VR and AR markets have tremendous potential. There is absolutely no doubt in it. In 2021, they are among the top lucrative investment opportunities worldwide, and for a good reason. Year-by-year the industry is growing not in steps but leaps. The latest hardware developments allow virtual reality to appear in every home, and augmented reality to assist in every aspect of our everyday lives. The tech giants like Google, Apple, and lately Facebook have already started the war over buyers, and the battles will get only more implicit and inveterate this year. Whether you are in the VR and AR development business or just a fan of the latest technological advancements, knowing what trends to expect this year can help you get ahead of the competition or pre-order to get a better price. So let’s take a look at the top 25 trends for the mixed reality industry in 2021.
Hardware/Software for Extended Reality Technology
VR hardware has been known since 1985 when Jaron Lanier and Thomas Zimmerman released their first VR goggles and gloves. The line of products was limited and extremely expensive. Since then, the industry has undergone a considerable transformation. 2021 is all about the mass production of virtual reality headsets, consoles, and solutions. Availability, approachability, and affordability are the main VR trends for the upcoming year. Superdata reports that the industry increases by 30% in revenue year-by-year, so the tendency is expected to keep up.
Besides mass production, let’s see which new arrivals will reinvent the market this year.
- Facebook will rule the world of VR in 2021. The company is aggressively developing new content and hardware; it invests in new projects and heavily occupies the market. The latest release of Oculus Quest 2 will revolutionize the mass market of VR hardware because it is all in one – a perfect combination of price and value.
- Rumors about AR headsets and glasses will go deeper in 2021. After Qualcomm’s announcement about the development of many XR devices and Google’s merger with NORTH, we can only hope that this year the AR headsets can become the actual tangible reality. Add to that the trending cooperation of Nreal and Vodafone, and you get the picture of the projects’ scope.
- Unreal Engine 5 release is planned for spring of 2021. This technology will revolutionize the way developers create VR experiences. The two leading solutions are Nantine (for micro geometric details) and Lumen (smart illumination solution that instantly reacts to the scene light change).
- NVIDIA has recently announced the release of the GeForce RTX 30 laptops. They would be the fastest and most convenient laptops existing in the current market for both gamers and game developers. New graphics cards and state-of-the-art processors will boost laptop performance already in late February.
- 5G technological standard for the network is supposed to revolutionize experience within virtual and augmented worlds. Faster reaction time and hence faster visualization in a game or app should provide a more immersive and smooth experience to the VR/AR users in 2021.
Of course, there are also expectations that the mobile VR world will get closer to the masses, and new solutions would battle DESTEK V4 or VR PRO BNext as the leaders of affordable VR. But so far, the horizon is clear, and the world is waiting for the next hero to come.
VR Trends in Education
The leading experimenters in the industry knew – VR is the future, so virtual reality in education has a long-lasting presence here. Today, besides working towards opening new departments and classes for VR application development, many schools like Oxford University or Emporia State University stepped on the path of progress and introduced the headsets to the students.
Education is one of the leading development directions for VR because the market is expected to expand to a $700 million industry in just four years. Besides that, 97% of students in both secondary and high education are willing to take courses with VR headsets. Seven out of ten teachers are ready for the implementation of relevant VR simulations during their classes. Since demand begets supply, the UK educators (9/10) believe that the new trend will seamlessly incorporate into the traditional teaching methods in the upcoming decade, and the beginning of this comes today.
AR apps for remote education
In 2020, educational institutions suffered one of the worst hits due to the pandemic. Isolation of students in their homes and teachers’ inability to expressively lead their classes will probably be accounted for in a couple of years. However, new technological advancements like augmented reality have helped a lot with overcoming the home-based schooling difficulties for many learners.
An example of such a technology is Ai.R-Cord, an app that provides augmented images of planets and people to promote three-dimensional thinking among young children. The potential of such applications has taken off and will continue to rise this year. Applications for young children that help with staying focused and working on school-related matters will thrive in 2021. Augmented space with the options to enlarge an object, rotate it to inspect all the angles and see its 3D models significantly facilitates learning of the complex and new notions. And considering that augmented apps can be used on most modern phones and tablets, this trend will be accessible to many home-schooled children, which is one of the top priorities for the upcoming year.
Accessibility in education through VR
Accessibility in education has also been on the radar of many teachers. More and more children require alternative teaching methods during their studies. For instance, dyslexic students need more visuals, while visually impaired pupils seek more audio-based content for their studies. The virtual reality of 2021 can deliver both and even more.
