While the concept of virtual reality has been around for several decades, 2016 will finally be the year that consumers will be able to get their hands on powerful VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony Playstation VR. These new models will offer incredibly immersive experiences, but the cost may be a significant barrier to entry for many. The devices aren’t cheap, and they require a powerful computer to run.
Enter the smartphone-powered VR headsets: Google Cardboard, the Samsung Gear VR, and the like. What they may lack in quality – positional tracking, refresh rate, field of view and richer visual images – is made up for in price and portability. Their affordability allows VR to be experienced by the masses. Google is rumored to be launching a successor to Cardboard later this year with improved materials and sensors.
While mainstream access to VR headsets is important for widespread adoption, quality content to view on the devices is just as critical. New cameras and other equipment necessary for capturing engaging VR content are also entering the market in 2016 for both professionals and consumers. As the headsets and content become increasingly available and affordable, virtual reality will really start to take off.
2016 is just the beginning.
Investment in virtual reality at CES
Is virtual reality just for the video game industry? The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas dedicated an entire hall to virtual and augmented reality, with over 40 exhibitors showcasing their technology – a 77% increase from 2015! There were a wide range of VR experiences being showcased. For example, in Lowe’s Holoroom booth, you could remodel your kitchen on a tablet and then immerse yourself into your finished room wearing an Oculus headset. In VirZoom’s booth, you could hop on a stationary bicycle with your VR headset and enjoy a great workout without even realizing you’re exercising. In your view, you’re powering a horse in a race, a tank in battle, or a fire-breathing dragon through the mountains.
This goes to show that virtual reality has the potential to disrupt so many industries beyond just gaming. Retail, education, real estate, news and travel industries will all benefit from the ability to immerse people in new environments. Things really get interesting when you consider how VR will impact professionals in the legal and finance spaces, and the ways in which they will be able to perceive and manipulate data and information.
The Thomson Reuters perspective
Virtual reality is a great opportunity for Thomson Reuters to showcase our data intelligence, technology and human expertise in a whole new way.
Our first foray into VR combines original Reuters photography with one-minute thought leadership pieces from our experts. When users put on VR headsets, they can select from six different experiences. They can view inside and all around the Amazon distribution center while learning about supply chain risk from Shaun Sibley, or see a woman working in the Ford factory and listen to Monique Villa detail the global economic impact of gender inequality in the workplace.
We are continuing to explore VR capabilities through 2016, particularly with Reuters content.
Virtual Reality at Davos
Every year, some of our executives and a team of Reuters journalists go to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting at Davos. Given the high-profile audience at Davos and our notable presence at the event, we decided to pilot our VR experience inside our “headquarters” next to the main conference center in town.
We stationed five Samsung Gear VR headsets for guests of the Davos Today show, their teams, and other visitors to try out. In addition, we had the VR experience available at Monique Villa’s exclusive breakfast event focused on cultivating female leaders.
We had around 50 people in total try it from companies like EY and JP Morgan, nonprofits like the International Red Cross, and of course our own Reuters journalists.
Visit Innovation @ ThomsonReuters.com to learn more about how we are pairing technology with human expertise and how you can get involved.