There was a time when mentioning the term ‘virtual reality’ would cause a few to chuckle. After all, the hype surrounding virtual reality not matching expectations back in the ’90s had caused the technology to acquire the label of ‘fad’. However, today virtual reality is having the last laugh with the technology receiving serious attention from big names like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, with its applications extending far beyond gaming and entertainment.
Right now, a stage has been reached where products for the creation and consumption of content related to virtual reality has become commercially viable. One of the effects of this has been the adoption of technology as a promotional and advertising tool by marketers for connecting with audiences using immersive experiences. It is such applications and possibilities of virtual reality that has earned it the attention of big players.
Besides virtual reality, another closely related technology that is receiving a lot of attention is augmented reality. Augmented reality is often mistaken to be virtual reality, but there are many important differences. While virtual reality takes the user to a virtual environment where they are so immersed that the real world is ‘blocked out’, augmented reality does not block out the real world but, simply serves as an overlay. This means that using augmented reality, you will able to see digital information or virtual objects ‘over’ the real world. An example of an augmented reality device is Google Glass.
Another cousin of virtual reality (and of augmented reality) is a mixed reality, and an example of a mixed reality device is Microsoft’s HoloLens. One of the main reasons why virtual reality and augmented reality have been receiving so much attention recently is the high amount of money that has been invested in products related to these technologies. While Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus is well-known, many may not be aware of the $2.4 million that had been raised by Oculus with a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign before the acquisition – this was phenomenal because the actual goal was only $250,000! This served as a powerful indicator of great interest in the VR development of high-quality virtual reality.
Besides Facebook, another big name that has invested greatly in virtual reality is Google. In 2014, a round of investment in Magic Leap (a company that was working on computer vision- and augmented reality-related projects), amounting to $542 million, was led by Google. Besides Magic Leap, numerous other companies working on projects related to immersive technology also received huge investments. This just goes to show the level of confidence that big names like Google and Facebook have in virtual reality.
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