Every VR game developer supplies its app with sounds, music, or voice-over text, and 2021 will bring more accent on the latter. The voice-over text in VR applications will work like the well-known screen readers or audio description to ‘subtitle’ all the app’s visual elements. In this way, students with any kind of visual impairment will be able to stick to the studies at all times and comprehend the material easier. With such technologies, the distance learning trend would also have little effect since technologies like Google Cardboard can be used even in a home-based environment. At the same time, VR designers will also plan on more involvement of specified color pallets for applications of different purposes, for instance:
- simple and pale colors for hyperactive students to promote relaxation;
- brighter and stronger colors for children suffering from varying levels of color-blindness;
- bolder colors for younger learners;
- close-to-real-life shades for the adult students.
Careful selection of colors can significantly simplify the teaching process and assist students with everyday learning struggles. So moving through 2021, any VR development company aiming for the educational sector needs to carefully approach their product, ensuring that it is accessible for every student in any environment (teacher-controlled at school or self-study at home).
Retail & Marketing Virtual Reality in 2021
Both retail and marketing fields are about telling a story. Marketing’s story is about heating one’s interest in a product; retail’s story leads to a direct sell. Stories can be told orally; that’s how the industries worked in the past. Today mass digitalization completely changes the way retail and marketing work. Consumers see more than 5,000 ads and spend online more than four hours a day. So for retail companies to get noticed, they need out-of-the-box solutions. And this is where AR and VR experiences step in.
63% of shoppers believe that mixed reality solutions are about to change their behavior and shopping routine due to a more personalized approach and greater engagement in the process. The truth is that retail and marketing have unlimited options of VR implementation, so let’s limit each industry to the most tangible and probable trends for 2021.
- New means and methods: The AR masks on Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram will be employed more vigorously in 2021. Mask filters turn marketing into fun for clients and a viral advertising strategy for the experts. Such campaigns are short considering that public interest doesn’t last more than a couple of weeks; however, a good VR/AR app development company can make lots of them in a short time, which is extremely beneficial for marketers.
- Expansion of advertising into VR games is also a definite trend. VR developers need to earn a living by selling ad spots and promoting in-app purchases. If you are a VR developer seeking ideas, make sure to leave some advertisement spots in the game to cover the expenses.
- VR for empathy. Marketing is essential not only for sales but also for non-profit organizations and foundations. 75% of young adults are willing to donate/raise money for a good cause, and Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab discovered that VR could help increase empathy towards a subject. Implementation of this technology in 2021 can become a real boon for nonprofits and charities.
- Virtual environments gained their spot in 2020 once the lockdowns hit the world. While concerts are being repeatedly postponed, ticket offices continue selling tickets to new events. VR and AR can help buyers understand the actual experience of a show from every seat in a hall, helping them select the most suitable place for the event. While so far only StubHub introduced the idea, it surely will get more adoptions while COVID-19 is roaring in the market.
- Predictions and analysis are an indispensable part of any marketing campaign. VR headsets in a store lure new customers, at least for the sake of trying new technology. So many stores will simply introduce a VR headset as an advertising hook. Yet, the smart businesses cooperate with developers to offer some store-related VR experience, then monitor the choices consumers make, and by analyzing them, create greater offers to match the market need. Considering the losses of 2020 and the hopes for 2021, predictions and analysis will definitely be adopted across all market parts.
- Brand engagement is a continuation of the previous point. Businesses can easily attract customers into their shops, stores, and locations with VR. These can be small simulations where VR development cost is low and affordable. Yet, a funny and interactive experience can smooth over waiting time in a line or promote a particular location among potential and existing clients. The engagement and unexpected perk are a perfect marketing strategy for any business: from a cell-phone store to a local cafe and even a mall.
- Try-before-you-buy has been a part of the retail industry for a long time. Brands offer customers to try on clothes in AR in-store mirrors and introduce “try me” features in online stores. But larger brands are already moving further with the mixed reality trend – they offer apps (which works like a mask) to try new items in their collection. Considering that most of the retail happens online this year, apps with AR will give potential buyers greater freedom in trying on things while sitting at home.
- Virtual makeovers entered the market in 2018, but again, the pandemic made retailers work harder with VR/AR developers to make the experience more convenient. AR apps help with trying on different make-ups, re-furnishing one’s home, trying out new clothes. This trend will grow exponentially because there is not much hope for the complete reopening of the stores this year.
- In-store instructions have also become a fascinating trend. Lowe’s VR experience allows customers to try out home tooling and watch tutorials on their correct use. This trend does not involve people’s interaction with each other, which is a valuable advantage during the pandemic. Such stations can significantly simplify tool shopping and also promote healthy distancing this year.
