment profits can be expected, and the number of players in the market is growing very quickly.
Ilya Flaks mentions that the areas of application of technologies are concentrated mostly in the b2b segment. This is confirmed by the technology application cases selected for the knowledge base. The most common areas of application of the technology in the world are medicine, education, culture and tourism, and industry. The situation with Russian cases is almost the same, but in the field of education one more case than in medicine was found.
It is important to understand that even if the case is related to medicine or industry, it all is often about training employees in certain skills (but there are also cases of using VR/AR in educational institutions). The case of the pharmaceutical company Biocad can be called an illustrative example.
The application of the technology enables the new employee to simulate his actions in a virtual environment and study the process, learn the sequence of actions. It allows to optimize the time expenditures of the mentor, minimize possible errors and the risks of expendable materials loss during the period of training.
Senior HR partner in Production and Quality at Biocad
AVRA President Ekaterina Filatova notes that VR/AR practices will be more actively implemented if there is a wide 5G communications channel. She thinks it will contribute to the development of telemedicine, remote communication using VR, broadcasting of sports competitions, as well as more active use of augmented reality in tourism, navigation and communications.
Immersive technologies can also be useful for the development of urban infrastructure. For example, in April 2020, LANIT-Integration implemented a VR system in the main coronavirus center of Moscow for remotely coordinating the actions of doctors. Ilya Flaks explained what effects were achieved with the help of this pilot project and how it will be developed in the future.
Currently we are adapting the system for use in surgery, rehabilitation, in research medical centers, for emergency services teams and ambulance teams. We already have the vision of technology’s application in military medicine and disaster medicine.
The technology will be also useful in other areas of urban development. The most promising application areas were listed by Eldar Fayzullin, Head of Cybersport and XR of DIT Moscow.
VR simulators with tactile feedback, which will prepare the employee for different scenarios and situations, training the neuroplasticity of the brain using game mechanics, can be implemented for the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the police. It will create a controlled and safe learning environment.
Head of Cybersport and XR of DIT Moscow
Russian cases collected in the knowledge base show that VR/AR technologies are implemented mainly by large corporations, retail chains and telecom operators.
Gazprom Neft is one of most notable Russian industrial companies working with VR/AR technologies. Four cases included in the knowledge base are related to the company. The head AR/VR Center of Gazprom Neft confirms that immersive technologies can indeed be used at a large enterprise for a wide range of tasks.
In terms of the possible usefulness of VR/AR for various industries, Ilya Simonov from CROC also highlights the industry and explains the reason why large companies are primarily interested in technology.
Presenting technology implementation practices in real industrial and business processes and possible barriers, the experts noted that the enterprises have to be prepared to implement VR/AR. And it is not just about financial preparation: the application of immersive technologies should to be based on a prepared technological basis.
Also, there should be a leader of VR/AR-projects within the company, who has competence and faith in technology. He really has to be deeply into it. That’s about the management team. But it’s also important to think about about VR/AR in this chain is not the first step. . They should like AR-glasses, it should be more comfortable to work with glasses then without them. Without this, all the developments will be simply pointless.
But it’s also important to think about about the operators: the technology should be friendly, understandable and useful for them. They should like AR-glasses, it should be more comfortable to work with glasses then without them. Without this, all the developments will be simply pointless.
Denis Zakharkin from VR Concept also speaks about it. According to him, in spite of the fact that the VR/AR industry has grown significantly in recent years and at the same time has fallen markedly in price, one of the main obstacles to its implementation in enterprises is the lack of high-quality independent VR/AR content. Consequently, preparatory work is required for launching projects.
By the way, the problem with software developments, that hinders the implementation of technologies in practice, is recognized by the developers themselves.
Also, on the market only few people have VR devices, so making content for the end user is not profitable. This results in users not wanting to buy devices. This vicious circle is being broken by technological giants (such as Facebook), who are investing in virtual and augmented reality, thereby contributing to creation of content. Consequently, VR becomes more attractive for users.
CEO of LikeVR, a creative agency developing AR/VR solutions
The problem with final content in VR/AR has been known for quite some time, but it is important to understand why this is happening. The developers also shared their thoughts on this with ICT.Moscow.
Konstantin Negachev from VR Technologies added that for high-quality development of VR/AR solutions, companies typically require their own competence center with a multi-professional and highly professional development team.
Almost all large companies have their own competence centers and teams that prepare solutions based on immersive technologies. However, this path of development is not a win-win, because in such competence centers it is very rarely possible to involve first-class full-cycle professionals who could solve problems of any level: from drawing and animating models to working with various tracking systems and developing realistic weight and dimension models and multimedia controllers.
Co-founder and CEO of VR Technologies
Another problem that developers regularly face is the low awareness of customers needs in the market. According to Stanislav Starykh, CEO of VR Professionals, it is the major barrier to the implementation of immersive technologies.
Vitaliy Stepanov, head of the development and innovation department at Varwin, believes that this task - explaining what is required from the developer - is primarily the responsibility of the customer.
The co-founder and CTO of Rubius Anton Kudinov noted that developers and integrators may also face difficulties in accessing VR/AR devices.
In spite of various difficulties, including the crisis caused by the pandemic, experts generally positively view the prospects of VR/AR development. In particular, they expect a significant increase in investment, and also rely on the 5G standard, which will allow the transfer of basic computing to the cloud infrastructure.
2) developing a realistic system of user’s tactile senses; the user should be able to feel literally everything - from barriers and various objects to impact on his own body. Both of these points are likely to be implemented during this decade.
In 10-15 years, we can expect the spread of high-speed Internet, that will allow to significantly change the form factor of devices by reducing weight and size, due to the fact that all calculations can be transferred to the “cloud”. The golden age of this technology and mass distribution will begin, when a VR/AR device looks like ordinary glasses or even lenses.