With new technological developments surfacing worldwide every day, it has become a competition amongst companies to see who will be on top. 2016 has brought forth a multitude of new technologies, ranging from self-driving cars to drones, the technological advancements have proven to catch the public's eye and cause a clamor amongst the crowds. One of the many that have made it big this year has been the expansion of the Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) industry, with the introduction of 360 cameras for an omnidirectional outlook at the touch of your fingers.
Big-name brands like Samsung, Ricoh, and Kodak (NYSE:KODK) are now competing alongside companies like Bublcam, 360fly, and Vuze in an effort to establish themselves in the thriving market for VR-enabled cameras. With the field wide open, many are looking to take a piece of the action.
The opportunity presented before these companies is colossal, with Deloitte Global predicting that the Virtual Reality industry will crack at $1 billion for the first time this year, $700 million of which coming solely from hardware. Many leading tech companies are making a play into the market with products like Samsung's Gear VR, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Jump VR, and Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Oculus Rift. Many companies and websites are adjusting to support the 360-degree content in an effort to immerse users in the footage or to simply view the media.
Virtual Reality proves to be anything but science fiction anymore, and as it becomes an everyday reality, an increasing number of tech giants are increasing their investments into this new frontier. The future proves to be anything but bleak for this industry, with constant development of programs utilizing VR and AR to deliver a consumer experience unlike any other. A worldwide forecast for technologies earlier this year composed by the International Data Corporation (IDC) stated an expected volume increase of 9.6 million units in 2016 alone, with combined hardware shipments for VR/AR expecting to reach over 110 million units by 2020. 360-degree cameras are struggling to compete with a functional and affordable product in an effort to become the next GoPro, who sadly has had a rough 49% decrease in first-quarter year-over-year revenues. The company's early success may have spawned some of the competitors it faces today in a new technology.
Virtual Reality is expected to become a billion-dollar niche, with likely expansions in both consumer and enterprise applications. 360-degree cameras are still practically in their infancy, and it can be confusing to differentiate the technologies out there along with what other innovations are more practical for use. As content is improved and generated, revenue is expected to increase for the sales of hardware, game, and applications, with a range of companies competing in innovation and capability. Major camera makers like Nikon have now begun selling rigs for recording these 360-degree videos. According to CCS Insight, forecast analysts state an estimated 24 million device sales by 2018 alone, FutureSource predicts market growth for the action cameras to grow from 1% in 2015 to 14% by 2019.
Judging by the videos we have seen from these cameras so far, there is still a long way to go before they are capable of competing with the quality of more traditional cameras, but tech companies are moving forward to be able to fare well within the field. According to Run Direct Magazine, there is a certain expectation for VRs capability to improve during the forecast period of 2016-2023, with predictions of further improvements in processors, screen resolutions, and content development for these specific formats.
Big Opportunity For Start Ups
The industry, while still highly fragmented across different end-use segments, requires manufacturers and technology developers to understand that they each hold their particularly unique differences and requirements, therefore building on their strengths to provide an experience for the consumer. But in an effort to compete, start-ups such as BublCam and Giroptic 360cam have experienced long delays. In an effort to deal with the delays, many developers are offering a preorder option, but these companies are just as likely to hit their own delays. This year, major manufacturers will be shipping cameras, but they availability is still a problem that needs to be nailed down.
What 360-degree cameras are lacking in is a good software that could smooth out many of the kinks consumer-friendly 360-degree cameras currently face. That includes low resolution, limited memory and trouble with stitching - the combining of videos to build a panoramic view. Lucid VR's answer to these challenges has been to simplify the camera. Key trends show that the hardware components for these products are declining in price, but advancement in computational capabilities is still a big issue to address when releasing new products. These first-generation spherical cameras are working continuously on their efforts to improve image quality and control typical of traditional digital cameras, and will continue to move forward as they compete for market share through means of branding, identity, and target markets.
Instead of a 360-degree view, newcomer LucidCam offers a 180-degree vantage. That means less memory and computer processing is required. It also limits the headaches associated with stitching by using proprietary software to read and process video data in real-time. New competitors like LucidCam pave the way into the market every day with a desire to compete alongside the tech behemoths, Life Clips Inc. (OTCPK:LCLP) being one of which who has set the release this month for a new HD 360° action camera alongside an innovative line of products helping to change the way people "capture life's moments."
Industry growth is real for the 360 cameras, as all the forecasts point to future successes for the usage of 360 cameras associated with VR/AR funding reaching $2.8 billion this year. The future bodes well for the 360 cameras, and newer releases with further developmental improvements will continue to be released as these companies compete for the lion's share of the market. This year you won't need a professional digital camera to grab the vastness of a 360-degree view of your surroundings, but instead you can share your own immersive photos and videos through the cameras.
Disclosure: I am/we are long LCLP, VUZI.