Maor Cohen, CEO of n*gram health, shares his thoughts on how the pandemic will impact the VR industry.
Cohen, whose company develops therapeutic VR tools for seniors, writes that the technology appears "tailor-made" for these challenging times. With this in mind, he looks back at the last eight years in the industry, starting with Oculus’s Rift announcement in 2012, its 2014 acquisition by Facebook, and the 2015-16 heyday of the PSVR, Gear, and Vive.
This reached a peak when Oculus released the $400 Quest in 2019, which had the most search interest of any headset of the last decade. But as Cohen explains, headset sales still fell last year, and people have been unable to find top sellers like the Quest and the Valve Index as the supply chain is hindered by the pandemic and other factors.
The industry's future is really split, then, between the enterprise and the consumer. Facebook and Sony have largely targeted the consumer market, while manufacturers like Varjo and Pico have focused on the enterprise, which he notes is embracing VR at twice the rate, according to VR Intelligence.
With the enterprise, customized technologies, along with advances in computer vision AI and healthy competition, will most likely result in a variety of "high-quality hardware options," he writes. But in the VR consumer market, there could be increasingly uncertain boundaries between content developers and large platforms as they compete for users and their data. Looking ahead, he explains that this upcoming holiday season will be an indicator of the consumer market's future, given the launch of the VR-compatible PS5 and talks of a Quest update.
So what about COVID-19's impact on enterprise VR? Cohen notes that the pandemic is creating opportunities in different areas. For example, more than 300M people used Zoom, up from 10M, in only a few months. Argodesign developed an artificial window concept that mimics what it's like to work next to a colleague. And Spatial has opened up its holographic AR/VR app for meetings in the enterprise to everyone. Such experiences across platforms "are likely to help ease users along the adoption curve," Cohen believes.
Another area that will likely accelerate the technology is health care, where telehealth and digital health devices are being adopted by leaps and bounds, which will continue after the crisis comes to an end. Perhaps most notably, Cohen writes that the pandemic has shown people that our environment matters and greatly impacts our feelings and mental and physical health. VR "enables us to create synthetic environments that evoke specific physiological and emotional reactions," he writes, which makes it all the more likely that it will be incorporated into humanity's medical toolbox to treat a variety of conditions.