ImmerseUK – from Silicon Valley to the Year Ahead
What a roller coaster the last few weeks have been. Since the launch of Immerse UK, the new network for the UK immersive technology sector, just two months ago, we have grown to a 400+ strong membership and generated unprecedented levels of representation and support from a wide range of UK industries, universities and public bodies.
With continued support from Innovate UK, we have run a knowledge-sharing event with Rolls-Royce on how innovations are shaping the aviation sector, a round table with Holovis on connected and autonomous vehicles and our first members’ meeting in December, in which participants helped shape the future priorities for Immerse UK.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to participate on a DIT AR/VR Mission to San Francisco. I was there to let West Coast businesses know about the level of R&D and creative development in AR/VR happening in the UK across multiple sectors, from automotive to retail and gaming to entertainment, and to let people know about Immerse UK as a focal point for immersive technologies in this country.
Over the course of four intense days we attended a networking event at the Consul General’s Residence, and made site visits across San Francisco and Silicon Valley, including ILMxLab, Jaunt VR, Immersion, Oculus, plus a briefing from Magic Leap. And then we had two days at the VRX 2016 conference.
A common observation at the VRX conference was that the VR market was some way off any real scale or viability – somewhere between 3 to 5 years – and in fact 2017 may even see a slump. At present, hardware sales are not growing fast enough, due to a combination of cost, content and user experience. No content has yet driven everyday usage or consistently overcome the barriers to use, such as fears about isolation and sickness. A limited market means a limited investment in content, and vice-versa.
In the short-term, the strategy for market entrants is likely to be one of ‘survival’ and a focus on continuing work for hire, refining the product and building metrics. Consolidation in the marketplace over the period 2017-2020 is also expected. In this period, the most interesting opportunity (and cited as the biggest growth area) is likely to be the industrial application of AR/VR and cross-sector B2B enterprises. However, in Silicon Valley, there is currently no mechanism for cross-sector engagement and bridging the gap to other industries such as healthcare, defence and construction.
It is clear that one of the UK’s strengths is that we are already one step ahead of the game in establishing Immerse UK and hence becoming the global leader in the application of immersive technologies. In the words of Hervé
Fontaine, Vice President Virtual Reality B2B and Business Development at HTC
Vive from HTC Vive: “Immerse UK is only a few months old and has worked very fast to put together the right partners and ecosystem to promote professional VR in the UK. HTC Vive is very happy to be part of the team to drive adoption of VR in enterprise in the UK”
And 2017 is already shaping up to be a busy year ahead. At the meeting in December, members agreed on four working groups which will deliver specific plans for the coming year: Access to Finance and Funding; Mapping Immersive Activities in the UK; Content, Production and User Experience; Connecting Industry and Academia. If you’d like to get involved in any of these, then do please get in touch.
Forthcoming events include the IET’s Applied Visualisation Forum on Jan 26 and we are supporting the new Realities Centre EdTech Conference on Jan 19. We are looking forward to an Immerse UK panel session and networking event at the Virtual Reality Show, April 20-22. More Immerse UK events are scheduled for April and May on topics such as access to venture capital funding, immersive audio and immersive technologies in the construction sector. We are also planning our next members’ meeting in Manchester in April 2017, with more details to be available on immerseuk.org.
Immerse UK is free to join and members can participate in all of the events mentioned above and the four working groups. Registration is simple; anyone with an interest in immersive technologies can sign up here. At the KTN, in collaboration with Innovate UK and our membership, we look forward to supporting and growing the UK’s immersive technology sector and paving the way for new ideas, innovations and collaborations throughout the course of 2017.