Is there a Business Case for Multi-Person Virtual Reality?

Is multi-person mixed reality only valuable to the gaming industry? Business leaders like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google think not. They are all betting, and competing, to deliver virtual reality in a way that will revolutionize communications, collaboration, and information handling.

Microsoft has already brought the highly anticipated HoloLens to market. “This lives between two worlds, the physical world and the virtual world. The human world is physical, and the computer world is the virtual. How do you get back information from the virtual world into the real world?” asks Leila Martine, Microsoft’s Director of New Device Experiences asked in an interview with Forbes.

One of HoloLens’ beta applications put users in front a human cadaver to be used as a teaching aid. However only one user can see the mixed reality, and the user must wear an expensive, bulky headset. That’s where Magic Leap, which fit more like regular eyeglasses, comes in. With over $1.4 billion of financial backing it is poised to be the dominate player. The founder Rony Abovitz told Wired, “Ours is a journey of inner space. We are building the internet of presence and experience.”

Within the next decade multi-person virtual reality could become the biggest driver of new technology. The business potential is massive. Verizon is creating envrnmt, an end-to-end VR platform which simplifies the process for ingesting VR content, enhancing interactive experience, and delivering it to devices.  Consumers have already watched more than 10 million hours of 360-degree video content on Samsung Gear VR devices. Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs Research expects virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025.

If you haven’t experienced multi-person VR it could be hard to imagine it being part of your everyday life–especially if it requires wearing glasses. But what if no glasses were needed? Researchers at MIT have developed High-Rank 3D (HR3D). The display does not require any special glasses and generates multi-view, walk-around imagery. A mixed-reality workplace, school, and retail environment might be be coming sooner than we all thought.

Chris Force

Travel & Design Writer
Chris Force writes about culture and design. He is the award-winning editor of six books, and has edited several anthologies on modern architecture and design. Contact him at