VR is set to revolutionize our lives as it infiltrates every aspect of our real existences from shopping through to recreation and science and health. To keep abreast of this fast changing field, we have looked at the ways VR is created and how it is being used.
What is VR?
Virtual reality (VR) is the creation of a virtual world in which one is free to do anything the developers wish. VR stands for VR operates by taking advantage of the fact that each of our eyes produces a separate image, which are then combined in our visual cortexes to produce a three dimensional (3D) representation of the world. Therefore, VR development, initially implemented in 2014 and 2015, resulted in devices such as the head mounted display (HMD) that take the form of a pair of goggles. Although, at present, the image produce by VR is far from being photorealistic, advances in graphical processing continue to blur the line between the real and fake. The global scale of the VR market began to increase sharply in 2016 and is expected to reach over $160 billion by 2020. In Korea, KB Securities expects the domestic VR and AR (augmented reality) markets to grow from 200 billion won in 2017 to more than 1 trillion won in 2020, focusing on content and platforms. In particular, VR is expected to take up a significant portion of the performances and sports markets, which focus on the sense of realism. If existing content and hardware devices are added to the platform market, the market size is expected to grow. The Korea VR Industry Association predicts the domestic VR market will reach 5.7 trillion won by 2020, from 1.4 trillion won in 2016.
VR in the Wild
KT joined up with GS Retail in early March 2018 and offered a VR paid experience site called 'VRIGHT' in Sinchon. VRIGHT offers 50 types of VR content, including the fully wireless VR game 'Special Force VR'. "An average of 100 people are looking for Bright on weekdays and more than 200 are looking for him on weekends," said Wang Kyung-je, executive director of GS Retail Bright Store. In addition, the VR karaoke experience zone, which is presented by the company, and the VR startup company, Lucid Dream, has been gaining popularity and recording about 200 visitors per day. . Moreover, the third floor of Lotte World Mall, which has a capacity of about 730 ㎡ (220 pyeong), is also popular. The Future Sales Up consists of a VR game zone, a screen sports game zone, and an arcade game zone. According to Motion Devices, 500 people visit the site on weekends and 200 people on weekdays. VR roller coasters with visual, acoustic and vibrational effects that provide a thrilling sensation of speed is said to be especially popular. As a result, it is estimated that there are about 200 VR game rooms that have spread across the country since 2016.
- VR Theme Park
Samsung Everland, Lotte World Adventure and other theme parks have evolved into 'future-style amusement parks' and have been operating VR experience facilities since 2017. In fact, two large six-meter-high robots appeared at Everland in June 2017. One of them is a ‘VR movie theater’. The movie shows the grand appearance of "Robot VR" combining VR contents. VR Adventure, which allows visitors to experience popular attractions of Everland, has quickly become one of the most popular events since it was launched in late 2017. If you sit in a 40-seat 4D simulation chair and wear Gear VR, you will be able to ride on the most popular roller coaster "T Express" at Everland. In addition, you can experience a horror maze, megastorm, and other representative rides at Everland and Caribbean Bay. In 2018, Everland will introduce a new three-dimensional experience space by placing IT equipment in various places. 'Panda World', one such new experience, is designed to teach visitors the ecological characteristics of pandas and the importance of animal protection using high definition video and educational content utilized by 50 IT devices, including VR. Lotte World Adventure will introduce a second version of "Zombie Drop" using its gyro Drop2 VR technology in March 2018. Gyro drop is an attraction that slowly climbs to 25 stories (70 meters) and then suddenly plummets earthward in 2.5 seconds. The HMD allows you to view VR images that are linked to the height and speed of the gyro drop. Real actors caught using motion capture technology populate the world of Zombie Drop and effectively immerse you in a new and terrifying world. Lotte World Adventure and Everland said, "We are planning to continuously introduce diverse IT contents to provide visitors with ever better virtual experiences in order to become the leading theme park of the future."