Virtual reality app development for retail training
As a continuation of the previous trend, we wanted to focus on retail training in mode detail. Virtual reality technology offers an immersive experience to the trainees, putting them under the same amount of stress and chaos as in real rush-hours. For example, Walmart has been using VR apps for Black Friday staff training. Their goal was to ensure that every employee knows their location and duties, can handle the pressure from the shoppers, and also keeps the safety regulations in action at all times. VR mapping of real-life situations allows staff to familiarize themselves with the extreme work-related situations, get used to them, and then act naturally during the actual hot times in a store. Owing to the promotion of mass-produced VR headsets, this trend for VR training is expected to peak in 2021, especially in the big corporate world.
Mixed reality in Gaming and Other Fields
The gaming world in virtual reality will be getting back from its setback in 2020, and this is its top goal and trend for the upcoming 11 months. The industry suffered losses due to the broken supply chains and the lack of hardware for sale. Yet, in the past year, a notable trend for VR gaming emerged – the social aspect. VR games usually remain the means of entertainment. Players wear VR headsets and get transferred to a reality where there is no job, no problems, just a goal to kill zombies, build an empire, or just grow a pet. However, in the conditions of the pandemic, VR games started occupying the greater audience and markets:
- Remote working
- Skill development (painting, dancing, singing, etc.)
In 2021, everyone expects this segment of VR apps to expand even further. The mass production of hardware will assist with this trend, bringing virtual and augmented reality into more homes, schools, and institutions. Should you be considering your first startup VR project, think of selecting one of these alternative options to find your niche and occupy it once and for all.
Virtual reality will continue to find its new implementation in new strategic places like indoor navigation. The traditional GPS systems still fail to navigate inside buildings, which is a huge problem particularly for the military sector. Yet, VR in navigation is an excellent opportunity for large shopping malls and entertainment centers (besides the military) to help visitors find their way around. It is expected that with the upcoming updates of ARKit and ARCore, the indoor navigation will get further applications in real life.
The travel industry will also employ the benefits of virtual reality at greatest. Travel agencies and websites will be implementing VR tours of the destinations to give their travelers a better understanding of a hotel or the selected location (statistics say that 40% of travelers are now willing to see and try before they buy a tour). At the same time, local tourist offices are already working on implementing AR maps of the area to assist newcomers with navigation on isolated islands and vast territories.
Manufacturing businesses urgently implement VR and AR technologies through the business verticals. On-site employees receive VR training sessions before beginning to operate forklifts and other warehouse machinery. The promising statistics (37% fewer accidents after VR training) assures increased interest in the technology. In the meantime, augmented reality models have been frequently used for remote assistance when technicians could not leave their homes or country due to the COVID. The augmented model of the non-working components helped resolve production issues 64% faster than phone/video-conference calls, so they probably will become more widespread in the industry.
The world of entertainment will slowly but confidently be moving into the virtual space. In the past year, Balenciaga presented its fashion show in VR. Lil Nas X and Travis Scott worked together with an app developer in Singapore to transform their music concerts into VR games; they then sold tickets to the event and basically held virtual musical events in a virtual reality setting. This year the transition will go further: more social events, due to the lack of physical viewers, might get moved to VR. Conferences and workshops are also expected to boost their presence in VR considering that technology can offer a wide range of extra perks, such as:
- Safe attendance for as many visitors as needed
- Greater audience engagement
- Viral promotional campaign for the event
- Mood control through detailed development of the virtual setting
- Perfect product demonstrations and even try-outs
- Overall gamification of the boring conference parts
We expect to see significant interest in the VR conference support in 2021 and are ready to accept the challenges!
Trends for an AR VR Development Company
We could not let you go without a couple of trends that particularly interest developers of the mixed reality industry. The 5K/8K video quality is already here, so at SwagSoft, we have already started experimenting with the technology to guarantee that our products deliver the highest product quality to our clients and their end-users. The 5K videos in tandem with the UE5 release can offer significantly better video quality hence increasing the truthfulness of the experience within the world of virtual reality headsets.
We also know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology will be heavily adopted in developing augmented reality apps. AI allows delivering more realistic data on the surrounding world, which is extremely valuable for augmented reality applications’ accuracy. Our AR Team used machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies while developing a solution for BMW, so we are eager to see the new opportunities of blending both technologies in 2021.
2021 is a very promising year for mixed reality. The wider field of applications will further promote the use of technology, guaranteeing a smooth transition into virtual reality at the mass market. The hardware market is hoped to deliver enough headsets to satisfy the growing need for VR in manufacturing, education, retail, entertainment, marketing, and gaming. SwagSoft in 2021 is ready for every challenge because only after the complex and demanding projects comes the true beauty and value of a new VR app.