The words "virtual reality" (VR) are ringing through the tech world right now and that means two things for those in the industry: money and innovation. While innovations are hard to predict, they are often the catalyst for more money and according to a recent forecast by Research and Markets, the VR industry could be worth $33.9 billion (Â£25.8 billion) by 2022.
Citing the growth of mobile VR and innovations by the likes of Sony, HTC and Samsung, Research and Markets believes the industry will experience impressive growth over the next six years. Naturally, such predictions are still tentative at this stage, but it's clear the market is growing which is why we've picked out some of the biggest VR innovators of recent times.
"Roulette" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Maria Eklind
Founded in 1994 and responsible for 850+ casino games, Microgaming is one of the leading innovators in the iGaming industry and its expertise can be seen in a variety of areas. For example, there are six roulette games from 32Red powered by Microgaming. While the mechanics of each game are fundamentally the same, 32Red hosts six different variants to ensure it caters to players of all skill levels.
Harnessing Microgaming's experience in the industry, 32Red is able to offer European roulette with one-touch betting from as little as Â£1 on red or black. At the other end of the spectrum, Premium Roulette has six different table designs, customizable layouts and quick-bet features that allow seasoned players to play more efficiently.
This appreciation of subtleties in the market has helped Microgaming stand out and innovate in recent years. Indeed, when you also consider products such as Multi-Wheel Gold (play eight tables simultaneously) at Casino Euro or Roulette Royal with its progressive jackpots at Royal Vegas Casino, you can see that there's plenty of scope for innovation when it comes to roulette.
Naturally, Microgaming has taken the lead when it comes to next-gen roulette and developed VR Roulette. Combining Oculus Rift and Leap 3D technology, the prototype was launched in late 2015 and scooped two wins at the Global Gaming Awards. By plunging players into a 3D roulette world, Microgaming is not only driving the iGaming industry forward, but contributing to the overall growth of VR.
Here Be Dragons
Despite sounding like a progressive rock band, Here Be Dragons is actually the new name of video-based VR company Vrse.works. Set up to produce truly immersive videos, Here Be Dragons has made significant headway in the music video market in recent years.
By creating software that works with all the major headsets, Here Be Dragons has managed to take a 2D concept and make it into a 3D experience. Indeed, when music videos first started to pique the public's interest in the late seventies it virtually revolutionised the industry. In fact, when MTV launched on August 1, 1981, the first ever music video to be played was Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles.
As well as helping revive the 1979 hit and send UK sales beyond the 500,000 mark, the song's title was symbolic of the shift in the music industry. With fans now able to see their favourite artists as well as hear them, it brought a new depth to music and, essentially, made it entertaining.
Today, Here Be Dragons is charting a similar path with its immersive videos. Working with experimental artists such as Seafolly, Here Be Dragons has been able to pull listeners into a virtual soundscape. Indeed, while many VR companies have used the medium to enhance our visual appreciation of things, Here Be Dragons is reshaping the way we hear things.
Beyond the entertainment industries, VR is now being used for design and, lately, advertising. Leading the way in this area is Teague. Working alongside its long-time partner Boeing, Teague has created a product that allows people to take a virtual tour of Boeing's Everett plant. A virtually identical replica of the real thing, the program allows designers to get a real perspective on the physical space needed for a new project.
For example, in a report by Herald Net, Teague's vice-president Murray Camens explained that users can currently tour the plant and take a look around the Boeing 777X. What's unique about this is that the plane hasn't actually been built yet and what users can see is the computer representation of the plane in a VR setting.
The benefits of this technology are immense according to Camens. As well as saving the company millions in set-up costs, the software allows designers to get a better sense of the product, how things fit together and, importantly, whether it fits into the workshop. Having this insight means fewer mistakes further down the line and, therefore, fewer expenses.
This, in a nutshell, is what VR is all about. Making things more interactive and immersive makes them more efficient and more pleasurable. Whether it's playing a game like roulette, listening to a new song or redesigning an aircraft, VR is able to take us to places that were previously untouchable and that's something we should all be looking forward to.