Virtual Reality Technologies: What to Expect in the Foreseeable Future?

Dmitry Statovski, CEO of 1Reality

As of now, augmented reality (AR) is in huge demand in such fields as advertising, education, tourism and event-management. The outlook for this industry is quite clear – just think about how many specialists are joining the field. About 70% of people in AR and VR haved worked in the field for less than a year, and only 8% of developers have more than 5 years of work experience. As for investment appeal, the amount of field-oriented investment funds speaks for itself. Eight years ago there were only a few such funds in the world – now there are over three hundred, and Russia is in a way the basis for the industry, as many of our developers supply foreign markets with VR-content.

During the last five years, about 5 billion dollars was invested into VR technologies. For instance, there is the VR-Tech fund in Russia that has been buying out whole project teams, many of which participate and win some of the best VR competitions on a regular basis. There hasn’t been anything like a huge breakthrough in Russia yet, not to mention the sales, but we can expect this in the nearest future.

VR has been a topic for many recent forums. In St. Petersburg, there are many VR-related events, some have governmental support. On September 3rd we are going to gather all representatives of the market for the Unreal Fest, officially supported by the Committee for Industrial Policy and Innovations. This will be an attempt to consolidate the field’s leading players, and predict its future. We also want to familiarize potential customers with VR technology. By the way, we are really thankful to Pokemon Go: all this media attention has been good for the industry. A couple of years like this, and VR technologies will be on everyone’s lips, not just amongst business people. As for the ambiguous attitude towards VR technologies that has been developing due to the fuss around Pokemon Go, it resembles the same situation with computer games a few years back. The issue of the safety of VR technologies when used by children should be the concern of parents, not manufacturers.

Dmitry Kirillov, CEO of VRARlab

How to apply these technologies to something other than entertainment? We have developed a training simulator that improves different aspects of memory and creative thinking. At the beginning of the year, we conducted a lot of research including 125 volunteers split into three groups: a control group, a group using VR and a group using our product without VR.

The results showed that VR offers an effective way of perceiving information, and can be used to train human intelligence, develop its particular aspects. In August we are going to open a new educational platform to test some of our theories. This platform will be focused on maintaining distributed communication between people from all over the world, and visualizing the places and subjects they are talking about. This will prove really effective when used in education: the children will be able to see the nature of things, to look inside the atom, for example. VR can be used in classrooms or for distance education, by transferring people into a virtual space where they will interact with other real people. This can also be used to train people for public appearances by modelling different situations.

When talking about monetization of these technologies, we have to consider two aspects: firstly, business and secondly, consumers. In some areas monetization is already underway: we work with different corporations that are set on training their employees. Big corporations can make use of VR when adopting a new employee to his workplace – with VR, one can wander the virtual halls of a facility without being a nuisance to anyone.

The market of b2c offers other, more long-term investments. Its dynamics are growing due to the sales of Samsung GearVR – they have been increasing twofold almost every month. As soon as Google Daydream and Huawei VR are released, the situation will change dramatically. Nowadays, cellphone manufacturers show great interest in selling products that support VR technologies, and add VR gear for free.

Denis Stolyarov, ITMO’s Design and Multimedia Center’s senior engineer

In the next 5-10 years we’ll be witnessing  the “coming of a new era” – the rapid development of virtual reality. We’ve already had some positive experience of working with state institutions, even with seemingly buttoned down ones like museums. We’re currently starting a big project with the Hermitage – using a VR headset, a person can access the areas that are generally off-limits to the public. There is also a VR project about the Hermitage cats, their daily life at the museum, and one that allows to see the famous Peacock Clock in action. We’ve also launched a project with the Solovetsky Monastery. Actually, the monks there enjoy using VR-gadgets.

The modern progress of VR technologies is irreversible: a new generation is growing up, children who use IPads from birth and understand such technologies intuitively. VR is no longer the technology of tomorrow – it’s today’s reality, and we have to live with it.

Maksim Nikonov, technical director and filmmaker for the LenVR film studio

We live during a time when new, completely different things come into our life. The film industry is a part of this process, and filmmakers implement these new technologies into their work. This has a great impact on filmmaking, on the perception of this art. The viewer can now completely immerse himself in the picture, feel it as though it is all happening to him.

Our studio works on different projects – from fictional and interactive movies to music videos and documentaries. There are still only a few films using VR-technologies, but the subject is already of interest in Hollywood. There haven’t been any feature-length movies yet, but the process is already in action. And that is great, because this field offers great opportunities for research.

VR “teleports” a person to a different environment, so the viewer feels himself completely immersed in what’s happening – which is why we wanted to try putting him into some remote, hard-to-reach territory. Regretfully, one of such projects – an interactive film about Chernobyl – could not gather enough funds on Boomstarter and is currently frozen. Now we’ve switched to “Elborus”, a documentary we’ll be starting in a few days’ time. We want the viewer to have a feel of some stunning, picturesque and hard-to-get place where only few will ever travel. At the same time, we are working on a feature-length movie – the project is waiting to be approved by the Ministry of Culture.

As for the safety of VR-technologies, I believe that when one tries to prohibit everything new, one stops progressing. It all depends on upbringing, on our attitude – not towards technology only, but towards the world in general.