There we have it, ladies and gentlemen - the end of an amazing year in XR. From Arizona Sunshine selling like hotcakes on PC and the very first XR Connects event in London in January through ARKit’s consumer launch in September and Microsoft joining the fray with its Windows Mixed Reality headsets in October to December’s news that PS VR has sold 2M units and our first look at the Magic Leap, there’s been a lot of VR, AR and MR for us to report on in 2017.
Has all that - and more - really happened in the space of a year? Now we know why Executive Producer of Experiences at Oculus, Yelena Rachitsky, joked at November’s Oculus Unwrapped event in London, “I like to think in terms of dog years, because one year in VR feels like seven years in real life - everything moves so fast!”
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how the year unfolded month by month as we wrap up this year’s biggest stories, headlines and industry trends in VR, AR and MR. Check back daily for a new update every day from now until the end of the year...
But that wasn’t the only event in January, with the first ever VR Connects London at the Brewery. The event returns in 2018 - now rebranded as XR Connects London to reflect the progress of AR and MR alongside VR.
And it wasn’t a great start to the year for Oculus, with the start of the trial defending against Zenimax’s accusations of IP theft at a time when Rift trailed Vive significantly in market share. Some pundits had Facebook’s acquisition on the ropes at the opening of the year, but Oculus came out swinging and consistently gained momentum in every quarter.
Oculus’ troubled start to the year continued as the court ordered it to pay $500 million in the Zenimax case, despite finding the company not guilty of technology theft.
The first images were released of the third party Windows Mixed Reality headsets from the likes of Lenovo, HP and Dell that would be released in October. Microsoft was not one of the founding partners in the new OpenXR initiative that was announced this month.
Much of the XR industry voiced its concern over Donald Trump’s election win to become President of the United States of America in November 2016. Unity Technologies took direct action just three months into his term when Trump announced his intentions of an immigration ban by offering to sponsor 50 affected developers to attend Unite Amsterdam.
Boston-based start-up Neurable nets $2 million in a seed funding round to accelerate developments in brain-controlled AR/VR software.
Oculus continued to build a compelling case of Rift on multiple fronts in March, with social VR in Rooms and Events, free Robo Recall game for Touch users, and perhaps most importantly, a $200 price cut. Now, we're not saying the two are connected, but Oculus co-founder, Palmer Luckey, departs the company the month after it's ordered to pay Zenimax $500 million at the outcome of its court case...
Outside of the Facebook Farrago, Microsoft brought its recently announced WMR headset to GDC, while Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow at Microsoft, got our hopes up for a console rival to PS VR by blogging, “Our plan is to bring mixed reality content to the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio, in 2018.” The company has since stepped back its ambitions in this area to focus on its core PC hardware.
There were a couple of interesting personnel changes, as Apple furthered its AR ambitions with a NASA hire, while Microsoft gained Oculus’ Marketing VP.
Speaking of Oculus, more than 4,000 delegates attended Facebook’s 10th annual developer conference, F8 in San Jose. And following speculation over Palmer Luckey’s surprise departure the month before, the co-founder changed his Facebook profile picture to Obi Wan Kenobi with the words, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
From the implications of social VR and how Hollywood actors feel about VR, to profitability strategies for indie devs and ways to minimise motion sickness, find out why VR is the most exciting new medium in years.
Series of high-end VR experiences to start with Justice League and Aquaman for IMAX VR Centres; other VR platforms to follow.
As we started to see AR steal the spotlight from VR and standalone headsets hailed as an essential tool to make it in the mainstream, May brought the Aim controller to PS VR and with it, what may well be your humble Editor’s game of the year - Farpoint. And it seems the general public agreed, with the game flying into the UK charts at number two - the highest entry for any VR game so far.
Tim Merel, founder and MD at international tech advisors, Digi-Capital, explains how mobile AR software could have four times the users of mobile AR hardware and what mobile AR growth to over a billion users looks like.
Tim Merel, founder and MD at international tech advisors, Digi-Capital, explores how Apple, Facebook and Tencent could dominate mobile AR, with Google, Samsung, Huawei, Snap, Alibaba and Baidu as challengers.
One thing was notable by its absence at E3 this year; XBox VR. Head of XBox, Phil Spencer didn’t even mention it in the presentation and it was only afterwards we learned that Microsoft intends to focus on PC for WMR. Sony’s media showcase only showed a handful of new PS VR titles, including our first look at Moss. At least we learned that Bethesda was bringing a trio of its biggest IPs to VR with Skyrim, Fallout and Doom.
