In a discussion at the annual China Development Forum last Saturday, the Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed that virtual reality (VR) technology is going to be huge in the next decade.
Jack Ma is interested in using VR to make shopping experiences effortless, while Mark put more emphasis on the technology itself. Both of the companies have placed VR in their strategy development; Alibaba set up a lab to research applying VR to online games and video streaming and Facebook’s own VR Oculus headsets, the first high-end consumer VR system for consumer started to ship to customers yesterday.
The powerful simulation allows VR to power numerous applications in gaming, entertainment, aerospace, defense, medical, industrial, and retail. The market for VR technology was valued, according to Reportlinker, at $980.4 million in 2014 and by 2020 the number is expected to reach $15899.1 million. Digi-Capital, an investment banking firm for VR /AR (Augmented reality) estimated $120 million revenue from VR/AR devices, with a majority from the consumer sector. In addition, CCS Insight believes that the total sales of VR/AR devices will reach 24 million by 2018.
With the slow growth in the global smartphone market, the booming of the VR/AR devices market is definitely the next growing market for the electronic industry. A basic VR/AR system consists of the following components:
Reality Engine: Refers to a 3D graphic hardware architecture which is based on the same components that make up a PC, but requires more power to support graphic function.
Headsets: Head-mounted display (HMD) employs a small screen or a pair of small screens in a helmet to allow users to look at an image from different angles. HMD units usually employ cathode-ray tube (CRT) or liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. Additionally, most HMDs have head-trackers so that the VR system can respond to head motion. Thanks to the growing virtual reality gaming market, the global HMDs market is expected to reach $15.25 billion by 2020.
Gloves: People who experience VR are often seen wearing gloves made with fiber-ptic cables or have light-emitting diodes. These materials allow the system to record hand or joint movement, then the computer will project the movement to a virtual scene. In some cases, gesture-sensors are also used in gloves.
Audio Unit: By using a three-dimensional audio system, VR is able to enhance the virtual reality experience.
Besides Facebook, other tech giants are also putting resources into VR, hoping to capture the growing market. Samsung, HTC, and Sony are all among the early adaports. Samsung has already released its Gear VR Headset last November, and the rest are expecting to release their VR headset this year.
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