Editor’s note: This article comes from the WeChat public account “InfoQ” (ID: infoqchina), 36 krypton released with authorization.
Author | Luo Yanshan
Edit | Cai Fangfang
In the first half of 2020, a new coronary pneumonia epidemic spread globally, so that most people can only work and live at home. Isolation at home, online, and remote have become the keywords of this special period.
On the other hand, the outbreak of the epidemic will also drive technological innovations in human society, such as VR (Virtual Reality), which allows people to “escape from reality”, which seems particularly timely at this time.Not long ago, Huawei HiSilicon released its own XR chip platform for the first time. Qualcomm also announced that it will jointly launch XR devices with global operators, smartphone manufacturers and VR/AR equipment manufacturers within next year.
At present, taking advantage of 5G Dongfeng, the VR industry is gradually picking up and ushering in some new changes.
Recovery from the outbreak
The outbreak of the epidemic has had a negative impact on most industries, and the VR industry is no exception, especially for those manufacturers that mainly deploy offline markets.
As early as 2014, domestic VR hardware manufacturer 3Glasses took the lead in launching VR offline experience mode.3Glasses founder and CEO Wang Jie admitted to InfoQ that the company had a very deep offline layout in the early years. Many B-end partners have offline entertainment markets. At the same time, many of the educational projects laid out by 3Glasses are also carried out offline, such as schoolsThe VR exhibition and display project in here, so the epidemic does have a big impact on the company’s B-end business.
However, Wang Jie also pointed out that since the epidemic has eased since April and May, we can see that the industry has shown signs of recovery offline, and from another dimension, the epidemic has caused everyone to have to isolate themselves at home, for Chinese and even global usersIt is an opportunity to re-accept and feel the convenience and benefits of digital solutions, and also allow more traditional industries to start to think deeply about the digital economy.VR is also building digital content and experience that breaks through the space, so 3Glasses has begun to appear more business opportunities online, which is a positive impact for the company.
From the survey data, Wang Jie’s observations are in line with the actual situation.”Due to the impact of the epidemic, many people can only choose to stay indoors and work and play through AR/VR. The outbreak of COVID-19 has promoted the increase in market demand.” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager of the research institute IDC.
Although IDC’s latest “Quarterly Tracking Report on the Global VR/AR Market” shows that global VR and AR headset shipments are expected to decline by 10.5% year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, it will further drop by 24.1% in the second quarter.But this has a lot to do with insufficient capacity, because most of the supply chain of these wearable devices is shared with products such as smartphones and PCs. However, many factories are still facing shortages of parts and tight supply.
Therefore, IDC believes that if the equipment output can be increased by the middle of this year, the market will usher in a substantial rebound in the second half of the year.This year, this number will reach 76.7 million units, with a compound annual growth rate of 81.5%.
The increase in VR demand is also evident from Facebook’s financial performance in the first quarter of this year-the company’s non-advertising revenue for the quarter recorded US$297 million, an increase of 80% year-on-year.According to its CFO David Wehner, “This round of growth is mainly driven by sales of Oculus products,” which includes hardware and software.Facebook’s other product that contributes the most to other revenue categories is the Oculus Quest, a VR all-in-one that was launched last year.During the financial report meeting, Zuckerberg also said that “the recent production speed can no longer keep up with market demand.”
IDC predicts that the shipment of VR all-in-ones will grow by 30.4% in 2020, accounting for 43.8% of the total AR/VR headset shipments for the year.
Three bottlenecks still to be broken
In addition to the changes in the general environment, the recent increase in the VR market is also related to a hot VR game.This large VR game launched by Valve is called “Half-Life: Alyx”. Once launched, it received rave reviews: “Games from the future”, “Loading into the history of VR games”, and scored high scores on multiple platforms….
Chinese translation of “Half Life: Alix”, domestic players usually call it “half life”
But in the long run, an explosive game cannot support the entire VR game ecosystem.The game market for the C-end has not yet become a reality for the VR ecosystem.
From 2016, known as the first year of VR, until today, the bottleneck of VR/AR development is still the three major factors: network bandwidth and speed limitations, the hardware technology is not mature enough, and the content application is lacking.
VR hardware product forms mainly include mobile VR, PC-side VR and VR all-in-one.Among them, mobile VR is a mobile phone box that we often say. VR glasses themselves only function as convex lenses, such as Google’s Cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR.
But Samsung has gradually withdrawn from the market.Following last year’s announcement of discontinuation of Gear VR devices, Samsung further stated last month that the company will shut down Samsung’s Samsung XR service in the next few months and remove the Samsung VR Video video application from various app stores, which means users will no longer be able to passSamsung XR gets the video content available for Gear VR.
