Buckle up for the next big thing: this summer’s Olympic Games will showcase the groundbreaking phenomenon of Virtual Reality to the general public. So fasten your seatbelts and put your goggles on!
Virtual Reality enhances the experience of the viewer in an unprecedented way. The spectator is immersed in the virtualized reality of the match, race, or contest that’s been recorded with special state of the art equipment – making VR 3D with the turbo on. You are not just looking at Usain Bolt – the fastest sprinter in the world – you feel like you are him, sprinting to another gold medal.
The Olympic Games will be the first global mass event that will broadcast VR-like recordings. While the availability of VR technology will be limited to a few select contests, it does represent a defining moment for how people might view sports and entertainment in the future. The Rio VR recordings will be streamed live, but due to time differences the main consumption – which is in Asia – will be on demand.
The promises of VR in general are immense; it is expected to be the next big thing that will eventually outshine cloud, Big Data and Internet of Things all together. To get a feeling of the impact of this industry, just follow the money. In the first quarter of 2016, about $2 billion has been invested in Silicon Valley alone. The first Unicorns (companies that are valued over $1 billion) have emerged already: Magic Leap, Oculus, Blippar, MindMaze and Jaunt.
Often, new technologies are associated with high costs and that is true for producing VRs. Special recording devices – such as 360 camera’s and 3d sound systems – are needed. The creating of a VR also needs the skills of a highly specialized professional – which of course only adds to the bill.
But it’s different this time for the consumer. Google CardBoard, the add-on for smartphones, is available for less than $15. A European retailer, Albert Heijn, sells plastic VR glasses for about $8 in their groceries. And the cardboard version costs less than $3. These contraptions work with most smartphone brands – but of course the VR experience will be limited to the sight and sound your smartphone has to offer. You need to pay much more for devices that have more VR capabilities to have a more enhanced and sophisticated experience.
Nevertheless, there are other major costs that must be taken into account, and those are the infrastructure costs. The existing hardware and services for networking, clouds, and storage are currently not dimensioned to handle the boost in data volumes that the everyday use of VR on a massive, global scale will bring about in a few years.
VR will challenge data infrastructures to the max, as huge volumes of data will be exchanged that are much bigger than we are used to. One minute VR data is at least 10 times larger than the same minute of traditional video. Cloud, Content Delivery Networks and data centres are essential to offer the necessary speed, connectivity and data storage capabilities that are needed to stream and distribute the footage – both live and on demand. Low-latency, high-bandwidth connections up to the VR device of the consumer are mission-critical and multiplayer VR games and simulations will only add to the requirements.
Connectivity is the main bottleneck. For that reason, it is interesting to follow the investments in cable connections that the internet giants such as Google and Microsoft are making – as well as the carriers and teleco’s. It’s also interesting to look into the efforts that the mobile communication players put in upgrading their networks to G4+ and G5 standards. All parties seem to be involved in a race to facilitate the growing VR experience.
One thing is for certain: VR will not be limited to Business-to-Consumer initiatives such as OS2016. What’s more, B2B is leading the way in quite a few interesting projects in Health, Science and Education.
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