VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) and the overall mixed reality space have been on the radar of many over the past three-odd years. Some landmark developments in the sector include Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus (March 14), Hololens launch (March 16), MagicLeap’s $500 Mn round (Oct 14) and PlayStation VR launch (Oct 16) followed by crossing a million units (June 17).
The State of the Union
Admittedly VR/AR scale and tech are still in an emerging state and unit volumes are of the order of 10mu/year well south of the 50-100mm which may begin to make them mainstream.
There are, however, many developments/efforts which are significant which can likely give the legs to this space to “Cross the Chasm”. The major tech companies in the world (Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple) have significant programs to tap into this space- and we believe its quite likely that one or more of these technologies will be mainstream in 2-3 years.
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There is positive trending in the following areas: Pricepoints going down from $1000 to the $200 range in the near future; serious adoption in certain segments such as industrial (https://goo.gl/3rmjxE Ford, Boeing, GE and the like), real estate (Matterport) arcade entertainment, brand experience and many more; physical limitations such as the need for tethering are being worked on.
The nirvana scenario is when these technologies can provide a good experience on native user devices such as smartphones- which should be mainstream in the not too distant future.
India has traditionally had a number of mostly small companies using some of these technologies for marketing, brand experience. We are now seeing these capabilities expand to the industrial segment with many large global companies engaging with Indian companies for training and maintenance solutions.
The startup scene in this space in India is gradually picking up. There are a number of startups working in the field of virtual and augmented reality world. Take the case of Imaginate, an Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology based startup, which offers solutions for defense and medicine amid other uses. The enterprise has developed ShootAR, which is an Augmented Reality simulator used by the army. Similarly, LivAR is an AR solution rendering complicated liver surgeries more accurate by offering real-time 3D imagery. Venture capitalists are also backing innovative Indian startups in the segment. For example, Bangalore-based VR ad network Chimera received an undisclosed round of angel funding. Whodat, an Augmented Reality (AR) platform building its unique platform allowing digital content in indoor environments without markers, managed to recently attract $600,000 capital funding.
As the eco-system is still emerging and the domestic market is niche, both startups and venture capitalists face challenges in navigating the space. Areas of concern include lack of incumbent expertise, uncertainty on which fundamental tech may work, which vertical segment to pursue, access to funding and such.
Impactful Nurturing: The Need Of The Hour For India’s VR/AR Ecosystem
The VR/AR market is at an opportune stage where developing a product or a service out of India is likely facing a market which will be real in 12-24 months’ time. As the VR/AR ecosystem takes hold, we believe that the sector needs to be nurtured with proper technical & business guidance, enabling promising entrepreneurs to raise funds to develop interesting technology to get early mover advantage.