Augmented Reality (AR)

Three VR innovations that are transforming virtual experience

Google and HTC are teaming up to increase their influence in the virtual reality market. This month the two tech giants announced a deal that will send HTC’s Pixel smartphone team to Google, along with a non-exclusive intellectual property license, in exchange for $1.1 billion. HTC says it will invest the money in continuing to advance its virtual reality research and development.

The move shows how much priority top tech companies place on the VR market, which is expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 57.8 percent and is projected to be worth $33.9 billion by 2022. As competition for this emerging market increases, innovation will be the key to gaining a competitive edge, inspiring exciting advances. Here are three ways innovation is transforming VR to make it even more realistic, practical and integrated into everyday experiences.

Making VR mobile

One of the most important developments in virtual reality is improvements in the integration of VR and mobile devices. Virtual reality uses an enormous amount of data, which has made it impractical to stream VR over the internet to mobile devices. The rise of faster wireless networks in preparation for the coming of 5G connectivity is helping overcome this barrier. Improvements in smartphone processing speed in order to accommodate 5G are also paving the way for streaming VR to mobile devices.

One innovation laying a foundation for more mobile VR is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform. The platform uses built-in machine learning capability to integrate camera and sensor data for continuous localization with a high-precision six degrees of freedom position orientation. This allows the device to predict your next eye movements and adjust your virtual environment accordingly for a more authentic VR simulation approximating real-time experience.

Personalizing Emojis

One application of VR that will become increasingly familiar in the near future is personalized emojis. Apple recently announced that the new iPhone X will include a feature called Animoji, which uses machine learning to incorporate facial recognition into animated emojis based on your own facial expressions. Some companies are already taking this type of technology a step further by using machine learning to generate personalized VR emojis.

Neurotechnology startup MindMaze has introduced a social VR product called MASK, which can analyze facial expressions in tens of milliseconds to instantly duplicate expressions as VR custom avatars. MASK can be applied to any game or app. Such technology will initially reach popular awareness through entertainment and social media, but it will soon begin appearing in more practical applications, such as personalized emojis for live chat representatives.

Virtualizing the shopping experience

Another area where VR will have a major impact is transforming the shopping experience. Virtual reality will allow both in-store and online shoppers to experience a realistic preview of products they’re considering buying, putting the traditional sales adage of “show, don’t tell” into effect on a new level.

Car, clothing and fashion companies are at the forefront of developing VR’s potential for transforming sales. In South Korea, GM already has VR showrooms deployed at 110 car dealerships, using tablets to enable shoppers to visualize a car model in any color against any background, or to augment the look of a car on the sales floor. This is proving especially useful for dealers with limited floor space, as well as enabling dealers in general to save on inventory. Outdoor apparel chain North Face uses VR to allow customers to visualize themselves wearing the company’s products at Yosemite National Park. Sephora is using VR to allow shoppers to test out different makeup options. As VR becomes more widely available on mobile devices, such virtual shopping experiences will become more common for online shoppers as well as in-store shoppers.

Through mobile devices, VR emojis, virtual shopping displays and other developments, virtual reality will become an increasingly important part of the everyday consumer experience. As VR adoption grows, expect demand to fuel even more advanced innovations that will bring virtual and real-time activities even closer together into one seamless experience.

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