What can we expect from virtual and augmented reality in 2019?

Last year, after a long stretch of continuous coverage, the media suddenly lost interest in AR, VR and virtual reality marketing. Technology news was everywhere, but between the end of net neutrality, the decline of Bitcoin, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), growing excitement about 5G, a slew of cybersecurity and data privacy scandals, and the dawning comprehension that social media has fundamentally altered our social landscape, there wasn’t much time to discusses immersive tech.

Maybe that’s for the best. Magic Leap’s lackluster debut might have been the biggest AR/VR story of 2018, and all that did was yank augmented reality from the peak of inflated expectations to the bottom of the trough of disillusionment. The hype surrounding immersive technology has subsided and expectations are low. Nobody believes AR or VR will “go mainstream” this year.

As a producer of augmented and virtual reality marketing products we couldn’t be happier with the current state of affairs. For the first time in half a decade the AR/VR industry isn’t shouldered with unrealistic expectations. The world’s backs are turned. Developers and content creators have a chance to improve user experiences, leverage new technologies, foster business relationships, and figure out how AR and VR fit into consumers’ lives. Immersive tech finally has an opportunity to overachieve.

Virtual reality, in particular, is poised for a comeback. After a period of stagnation, a wave of new technology is ready to hit the market.

Oculus’s latest headset, Quest, is the result of years of development at Facebook. It’s wireless but expected to deliver high-end resolution and six degrees of freedom tracking. Importantly, it will retail for the relatively affordable price of $400 USD. It’s also expected to come equipped with more than 50 games, an important feature considering virtual reality’s serious content gap.

HTC is expected to launch two new headsets this year, the Vive Cosmos and the Vive Pro Eye.

The Cosmos is HTC’s bid for a mainstream headset. “VIVE COSMOS will offer absolute comfort, easy set up, & will require no external tracking,” the company promised on Twitter. “COSMOS allows you to enjoy VR at home or on-the-go.” No release date or pricing information have been announced.

The Vive Pro Eye is HTC’s latest contribution to the high-end headset market. Pricing information hasn’t been released for this model either, but it won’t be as affordable as Cosmos or Quest. With the Vive Pro Eye, HTC hopes to win consumers with performance: the headset promises higher-quality VR experiences through innovative eye-tracking technology.

Beyond the new headsets, VR companies will continue to find success in lucrative niches like hospitality and tourism, where virtual reality marketing experiences have gained traction, and VR training, which has been lauded as a low-risk, cost-effective solution for large companies.

The outlook on the AR side is slightly less rosy. A handful of prominent startups recently shuttered their doors thanks to, as Engineering.com puts it, “exhausted hype, overpromising, underdelivering and a reaction to market volatility between China and the US.” In other words, AR is experiencing now what VR experienced several years ago.

However, developments in the wider tech world should help the remaining AR firms succeed in 2019. The rise of 5G wireless technology and progress in artificial intelligence will enable better graphics and more seamless controls in AR and VR experiences. We may even see some AR-enabled smart glasses hit the wearables market.

If 2019 becomes a setback for augmented reality, it is unlikely to endure. The technology simply has too much potential to be sidelined for long.

In summary, 2019 should be a resurgent year for virtual reality and virtual reality marketing; a quiet year in AR; and another transformative 12 months for the tech world in general.


Image credit: future.world/Flickr