VR, AR remain hot topics at IBC

IBC will be held Sept. 14-19 in Amsterdam.

Virtual reality and augmented reality have generated a significant amount of interest over the years as content creators and film and video game enthusiasts look for increasingly immersive experiences. And at this year’s IBC show, many expect that interest will continue—albeit with an increasing belief that VR and AR hype may soon turn into reality.

“We're currently in the very early stages of what should be a very large market,” noted Greg Potter, an analyst for media and communications with research and consulting firm SNL Kagan. “The market for live VR sports games, concerts, news and other content is just starting out and it will be some time before there is a really significant audience for content. There is a lot of groundwork that still needs to be done. Live VR streams consume quite a bit of bandwidth, and with current broadband speeds, VR encoding/decoding will be very important. VR-specific encoding schemes for live video and audio transmitted in VR formats are just beginning to take shape and should help propel the market. In-house encoding standards have been developed by Facebook and NextVR, both major video content distributors in the VR space. It would not surprise me to see some announcements on live VR encoding from some exhibitors at IBC.”

Others agreed, noting that the VR and AR space appears to be slowly but inexorably heading toward mass market acceptance.

“VR is a very interesting space,” said David Schleifer, COO of Primestream, which is working to develop content production tools for content creators that will allow them to create VR and 360-degree content with the same ease they currently do with standard video. “Our goal is to continue to provide that backend system that can help people working in any kind of media, including in 360 media.”

Schleifer said that, based on his view of the market, the industry is still working on the best way to create and consume VR content. “The industry as a whole is still trying to figure out how to use 360-degree storytelling,” he said. “I see a lot of investigation going on … Someone will resolve this.”

As for this year’s IBC show, Schleifer said he expects to see continued momentum. “I think IBC is where the technology will move forward,” he explained.

“The market is evolving as we expected, [but] it takes a while,” said Marco DeMiroz, co-founder and general partner at The Venture Reality Fund, which works as a financier for VR, AR and MR (mixed reality) startups. DeMiroz said he is hoping to see at IBC how European companies are embracing the technology.

He added though that his firm’s expectations, in the long term, remain high. “We truly believe that AR, VR and MR will transform our lives,” DeMiroz said.

Indeed, VR, AR and related technologies will be a major topic of discussion at this year’s IBC. For example, experts from the BBC will discuss VR on Sept. 14; executives from HTC Vive will talk about the technology on Sept. 16, and speakers from LittlStar, Sky VR Studios and others will discuss the future of VR on Sept. 17. On the IBC show floor, a range of vendors and players will no doubt sport the latest VR headsets and content in order to highlight the potential of the technology. Further, IBC will be hosting the “Future Zone” at the show that will highlight a range of technologies including VR.

“Some people felt like the market hadn’t developed as fast as expectations,” explained Paul Jackson, an analyst with research and consulting firm Ovum who deals in digital media. Now, though, Jackson that VR and associated technologies are “into that nice period of growth.”

Indeed, he said Ovum predicts VR will generate $17 billion in content revenue, from games and video, by 2021. But he cautioned that “that’s a drop in the ocean” compared with the overall games and video market. “It’s not going to be as big as video gaming, even in five years’ time,” Jackson said.

Nonetheless, he expects IBC this year to be the scene of continued advancements on the front. “IBC is largely focused on VR video,” he said. “It’s all going to be about that camera technology … and getting it into an app store of some description.”