The Face Race: Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality Competitor Matrix.
Get ready for the Face Race as the number of companies developing and launching Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and even Augmented Virtuality devices starts to ramp-up.
Sure, companies like Oculus VR and Sony (for virtual reality) and Google (for augmented reality) are getting most of the headlines but there’s a whole lot of competition heading their way.
Using the rather useful Reality–virtuality continuum we’ve laid out the current market for companies in the sector and their relative stage of development. First-up, let’s start by explaining and defining the spectrum.
Starting on the left we have the spatial real world – what we see and experience with our bodies without any technological enhancement.
Moving along the spectrum, the first technological enhancement is Augmented Reality. This is a live view of the real world with a small proportion (under circa 25%) of digital information added (i.e. augmented) into our field of view. The best example of an AR device is Google Glass.
Jumping to the far right, we have Virtual Reality. Virtual Reality is a 3D virtual environment accessed via a headset. VR is 100% immersive meaning the wearer of the headset does not see their real-world surroundings. In VR, users interact within a virtual world.
This leaves the middle ground, known as ‘Mixed Reality’ or ‘Augmented Virtuality (AV)’. AV is an interesting area because it covers from 25% digital enhancement right up to 99%. Wikipedia defines AV as ‘the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualisations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time’.
In later posts we’ll dive deeper into Mixed Reality applications but for now, here’s our competitor roadmap for companies operating in this range of segments.
Starting with Augmented Reality companies, there are two publicly available products, Google Glass and the Vuzix M100. However, there’s both tech titans and start-ups gearing up for market entry. These include Epson and Samsung in the former classification and i2i in start-up mode. We anticipate all three of these products being available within six months. Expanding the time range, Sony, LG and Microsoft are all rumoured to be working on their own versions of augmented reality.
The Mixed Reality (or Augmented Virtuality) segment has had less coverage than the Virtual Reality space of late, but expect that to change in the near future. The first company we expect to enter this market is Sulon Technologies with their Cortex headset. Currently available as a development kit to pre-order, taken from Techcrunch the Cortex gaming platform is a fully immersive gaming experience, that turns any physical space into essentially a holodeck, using a spatial scanner, a processing unit, and a visor mount that plugs into any smartphone to turn its screen into a stereoscopic display. We anticipate this being available between three to six months from now.
Other companies of note in the Mixed Reality segment include castAR (developing a mixed AR and VR platform), Spaceglasses from Meta and Seebright, developing a head-mounted display for iOS and Android smartphones, complete with a Bluetooth wireless controller. The Atheer One from Atheer Labs is another Mixed Reality start-up, albeit positioned slightly more towards AR than VR. All of these companies are focussing initially on virtual gaming applications, played out in the physical space.
Then we have the Virtual Reality segment, currently buoyed up nicely by Oculus VR (supported of course by Facebook) with Sony in a lead supporting actor role. The first developer version of the Oculus Rift (the DK1) is currently available to developers and other interesed parties. Another company, Shoogee, has the other ‘market available’ VR headset called the Durovis Dive.
The DK2 (the second developer version) of the Oculus Rift is expected in July. Speculation is rife with respect to the first consumer version (CV1) and we think it will be available within the next 12 months (next June if you’d like a more accurate prediction). When will Sony release the Morpheus headset? Late November/early December of this year is our forecast.
But there’s more action in town over and above Oculus and Sony. Start-up Gameface Labs for example is developing a wireless Android-based VR device and Spanish company VRELIA (another start-up) is said to be developing three different VR headsets. And with feet in the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality camps, Samsung is also rumoured to be launching a VR headset this year. Our forecast is a market launch within three to six months for these products.
Taking a slightly different approach is Avegant. From Gizmag, their product the Glyph creates an image by reflecting a low-powered color LED onto an array of two million tiny mirrors. The micromirrors shape the light into a two-dimensional image, which is then beamed straight onto the wearer’s retina. The Glyph is currently also available for pre-order.
Other companies with products a little further down the road (we think) include True Player Gear’s Totem and a Chinese start-up called ANTVR that caused much interest when they surfaced last week. Lastly, we can’t forget about other usual suspects such as Microsoft, Samsung and Sony. All three are rumoured to be developing their own VR headset solutions.
Be it augmented, virtual or a combination of both, the Face Race is on.