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MENALAC predicts the future of augmented and virtual reality in the entertainment industry

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Published: Tue 28 Dec 2021, 11:34 AM

Last updated: Tue 28 Dec 2021, 11:36 AM

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have risen to the fore, especially in the dawn of the new normal. The sustained success of AR and VR is hotly debated by several industries, including the leisure and attractions industry. But before the future of these technologies can be forecasted, it’s important to understand what they are.

AR is the concept of enhancing the world around you using audio and digital imagery in real-time. VR, on the other hand, doesn’t enhance the world around you, it simulates one for the viewer. Both technologies have a ‘transportive’ nature, either enhancing a user’s current reality or whisking them away to a new one. They also engage users, a much-needed quality in the modern world’s attention economy. The novel experience they offer helps keep users both interested and deeply engaged.

According to Analytics Insight, AR and VR in entertainment and media were worth $5.12 billion by 2019 and are projected to reach a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.8 per cent by 2027 to $45.20 billion. The entertainment industry consists of various subsets such as the film industry, the live events industry, sports, gaming and theme parks/ amusement parks. Each of these subsets could find different ways to integrate augmented and virtual reality.

The rising popularity of AR and VR

The leisure and attractions industry is just one of several industries that are adopting these technologies. AR and VR are making their way into the arenas of education, healthcare, transport, and retail among others. The secret to what makes these technologies so popular has a lot to do with people.

Following the pandemic, the entertainment economy re-opened, with consumers having incredibly steep demands after 18 months of playing video games and interacting online at home. The leisure and attractions industry are in an equally demanding position to satisfy this appetite for novelty. When asked about the growing market for AR and VR, Frontgrid — a global provider of innovative adventure experiences for leisure and entertainment operators — Matt Wells, CEO of Frontgrid mentioned a bridge between our current reality and a virtual one.

Wells said: “People want to get back out and socialise with their friends, but the group gaming experience has to be considerably better and more interactive than anything they can do on a console at home. The most successful operators are realising this — they know they can’t rely on the same old attractions and expect to stand out”.

He continued: “The recent announcement by Facebook has further fuelled interest in multiplayer immersive experiences even further, with 2.62 million searches for the term ‘Metaverse’ recorded in October 2021. Cutting-edge immersive attractions should be part of the mix for any entertainment centre seeking to compete and attract guests”.

Successful AR and VR attractions

With any new technology, there are a handful of key factors that operators must perfect if they want to succeed and sustain their product. These include ease of use, affordability and innovation. Timely adopters of AR and VR are already reaping positive results. And one of them is Simworx, one of the world’s leaders in the supply of media-based attractions to theme parks and visitor attractions.

Claire Monkton, Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Simworx, said: “Our VR attractions remain incredibly popular, with hundreds of VR experiences installed throughout the world. We are continuing to develop new and exciting VR products, and our one — Alpine Racer VR — combines a unique motion element with VR to provide riders with an interactive experience of speeding downhill on a ski-mobile with competitive gameplay elements. With regards to our most popular attraction, this is probably our Immersive Tunnel, which was quite a game-changer for Simworx when we first introduced it. It’s a Universal Studios standard attraction but at a price point accessible to mainstream theme parks”.

Gazing into the future of AR and VR

With their influence across several industries, AR and VR are here to stay. Embracing these technologies, and executing them correctly, could lead to lucrative opportunities for leisure and attractions operators. This will not only revive their strategy but also give them a competitive edge in the near future.

When asked about what the next decade holds for AR and VR, Jonathan Nowak Delgado, the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SPREE Interactive, said: “We at SPREE Interactive believe that new technology platforms like AR and VR will level up the gaming experience to a whole new level. The VR and immersive entertainment industry has evolved quite dramatically. Some of the main drivers are decreasing hardware cost, more powerful mobile chipsets, rendering mobile capabilities, and innovative ideas from the creatives. The deep underlying human desire to share great experiences with others will stay the same, if not increase after the lockdowns”.

He continued: “When innovating for the millennial generation, you’ll very quickly observe the new behaviour patterns: experience over ownership. It needs to be shareable on social media. These trends are exactly what, at SPREE Interactive, are guiding our product development. The technology of virtual reality is rapidly changing traditional entertainment, and it’s opening a new unimaginable world of possibilities. Our VR Bumper Car attraction, licensed by VR Coaster, is one example of how VR can revive a classic attraction for the modern era and create a totally renewed experience”.

Stuart Wood, International Sales Manager of Bandai Namco Amusement Europe Limited, said: “Technology continues to evolve, with headset-mounted leap motion sensors replacing physical hand-strapped trackers to further lighten external baggage that weighs a player to their reality.

VR has a long-drawn past filled with both shortcomings and strength, but we’ve reached an era where its discoveries and advancements are snowballing far more rapidly, and its action-packed future is infinite”.

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