Regarding Samsung’s move to abandon the Gear VR device, Wang Congqing, President of HTC China, told InfoQ that this is a natural elimination process. Mobile phone box VR is only a transitional product and the easiest and cheapest path for early users to experience VR.The experience brought by such products is always unsatisfactory, and it will not become the mainstream form of VR.
Mobile phone boxes are basically 3DoF products (Degree of Freedom, degrees of freedom), and only support the monitoring of head rotation in three directions (up, down, left, and right).In contrast, currently more high-end PC VR and VR all-in-one machines can support 6DoF, further tracking the position of the head in the space.Therefore, current mainstream manufacturers are focusing on PC VR or all-in-one VR.
At present, PC VR still represents the highest-end performance and the best experience. It needs to be connected to the PC (Sony PS VR needs to be connected to PS4), and the connected PC is responsible for computing.Therefore, the price is relatively expensive, in addition to the price of the PC-side VR itself, there are also high requirements for PC configuration.The VR all-in-one comes with a processor, CPU, and GPU, and can be used independently from terminals such as mobile phones and PCs. The price is also cheaper than PC VR. Although it is portable, it also sacrifices some performance, and the experience is not as good as PC VR.
“Whether from the perspective of hardware or the richness of software, VR still has a lot of room for development at this stage.” Wang Congqing said that the clarity of hardware is far from enough, the device can be lighter, and battery life can also beLonger, in addition, gesture recognition, voice recognition, eye tracking and other interactive technologies also need to be better integrated.
Wang Jie also said that there are still many problems to be solved in the VR industry. In addition to the need for continuous improvement and iteration of hardware, she believes that a new category will emerge in the VR content field in the future.”Now many VR videos are not real VR videos, but just panoramic videos. The interaction of VR games is too heavy, such as’Half-Life’. Although the production has reached the top level, these geek players and designers ignore it.Now, for ordinary people, the learning cost of this game is too high, and the cost of matching hardware is not low.”
In Wang Jie’s view, true VR interaction design is actually a completely new discipline for VR content creators.In order to make users willing to stay in the VR world, there needs to be a proper interaction mode, which not only refers to the interaction of hardware, but also includes the interaction of content settings.
“Frankly speaking, VR content is still scarce.” When it comes to VR content ecology, Xie An, CEO and executive director of Digital Kingdom, said in an interview with InfoQ that although there are not many excellent VR content, the mentality of people who do VR content is alreadyMuch better than the early days, not so impetuous, most of them are based on company strategy to pursue high-quality things.Digital Kingdom is a prestigious visual effects company in Hollywood. In the past few years, it officially entered the VR track, mainly providing VR content and experience services. After strategic investment in 3Glasses, the layout of the VR ecosystem was completed.
To C is just a dream?
Although there are still many problems to be solved in VR, in the eyes of these VR practitioners, VR will develop at a higher speed than in the next two to three years.However, compared with the 2C market, the 2B or B2B2C model may develop faster.
When we discuss consumer-grade VR products, we often talk about the problem of its high price, especially when it can only be used to play games.But in Wang Congqing’s view, the current “price problem” is not as big as the “value problem”, and the application value of VR in 2B can cover its cost, so the price is not a problem.
For example, in the past two years, HTC has cooperated with Bell Helicopter. Through the immersive space design and virtual space product testing and collaboration provided by VIVE, the time to build a helicopter can be shortened from 6 years to 6 months, thus saving enterprisesMillions of dollars.From 2018, HTC will shift the focus of its VR business to the B-end market. By 2019, 70% of its business will be oriented to the B-end.
“At present, for all VR practitioners, whether it is a hardware vendor or a content vendor, basically 2C is just a dream.” Xie An bluntly said that now no one in the VR industry is successful in doing 2C, many of which are based on B2B2CMode is doing, with the help of B-end to allow consumers to experience and use products.
In the 2B market, VR/AR usually needs to be highly customized. Although there are characteristics of stable demand and early profitability, it also faces the difficulty of large-scale promotion.CITIC Securities believes that in the B-end market, education, training and marketing have a large market space and target users. The combination of VR/AR technology and vertical industries can solve some of the current pain points. The business model is relatively clear and will beFirst land.
IDC also pointed out that in business, training and collaboration are gaining more attention, and the five-year compound annual growth rate of the business field is expected to be 71.9%.
“As more and more companies use VR technology to promote various training programs, the interest in VR in the enterprise is also increasing.” Tom Mainelli, group vice president of consumer and device research at IDC, pointed out: “In addition to training employees to engage inIn addition to the typical examples of jobs involving expensive equipment or dangerous situations, we have also found that first-line business managers’ interest in using virtual reality for soft skills training has increased significantly.”
