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ImmerseUK: from Silicon Valley to the year ahead

Posted on 20/01/2017

The UK is on track to become a global leader in immersive technologies.

The UK is on track to become a global leader in immersive technologies.

By Fiona Kilkelly

What a rollercoaster the last few weeks have been. Since the launch of ImmerseUK (the new network for the UK immersive technology sector) just two months ago, we have grown to a 400+ strong membership and generated unprecedented levels of representation and support from a wide range of UK industries, universities and public bodies.

With continued support from Innovate UK, we have run a number of events – from a knowledge-sharing event with Rolls-Royce on how innovations are shaping the aviation sector to a round table with Holovis on connected and autonomous vehicles and our first members’ meeting in December, in which participants helped shape the future priorities for ImmerseUK.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to participate on a DIT AR/VR Mission to San Francisco. I was there to let West Coast businesses know about the level of R&D and creative development in AR/VR happening in the UK across multiple sectors. This varied from automotive and retail to gaming and entertainment. One of the key priorities was to showcase Immerse UK as a focal point for immersive technologies in this country.

Over the course of four intense days, we attended a networking event at the Consul General’s Residence, along with site visits across San Francisco and Silicon Valley. We visited an array of companies including the likes of ILMxLab, Jaunt VR, Immersion, Oculus, plus a briefing from Magic Leap. During our last leg of the journey, we then visited the VRX 2016 conference.

A common observation at the VRX conference was that the VR market is still some way off any real scale or viability – predicted at somewhere between three to five years – in fact, 2017 may even see a slump. At present, hardware sales are not growing fast enough, due to a combination of cost, content and user experience. No content has yet driven everyday usage or consistently overcome the barriers to use, such as fears about isolation and sickness. A limited market means a limited investment in content, and vice-versa.

In the short term, the strategy for market entrants is likely to be one of ‘survival’, with a focus on continuing work for hire, refining the product and building metrics. Consolidation in the marketplace between 2017-2020 is also expected. In this period, the most interesting opportunity (and cited as the biggest growth area) is likely to be the industrial application of AR/VR and cross-sector B2B enterprises. However in Silicon Valley, there is currently no mechanism for cross-sector engagement and bridging the gap to other industries such as healthcare, defence and construction.

It is clear that one of the UK’s strengths is that we are already one step ahead of the game in establishing ImmerseUK and hence becoming the global leader in the application of immersive technologies.

In the words of Hervé Fontaine, Vice President of Virtual Reality B2B and Business Development at HTC Vive: “ImmerseUK is only a few months old, and has worked very fast to put together the right partners and ecosystem to promote professional VR in the UK. HTC Vive is very happy to be part of the team to drive adoption of VR in enterprise in the UK.”

2017 is already shaping up to be a busy year. At the meeting in December, ImmerseUK members agreed on four working groups which will deliver specific plans for the coming year:

  • Access to Finance and Funding
  • Mapping Immersive Activities in the UK
  • Content, Production and User Experience
  • Connecting Industry and Academia.

If you’d like to get involved in any of these, then please get in touch.

Forthcoming events include the IET’s Applied Visualisation Forum on 26 January and we are supporting the new Realities Centre EdTech Conference on 19 January.

We are looking forward to an Immerse UK panel session and networking event at the Virtual Reality Show, April 20-22.

More Immerse UK events are scheduled for April and May on topics such as access to venture capital funding, immersive audio and immersive technologies in the construction sector. We are also planning our next members’ meeting in Manchester in April 2017, with more details to be available on immerseuk.org.

ImmerseUK is free to join and members can participate in all of the events mentioned above and the four working groups. Registration is simple; anyone with an interest in immersive technologies can sign up here.

At KTN, in collaboration with Innovate UK and our membership, we look forward to supporting and growing the UK’s immersive technology sector and paving the way for new ideas, innovations and collaborations throughout the course of 2017.