While XR didn’t have a big presence at the main event, VR was an emphasis at the E3 PC Gaming pre-show where we learned about Echo Arena and the $1m VR Challenger League from Intel, Oculus and ESL.
Enterspace to open a series of public VR facilities utilising StarVR hardware.
Summer started here with Oculus dropping the price for Rift and Touch to $399. Whether that was a response to a problematic first half of the year, or to close Vive’s market lead, it was great news for the consumer.
The expected summer lull hit in August, proving that XR people like to take summer vacations as much as any other industry.
HTC used this time to cut Vive prices to £599, a move the company denied was in response to the Oculus sale price announced the month before. The Taiwanese firm was also in the news after Bloomberg suggested it was about to sell its Vive division. Like we said at the time, it wasn’t...
Apple had already announced its AR ambitions for iPhone, but a newly published patent showed that Cupertino is looking ahead to wearable tech and smartglasses.
It didn’t look like being such a great summer for Altspace VR, with the prospect of a permanent vacation just days away as the social VR company announced it was to close.
Michael Thompson, Vice President at Neurable, explores the human fascination with fantasy and predicts a productivity revolution through intent-driven interactions that could help drive mass adoption of VR, AR and MR.
Apple’s Special Event was a disappointment for AR, with only brief looks at Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade from Pixel Toys; an example of how users could access real-time stats for MLB games; and the Sky Guide star map. Atli Mar, CEO and Co-Founder at Directive Games showed their game on stage, called The Machines.
It was all business at Microsoft Ignite, as the Redmond firm put forward use cases for its HoloLens headset, with a focus on how Ford is using the technology (see what we did there?)
With VR – and even more so AR and MR – still in its infancy, the list of studios who have broken the million-dollar barrier is short, but distinguished. Let’s look at the members of this most exclusive club...
Leading social VR service plans to use funding to power the future of the metaverse.
October had barely begun before conference silly season was with us, kicked off by Microsoft’s WMR special event, where we learnt that the company sees Mixed Reality as a continuum of everything between AR and VR. So that’s clear then.
Oculus Connect 4 was up next and the reveal of the standalone Oculus Go to be released next year. It’s intended to sit in a range of hardware, somewhere between the smartphone powered Gear VR and PC’s Rift. Zuckerberg managed to completely blank his own apology just hours before, for the ill-considered Spaces appearance in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Finnish tech firm to grow, and market the first human eye-resolution VR/AR/XR bionic display.
There’s a strong consensus that standalone headsets will be crucial in bringing VR to the mass market and November’s Beijing Developer Conference gave us our first look at the long anticipated Vive Focus from HTC that would be launched the following month.
We were told to expect some VR reveals to come out of PlayStation’s media showcase at Paris Games week and that’s exactly what we got; including the spiritual successor to hugely popular London Heist demo, Blood And Truth.
XR Connects returns to London with added AR, more MR and a veritable feast of VR once more as part of the biggest b2b games conference in the UK.
Florida’s Magic Leap finally showed the world the AR hardware that has convinced investors to put nearly $2bn behind the firm. Rolling Stone’s Glixel was given an exclusive demo of and reveal of Magic Leap One that social media on fire.
Contrary to claims that interest in VR has waned and naysayers proclaiming it to be a fad similar to 3D TV, investment in the sector continued to grow apace throughout the year. XR investment in the last quarter of 2017 topped the $1 Billion mark, dominated by increased interest in AR and led by Magic Leap and Niantic. That record-breaking Q4 brought the total investments in VR, AR and MR for the year to $2.5 billion.
The Female Planet’s series director on what motivated her to make the 360-video series, why women are better represented in XR than conventional development and what can be done to ensure more gender parity in the future.
Runaway Play’s heads of VR and Quality Assurance talk about their learnings in accessibility for XR and how early user testing can broaden a game’s potential audience by making sure it’s truly inclusive.
With Star Wars: The Last Jedi, releasing in cinemas this week, we look at the franchise’s appearances in VR and AR and ask whether these are the apps you’re looking for to bring XR to mainstream audiences.
Steve has been a games journalist on and off since the first PlayStation made games ‘cool’, but he’s never forgotten the thrill of finding a Space Invaders machine in the wild. Neuromancer is one of his favourite books and The Matrix is one of his favourite movies, so he’s been ready for VR all his life.