- VR Model House
Hyundai Industrial Development has been offering VR model apartments for prospective buyers since June 2017. If an existing physical model apartment cannot be representative of every type of apartment on offer due to space constraints and shows only part of the interior, VR model apartments can be used to compensate.. Even without entering a physical space, one can walk around the complex with a smartphone and HMD, examine the surrounding environment and the exterior of the building, and go inside to understand the layout of an apartment. Such VR technology also provides a floor view, giving consumers more information before deciding on an apartment.
- Performance & Arts
The Classic Society, hosted by Megabox, combines VR with the performing arts (musicals, classical music, and concerts), some of which are then broadcast in high definition to the public. This means that a movie theater's large screen is used to convey the vividness of the scene. The first performance of Carmen at the Bregenz Festival in Austria, on July 30, 2017, is currently being shown. It is so impressive that some people stand up and applaud in the movie theater as the actors greet each other after their performance. In Korea, international large-scale concerts and operas, such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival, were shown at the Megabox Comport at a price of 30,000 to 40,000 won per year. Secondly, Google Art and Culture is an art exhibition platform that allows you to view online the works of world-class artists and the contents of museums around the world. The images are not only simple 2D images but also 360° VR images in ultra-high resolution. The biggest advantage is that anyone can use Google Art and Culture for free. Going to a museum in person can cost a lot of time and money, but with this platform, you can enjoy many for free as it contains works and contents of 1,200 art museums and museum archives in partnership with Google. Some representative examples include 213 Vincent Van Gogh pieces, various Korean wind paintings from artists, such as Kim Hong do (Korean famous traditional artist), and graffiti by Banksy.
Lee & Parks (a venture company in the VR field) has developed features for the Virtuix Omni, a US exclusive HMD device and the Oculus Rift. Recently, they registered two patents for virtual reality-based fitness systems and driving methods to develop virtual reality software suitable for VR treadmills. On June 20, 2018, Korea's first VR treadmill experience zone, E-Virtual Ground, opened at Hyehwa Station in Daehangno, Korea. It is predicted that it will also provide healthcare and customized fitness content using VR to South Korea and the world.
Making Korea More VR Competitive
First, we need to strengthen our content technology. Korea has some global competitiveness in the areas of devices, solutions, and networks, which is needed to expand the new VR market, but the nation is still lacking in the areas of platforms and content. Of course, Samsung is providing VR images and games through its own distribution platform, and LG Electronics has opened its own program, a space for developers’ participation, but the gap is still significant. In the content area, small- and medium-sized enterprises or startups in the entertainment industry that are promoting new VR related businesses in Korea are focusing on developing content in the educational and gaming arenas. However, as for content, compatibility with an applicable device is important. Currently, the available devices are limited as common standards are not available in the industry. As a result, content developers have to provide content that is tailored for each device. Wireless VR can create variety only when common standards are created and high speed data communication is activated through 5G.
Second, we need to lay the groundwork for the VR industry to expand. The U.S. is pursuing R&D with private companies, such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Following this, Europe, Japan and China are actively researching through state policy support. In Korea, VR technology is 83.3% higher than its global competitors Steam and Oculus, which enjoy about a two year development lead. Also, since the domestic VR industry is not separately classified, the laws and regulations that apply come from other areas meaning definitions are ambiguous and there is much confusion in the industry. In addition to the fact that VR simulators could not be installed at private facilities due to conflicts with industry standards of Internet computer games systems, the import of overseas VR devices should be prevented.
Finally, the most important thing is to have a diverse age group of people who are actual users. Experts say that the number one obstacle that the VR market needs to resolve is awareness. Although the popularity of 'Poketmon Go' and other games has increased to a certain extent, VR is still unfamiliar to non-gamers. As of 2017, only about 51% of the U.S. population had heard of VR and AR. This figure stood at only 28% in 2016, so the increase in national VR awareness has seen a huge increase in just a year. On the other hand, in Korea VR awareness has increased to 32% of the overseas market in 2018, from less than 10% in 2016. Moreover, most of that 32% were in their teens and 20s and were gamers. Only 9% to 12% of Koreans in their 40s and 50s are aware of VR. Currently, the center of the VR industry is occupied by the new generation of businesses, universities, and downtown businesses. In fact, 89% of VR experience zones are located in urban or university towns. As a result, if residential areas are expanded to allow for VR experience zones, older customers will then have the opportunity to learn about VR. Therefore, it is necessary to expand VR into the health and distribution sectors. In particular, in the silver industry, content development and technology should incorporate a wide range of perspectives, including the use of virtual simulations and advanced training. If we benchmark America's 'steam' with healthcare, distribution, and home appliances in mind, and expand government or corporate investment, we will be able to effectively create new markets for leisure, fitness and health.
