That photo of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg walking into a hall full of people glued into Samsung Galaxy VR devices would be one of the most stunning photographs you will ever see from the world of technology.
It is also the one picture that captures this edition of Mobile World Congress (MWC) the best. Virtual Reality could not get anymore real, and you just have to take one walk around the eight or so halls of the large Fira Gran Via expo venue to get an idea of how big this trend is.
And virtual reality is coming in across the spectrum. The Samsung Galaxy Gear VR was actually among the first to usher in the trend about two years ago and it is only now that people have been able to get their hands on the device.
However, there are new iterations of this technology in device adds on the like the Ant VR from Lenovo, which lets users have a large screen experience on their phones using this very affordable head unit. It might not have 360-degree immersive VR, but then everyone might not need that either.
And despite this being the most affordable virtual reality option for consumers, the smartphone might not even be the big entry point for this new technology. Tim McDonough, senior vice president of marketing at Qualcomm Technologies Inc, says that despite the trends now, mobile might not be the no 1 consumption method for VR content. “Yes, mobile will however be the top content creation device for virtual reality,” he clarifies. This is where 360-degree video recording accessories like the Galaxy 360 camera and the Ricoh Theta camera will become ubiquitous in the near future.
On the other end of the scale is the Nokia Ozo professional VR camera. The Finnish technology company, which has been concentrating on innovative products since it sold its smartphone business to Microsoft, is convinced that this will change the way movies are made across the world. Given its starting price of at least $60,000, consumer adoption will be really limited, but Nokia is expecting to see movie makers across the world adapt themselves to create content in an immersive 360-degree format, which will put their creativity to the test for sure. The camera is self sustaining and can store up to 45-minutes of high resolution audio and video inside.
There is also the entire gaming industry which has been licking its lips on the possibilities VR opens up. The HTC Vive powered by Steam made its debut at the MWC a year back, and is still months away from commercial rollout. However, they are certainly beyond the prototype stage with dozens of working units being used to showcase their type of spatial virtual reality at the show this time.
The interesting, or intriguing, aspect of the entire conversation around VR is the fact that networks will need to figure out a way to push this content through their existing pipes. This is where the other big trend of the show, 5G networks, comes into the picture.
Travel for this report was sponsored by Qualcomm.