CVR 2017 Puts Consumer Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality on Display in Vancouver

CVR 2017 took place over the weekend in Vancouver, showcasing a host of virtual and augmented reality companies and thought leaders from prominent organizations in science, transportation, media, among many others.

This is the second year for the conference that bills itself as “the premier event to experience ground breaking new virtual and augmented reality technology.”  CVR is produced by Vancouver-based VR studio Archiact.

The Industry Day, designated for investors and potential clients, featured an array of experts discussing the state of the industry and applications being explored at companies such as CNN Digital, Delta Air Lines, and Google.  The event opened with keynotes from Evelyn Miralles, a NASA virtual reality pioneer and Lead VR Innovator at the Virtual Reality Lab Astronaut Training Facility, and Tom Emrich, founder of WeAreWearables and partner in augmented reality incubator Super Ventures.

Miralles was not the only NASA-connected individual in the room on Friday.  One exhibitor, Melbourne-based Opaque Media,  was invited to NASA last year to showcase their VR game Earthlight, which “immerses players in the journey of becoming an astronaut”, bringing them aboard the International Space Station (ISS).  NASA provided the developers with access to astronauts and reference materials tin order o recreate the ISS environment in an immersive environment.

Gaming companies, featuring exhibits with 360 degree immersion, represented the largest proportion of organizations at CVR, though companies developing immersive environments for film, real estate, and design were present as well.

For instance, Archiact displayed Schema, a virtual reality design and building application for architects.  Using Schema, architects, immersed together in one environment, can rapidly prototype ideas at the concept phase by viewing and interacting with three-dimensional structures.

Another exhibit featured software development studio Radical I/O and Perspective Films, a production agency that creates 360-degree video for virtual reality.   The two have partnered to bring immersive filmed experience to the BeThere360 app, which is branded as a customizable VR application for businesses using virtual reality for branding. A prominent client, the Vancouver Canucks, uses the service to enable season tickets holders to gain immersive on-ice experiences though a headset during Canucks events, such as the skills competition.

While VR is not new, the excitement for enterprise and consumer-facing VR has been rising.  Even while VR and AR funding and deal flow have slowed in the first quarter of 2017 after a record 2016, the conviction that virtual reality will be the next dominant platform remains.

In spite of a slowdown in investment (which can in part be attributed to distortion from a mammoth $793.5 million Series C for mixed reality company Magic Leap in Q1 2016), global revenues generated from VR are projected to continue to rise dramatically this year.  IDC expects worldwide 2017 revenues from AR/VR to rise 130% over last year to $13.9 billion.

With use cases piling up, and the behemoths of tech investing heavily in AR/VR, there are claims that the VR hardware and applications will become ubiquitous – essentially the smartphone of tomorrow.  Three years ago, after Facebook purchased Oculus Rift for $2 billion, Mark Zuckerberg explained his vision for how immersive virtual experiences will become “daily life for billions of people”.

While hype builds about VR being the platform of the future, it now may be a closer analog to the Internet in the mid-nineties.  Even Zuckerberg imagines it will be at least a decade before virtual reality becomes mass market.