What Kind of VR Industry Should We Develop?
VR Training Technology
The United States Ski and Snowboard Association (formerly USSA) unveiled a VR alpine ski training simulation on its official website, on February 23, 2918 (Korea Time). The U.S. national ski team has reportedly been using this training on this simulation more than once a week for months. The scene they see in VR glasses is a reproduction of the Alpine Course in Jeongseon, Gangwon Province. According to the WP, the U.S. ski team had been planning to set-up a VR training program since 2016. When Jeongseon hosted the ski World Cup two years ago as a test event for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the U.S. national team scanned the Jeongseon Alpine Stadium. After returning to the US the virtual reality technology company STRIVRs recreated a computerized replica of the Jeongseon Course. The simulation has been refined by inserting balance discs to allow the players to adapt to it as much as possible, and the technology is now stable to the point where several players can train once a week. The U.S. ski team is the first to introduce virtual reality technology for Olympic training and to overcome home advantage. Also, Korea's national luge players used VR simulations to train ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics in February 2018. A luge sled was placed on the simulator and the feet and hands were used to guide the sled as in real life. The sound of friction between the ice surface and the sled is said to sound authentic. The implications of this technology are obvious: now, athletes from all over the world and any climate can train at the actual venue where they are set to comepete.
VR Medical Technology
Since 2017, Korea has been conducting VR technology driven medical projects, but it has been difficult to introduce VR in practice due to strict standards. The VR Medical Devices Guidelines provide clear identification criteria for medical devices with virtual and augmented reality (VR) technology so that research, developers, and medical equipment manufacturers can quickly develop products. Prior to this, we operated a panel of 27 experts, including industry, academia, and medical professionals, to review and advise on the contents of guidelines, in March 2018. Whether a device or software with virtual or augmented reality technology is applicable to a medical device is classified according to the purpose of its use,, whether the product is to diagnose, treat, or prevent illness or injury. No medical devices with virtual or augmented reality technology have been approved in Korea so far, and in the United States, products for patient rehabilitation from conditions such as paralysis have been approved.
VR Technology in Distribution Industry
Compared to overseas markets that have already entered various VR markets, Korea says that there is a significant lack of VR technology in terms of distribution services. Online distribution as well as offline distribution lags far behind China. In April 2018, the Hyundai Department Store Group opened more than 10 'Virtual Reality theme parks' nationwide and has started to develop its new IT business. For Hyundai IT & E, 'VR dedicated business units' have been implemented in various IT-related new businesses, such as IT development operations, digital healthcare, and operational agency services. Hyundai Department Store has joined hands with Maitoo, a company specializing in the development of Chinese beauty applications, and has introduced virtual makeup services in its official online shopping mall "The Hyundae." This is the first time that the online mall has introduced makeup demonstrations using augmented reality. Even in our distribution industry, we are conducting various VR-related applications, but the focus is on building a VR theme park, and we are borrowing technology not from Korea. On the other hand, Alibaba has been leading the adoption of future ‘IS camera’ since 2015 by actively testing and launching shopping malls with VR and AR technology. Alibaba is a virtual VR shopping mall called 'Buy +' that plans to establish virtual stores in major department stores so that consumers they can search for products and buy them in virtual spaces. 'Buy +' attracted 8 million consumers within a week.
Thus, Korea is making remarkable progress despite its slow start in the VR market. If continued interest and support, research and fresh ideas are provided, Korea will be able to catch up with the leading overseas VR markets and begin to dictate the market trends. The limits of VR are the very limits of imagination. What can you imagine?
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