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VR Trends Include 3D Audio, More AI and Conversational Platforms

virtual reality

A new report covering trends in virtual reality has suggested that three-dimensional audio will begin appearing along with "conversational platforms" and the increased use of artificial intelligence.

According to "Virtual Reality - Thematic Research" from data analysis firm Global Data, audio has been overlooked, even as display technologies for VR continue being improved. "The growing demand for untethered headsets, along with the inherent limitations of human eyes, have necessitated the synchronization of visuals with 3D audio for a truly immersive experience," the researchers said in a statement. The use of digital signal processors to improve audio quality is becoming a "standard requirement in the VR market," the report noted. Among the companies that are exploring the potential of 3D audio are Dolby Labs (with Atmos), Panasonic and 3D Sound Labs/Mimi Hearing Technologies.

Jarvis-like conversational platforms are gaining steam, albeit slowly, the report asserted. Last year Facebook announced that a new voice assistant would be added to Oculus devices, but the release date for that has been elusive. Likewise, Google "has yet to integrate Google Assistant into Daydream VR [or] Lenovo's Mirage Solo." The biggest movement in this area could be Amazon's incorporation of its conversational interface, Lex, into its Sumerian VR/augmented reality managed service.

One area that is seeing faster pickup is the use of AI, which is becoming "pervasive" in VR applications, the report stated, resulting in enhancements to the "intelligence of virtual characters" and delivery of a "rich immersive environment." Examples include Google's experimental Daydream 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) controllers to the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream; Facebook's DeepFocus neural network that uses AI to improve focus; and LG's use of AI to minimize motion sickness among VR users.

The "untethered" headset is also becoming the norm. As the report explained, devices "such as the Oculus Go, HTC Vive Focus and Lenovo's offerings have popularized untethered VR headsets." The headsets don't need smartphones since they come with built-in processors, graphical processing units, sensors, batteries, memory chips and displays, which allow them "to operate independently." While the untethered headset does deliver a "more powerful VR experience" than the smartphone-based headsets, the researchers said, they "still lag in central processing unit and GPU power and functionality."

5G also holds the promise of reducing latency, providing high density and improving reliability, "all of which will benefit the VR industry," the report suggested. Non-VR gaming currently requires a minimum latency of 50 milliseconds, while VR requires less than 20 milliseconds. 5G's expected latency of 1 millisecond "should deliver exceptional experiences on VR devices," the authors wrote. "5G's potential to support one million devices within a single square kilometer, without the risk of streaming attenuation, would help the VR market to flourish."

The popularity of VR apps is growing, although mostly for gaming. The report found that virtual world community VRChat had 10,000 "daily peak concurrent users" and Sony's Astro Bot Rescue Mission for PlayStation could claim more than 58,000 watch hours on Steam. Popular non-game VR apps include Google Earth VR and virtual world community BigScreen VR.

The complete report is $1,950 from Global Data.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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