Having recently left Samsung as Head of Virtual Reality (VR) to set up your own company, what changes have you seen in the image sensors market for VR in the last 5 years and how does this impact your current strategy?
VR has introduced a new paradigm of content creation and consumption, so naturally a number of impacted markets have had to adjust their strategies as the technology has evolved. What’s interesting is that VR as a concept has been around for decades, it’s certainly not new, but it’s only relatively recently that the technology underpinning it has developed to a stage at which it’s ready for consumer adoption. It’s now about creating content for VR that fully maximises its strengths; allowing users to have experiences that simply aren’t possible with existing mediums. The quality of 360 degree image/video capture is obviously fundamental to this, both in terms of the professional and home consumer markets, as the content created via both of these channels will be the lifeblood of the technology moving forward.
What would you say are the biggest 3 game changes for VR that you think will soon hit the industry, and how can the industry prepare for it?
2017 will be a big year for VR, and a pivotal one in terms of the development of the technology and consumer adoption. We’ve had a period of intense hype and marketing hyperbole as VR has begun to hit mainstream consciousness, but the headsets themselves have still largely remained the realm of tech enthusiasts and early adopters. Products like Playstation VR are gradually changing that, but I see mobile-powered VR (think Google Daydream, Gear VR etc.) as having the primary say in terms of the success of the technology moving forward as it allows unrivalled accessibility and simplicity to consumers. My personal feeling is that we’ll see huge advancements in mobile VR this year that will begin to allow experiences that were previously only the realm of the very high end PC-tethered headsets, facilitating a real shift in the market. This will also be supplemented by a raft of new much more affordable PC headsets that can run on lower-end hardware, alongside integrated support with desktop operating systems, which again will allow the technology to reach entirely new demographics.
I’m also really excited about the worlds of artificial intelligence (AI) and haptics (think omnidirectional treadmills, force feedback body suits, gloves etc.) and how they will impact VR, as the potential for whole new levels of immersion is simply vast. Moreover, the rise in non-gaming applications is very promising, as I’m now working with a number of clients that are really looking to utilise VR to create tangible, lasting business benefits. Some of the current utilisations of VR for areas such as storytelling, education and the third sector are incredible, and it will be fascinating to see how this develops in the future.
Where do you foresee the market for VR in the next 5 years is headed?
Quite honestly at the moment no-one can say for sure, and I think that’s indicative of where we are with the technology today. All of the market growth predictions from respected analysts and research companies show exponential growth, and that’s certainly promising, but as of today there are too many moving parts to say for sure what the VR market will look like in five years. My personal feeling is that it may look quite similar to how it is today, with various platforms all offering different VR experiences, utilising varying hardware and accessories. The difference will be that the quality of the experiences precipitated by the technology will be greatly improved as screen resolutions, refresh rates and FOV's improve, and hence consumer appeal will be far greater. I’d expect the mobile and console worlds to lead the way, but the PC-tethered market may also grow significantly if the proliferation of lower-cost headsets that can run on lower-end PC’s is successful. I’d anticipate that gaming will still lead the way in terms of innovation and marketing within the sector, but that immersive storytelling will also become much more compelling to consumers as content creators learn and adjust to the various intricacies and nuances that exist. What’s also going to be interesting is how the worlds of VR and augmented reality (AR) co-exist, as I’m extremely excited about the growth of head-mounted AR solutions over the next 3-5 years. Microsoft Hololens is a great start here, but the future will be fascinating.
What can the attendees look to gain by hearing your presentation at the conference?
I’m going to be giving a really clear overview of the technology, its past, and where we’re going in the future. My passion for VR is driven by the unique experiences and opportunities it can create, so the focus of my presentation is on trying to show what great VR looks like, and where it can add real value moving forward. Fundamentally my aim is for attendees to come away with a very clear idea of what VR really is and what exactly it’s doing, or will do, to impact a range of industries and markets across the globe.
What are you most looking forward to at the Image Sensors Europe conference as a first time attendee?
I’m particularly looking forward to finding out much more about the image sensors market and the various stakeholders within it, and hopefully meeting as many people as I can!