Whilst not quite a global phenomenon just yet, virtual reality is experiencing a global movement. From Australia to China, to Canada and The Netherlands; creators, innovators, and developers are forming VR hubs and creative centres with a hive of VR content creation and uncovering of VR use cases. And investors and tech giants have been some of the first to take note with $2 billion invested in AR/VR in the 12 months leading to July 2016.
The killer VR app or use case may not have been uncovered or made headlines in 2016, but there is more happening in VR hubs around the world than many may think. So, where are these nerve centres for VR innovation, and which of these has the potential to be the VR capital of the world?
The real growth of VR skills and specialism
VR skills and expertise are increasingly in demand and not just in the developer and 3D visualiser spaces – vacancies in strategy, marketing and programme management are increasing monthly on global job boards such as LinkedIn and Indeed. But VR roles are not a 2017 emergence.
According to LinkedIn (see below), the top 10 countries with LinkedIn profiles featuring ‘virtual reality’ total nearly 100,000 profiles. And that excludes China (which will likely be down to language). Unsurprisingly, as an established global tech hub, the United States leads the field. However, there are some surprising countries in the top ten including Canada (5, 343), France (3, 922) and the Netherlands (3, 958). Considering the population sizes and relative GDP, the Netherlands, in particular, stands out:
The world’s interest in VR peaks
Over the past few years, VR interest had remained in niche gaming and research realms. Looking at Google Trend results for the term ‘virtual reality’, reveals a global surge in interest in all things VR from the latter part of 2015:
There were the inevitable end of year articles on tech predictions for the year ahead and some notable headline stories including Jaunt VR and ABC’s virtual foray into North Korea, which would explain the late 2015 pique in interest. But the continued and exponential rise of interest in VR throughout 2016, signals a thirst for education and information on VR. Perhaps not a critical mass, but certainly unprecedented.
Major virtual reality announcements in 2016:
- the release of Google’s Daydream VR platform
- Sony PlayStation’s VR headset launch
- upgrades from HMD heavyweights Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
- Jaguar I-Pace launch in VR
However, it will be content that continues to fuel the interest in VR beyond the tech and gaming communities. As VR entertainment experiences and business and education use cases develop, the domino effect of consumer and business interest will grow. There is a clear need (and opportunity) for the VR community to educate and provide clarity on the broad virtual reality space in the months and year to come.
Emergence of VR epicentres
Despite the United States being at the forefront of VR investment, there is little indication that the U.S. market is ready for mainstream adoption of VR for both personal and business use. China meanwhile, has all the hallmarks of being the first major market to see a widespread adoption of VR.
According to analysts Canalys, almost a quarter of virtual reality headsets sold in 2016 will have been to China. What’s China doing right to get VR hardware sales up and content consumption going? It’s bringing VR to the high street and ensuring VR experiences are affordable. How? With VR experience cafes and VR Pods – tapping into the potential of the mobile VR mass market. According to the Economist, China has over 100, 000 internet cafes offering VR experiences for just a few dollars. Bringing VR experiences to the market in engaging and accessible ways – as China is doing – is crucial to VR adoption by both businesses and consumers.
Elsewhere, the Netherlands is ploughing resource and effort into the content creation side of virtual reality. The VR scene in both Amsterdam and Eindhoven, in particular, is home to a growing number of VR content creators for the commercial and consumer sectors. Eindhoven is home to Enversed – cited as Europe’s largest VR centre, and Amsterdam opened the world’s first permanent VR cinema.
Daniël ‘Kip’ Doornink, is the Dutchman behind VR Base, a Dutch VR community group and founded Dutch VR Days back in 2014: “You want big VCs investing in European VR companies. Now they are not interested in Europe. There isn’t really a market and there isn’t really a business model. So you need venture capital. Europe is risk averse compared to the US and Asia. That’s because the scene is diffuse, it consists of tiny islands. We want to make one big hub to make it interesting for capital to flow to Europe.”1
Looking at the statistics in terms of job roles, Google trends and the hive of activity in the Netherlands VR startup investment scene, it’s worth keeping an eye on Dutch VR content creation.
Will the world embrace virtual reality in 2017?
That’s a question that was asked last year, and the year before that. It all depends on how you measure and why. Ultimately, innovation in virtual reality is happening at a furious pace and the market is being defined and redefined and, at times, blurred with augmented reality and mixed reality. What’s clear is that these innovations are happening in hardware – making VR more affordable, and in VR content creation – making VR more appealing and valuable.
These innovations alone, won’t be key to VR becoming an everyday technology. The key will lie in market education, understanding and value creation. That is the area that VR companies of all flavours and from around the globe, will need to increasingly focus on.
So, absolutely bolster that CV with VR experience as the job creation is happening and increasing. And if you want to be at the centre of VR adoption or content creation, make sure your filters include China and the Netherlands.
1 Quote from ‘How Amsterdam wants to become Europe’s VR capital – Startupjunction.com.