AR, VR and what’s next: in conversation with Tom Impallomeni

As part of our recent Tech Trends research, we spoke the founders of leading tech start-ups to explore how emerging tech trends are reshaping our world.

Meet Tom Impallomeni, CEO and Co-Founder of Tribe VR. Tribe VR is an immersive learning platform which harnesses virtual and augmented reality to teach real world skills. So what did he have to say about how these trends, how brands can tap into them and what we can expect in future?

Q: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us today Tom. What are the advantages of virtual reality and where do you see its key applications?

A: The magic of virtual reality is that it can transport you somewhere else: you can attend live sports games without having to go to the stadium or learn skills without sitting in a classroom. It’s also an insanely social platform. That’s the reason that Facebook bought Oculus, because they view VR as the next social media. Why would you sit on Skype when you can effectively be in the same room as someone through virtual reality? VR should also reduce the need for long distance travel. But of all these applications, the killer one is education. It’s one thing to read a book or watch a video about how something works. It’s another to have it explained to you in an immersive manner.

Q: What about augmented reality? Is this an area to watch?

A: Augmented reality is much more widely accessible than VR because it’s delivered through a smartphone, which everyone has these days. You always have your smartphone in your pocket, so wherever you are you can boot up an AR app and experience something. Because of this, there’s a huge amount of investment and interest in AR. At the moment, AR offers more than VR does, but that doesn’t mean it will forever.

Q: How are brands harnessing AR and VR?

A: Enterprise VR is a massive area of growth – big companies are investing in creating educational experiences and training experiences for their employees, all delivered through virtual reality.

Corporates are also using VR to create branded, immersive advertising. VR is a really good way to communicate a brand’s message, rather than watching a TV ad or putting a billboard up. When someone puts a headset on, they’re 100% focused on that experience. They’re not on their mobile phone just glancing at the TV, they’re fully immersed and a brand can tell a story, or put you in a situation that then cements your relationship with that brand.

Using virtual reality for advertising is definitely an area of innovation but brands are aware that if they want reach, then in the short-term AR is the way forward.

But of course, AR and VR aren’t the solution to everything. The question you need to ask is: does VR or AR solve this problem better than current solutions? And if the answer is no, you shouldn’t be building an AR or VR version of the solution. Having said this, at the same time, there’s huge opportunity to solve genuine problems by harnessing this technology.

Q: There’s been a lot of hype around the $200 headset, the Oculus Go, that Oculus Rift recently announced. Will this be the gamechanger that VR needs to enter the mainstream?

A: A $200 headset will definitely be a gamechanger, but I don’t know if Oculus Go is going to be the headset which changes VR. The true cost of an Oculus setup is $400, with the headset and controllers, but you have to add on $1000 for a laptop to run it and other bits. Once high-quality VR gets to a low price point like $200 that’s when VR will really be in business. We need to get to the point of 6 degrees of freedom, untethered, where the battery is significant and the price point is in the range of a smartphone for the market to get going.

Q: What’s next?

A: Mixed reality is the next big trend to watch. This is the area where AR and VR meet and you have one headset which does it all. I think it’s inevitable that you’re going to be interacting with the world around you rather than with a flat screen. That’s the ultimate shift that we’re talking about here. The question is not will it happen, the question is how long is it going to take for computing to deliver on the dream? That’s something beyond my soothsayer abilities, but I think it’s going to happen certainly within the next generation on a massive scale. There’s going to be a natural tipping point where content and price all meet in a good place and people will start to adopt these headsets more readily.

Interested in finding out more about AR and VR? Download our latest report, Tech Trends Transforming The Insight Industry, to learn more.