XR: The next technology vane
Although we used to discuss VR, AR and even MR separately in the past, we may only discuss XR (Extended Reality) in the future.XR can be understood as a general term for all VR, AR, MR and other “changeable reality” technologies.
On May 26, Qualcomm announced that it will launch XR Viewer head-mounted display products for consumers and enterprise users within the next year, in collaboration with global operators, smartphone manufacturers and VR/AR equipment manufacturers.As early as 2018, Qualcomm announced the launch of the XR dedicated development platform, and its chips have now iterated to the XR2 version.
XR Viewer will be able to connect to 5G mobile phones equipped with Qualcomm processors via USB Type-C, and mobile phone applications can be presented through AR, or through virtual collaboration platforms to achieve holographic remote presentation, aiming to change the form of work meetings.
It is expected that manufacturers including 3Glasses, iQiyi, Nreal, OPPO and Yingchuang Technology will provide XR wearable devices, while 5G mobile phones from manufacturers such as Asus, OnePlus, OPPO, Black Shark, vivo, Hammer and ZTE will support XRviewer.
Many operators around the world have also joined Qualcomm’s XR program. Fifteen operators including China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, LGUplus, and Softbank plan to launch XR Viewer terminal samples and put them into commercial use.
In addition, Huawei HiSilicon recently released the XR chip platform, and the successive entry of chip manufacturers is also expected to accelerate the development of the industry.
Apple’s AR/VR device may also be launched at the end of this year. Taiwan media quoted supply chain news that Apple will release Apple smart glasses at the same time as the 5G version of the iPhone is released at the end of this year.Terminal to use.
“Future XR glasses will not distinguish between AR and VR, but merge together. As long as you press a button, you can see a completely immersive picture. There is no time and space restrictions, and you can switch to the real world at any time.” XieAnn believes that when XR glasses become the solution for the next smartphone, we will be able to process emails, text messages, and socializing on these glasses without paying special attention to whether it is VR or AR.
5G and VR: Who is the party needed?
The epidemic has indeed increased the demand for VR, but the factor that can really push VR forward is probably the arrival of 5G.
However, the investment in 5G construction is huge. Operators are always most concerned about how to recover costs from consumers after billions of dollars are invested.
Referring to the experience of South Korea, South Korean operators are actively developing 5G special services, focusing on VR/AR and online games that can reflect the characteristics of 5G large bandwidth and low latency.Through cooperation with content providers, or direct investment in the production of content and other methods to obtain high-quality content resources to drive 4G users to upgrade to the Internet.
As of the end of 2019, South Korea had 4.7 million 5G users, accounting for only 6.8% of the total market, but the traffic consumption of these 5G users accounted for as high as 21% (of which VR/AR content has contributed to 5G 2 months before the 5G commercialAbout 20% of traffic).According to research data, in South Korea, the consumption of watching baseball games per hour is 4GB, the consumption of cloud games is 8GB per hour, and the consumption of VR/AR can reach 30GB per hour.
CITIC Securities believes that in China, VR is also expected to become the first 5G application scenario.In the 3G/4G era, operators mainly play the role of pipelines to provide networks; in the 5G era, the three major operators will gradually deepen their layout in the VR/AR-based content field.Whether it is the consumer market or the B2B/B2G market, the content around VR/AR is expected to bring new business opportunities for operators, so operators will also actively promote the development of VR/AR applications to attract users.
In fact, the current industry mentions more the concept of “double G” + VR.Dual G refers to 5G and gigabit bandwidth. 5G is mainly for outdoor mobile scenarios, that is, the wireless base station to the mobile terminal side, and Gigabit bandwidth + Wi-Fi6 is for indoor fixed scenarios.Latency issues.Together, the two provide better channels for VR/AR.
“Under the global 5G layout, telecom operators are actively seeking solutions for VR, and we are the solution to the packages, so in the past period, we are actively deploying virtual people, visual effects products, and virtual film libraries.Etc.” Xie An said that the epidemic has brought more demand to the industry, and the government’s promotion of 5G has just opened the imagination of the entire XR ecosystem.
Although what we can do in the VR world is still very limited, for VR, now may be the best era, equipment manufacturers, content providers, chip manufacturers and telecommunications companies join hands, may be able to turn on the smartphoneBrand new era.
“AR and VR Headsets Will See Shipments Decline in the Near Term Due to COVID-19, But Long-term Outlook Is Positive, According to IDC”
CITIC Construction Investment Research Report “VR/AR, Dare to Ask Where Is the Way”: http://pdf.dfcfw.com/pdf/H3_AP201911281371232540_1.PDF