While the metaverse may still be in its infancy, Big Tech is investing billions of dollars into developing products and accessories for this potentially enormous market.
Welcome, Sliicers. Meet the 10 top players in the XR industry.
Apple has been a pioneer in AR and VR and is known for creating new markets. Apple is now leading the charge in AR with its software development platforms and frameworks, like ARKit and RealityKit and creative tools like Reality Composer and Reality Converter.
In the headset arena, Apple has been teasing the release of its mixed-reality headset for years now. However, According to a semi-reliable leak, Apple will receive components for the device's manufacturing early next year, and a possible product launch is predicted for late 2023. However, don’t hold your breath. Past forecasts have proved wrong. Speculators and inside sources claim the headset will be loaded with up to 15 cameras and incredibly high-resolution displays. Some rumored features include advanced gaming capabilities, spatial recognition, and integration with Apple services like Apple TV+, Apple Music, and Apple Arcade.
Look for Dell PCs with the Ready for VR badge to power your VR experience. Dell’s expansive VR portfolio includes the world’s first VR-enabled mobile device and an all-in-one mixed-reality workstation. With Dell, you can expect high-performance standards and all the processing power you need for the best amazing XR experiences. Businesses will use Dell’s professional VR to keep up with quicker time to market and shorter development cycles. Maintaining a competitive advantage in the current business environment depends on XR and AI technology. Those who reject it will be left behind.
Sony’s next VR headset, Playstation VR2 for PS5, is available for preorder and touts significant advancements in the VR and mixed reality arena. Sadly, the headset is still tethered and requires a PlayStation console. However, visually, it offers a stunning 2,000 x 2,040-pixel resolution per eye, 120Hz frame rate, 110-degree field of view, and eye tracking. The headset will mesh your surroundings by scanning walls, floors, and obstacles like chairs and desks. The meshing is another step toward mixed reality for the consumer market. At $550, the new device is high-end, especially since it requires a console that retails for about the same price and expensive games. However, previews of the immersive gaming experiences are tantalizing.
HTC Vive headsets are the mainstream choice for professional gamers. In its early days, HTC manufactured flip phones, personal digital assistants (PDA), smartphones, and tablets. Now, the company is best known for VR hardware. Vive Pro 2 is a tethered headset that features 2448 × 2448 resolution per eye and a 120-degree field of view and carries backward compatibility with all existing HTC Vive and SteamVR-compatible accessories and controllers. HTC’s Cosmos is a stand-alone headset and features a 90 Hz display with a 110-degree field of review and an overall resolution of 2880 × 1700.
Microsoft HoloLens was a virtual reality headset that allowed users to interact with virtual items in a real environment. More of a prototype aimed at military and industrial markets, HoloLens AR elements are semi-opaque, and the field of view was dismal at 30 degrees. Satya Nadella’s statement during his keynote for Microsoft Inspire stated that Microsoft would be pursuing a “software-led approach” as its metaverse initiative instead of producing more XR hardware in the near future. At Meta Connect 2021, Nadella also announced the upcoming availability of Windows 365 and Xbox Cloud Gaming for the Quest platforms. While this is good news for Quest users, this announcement could be interpreted as the end of HoloLens hardware development.
Google is a major player in the field of XR and has been investing heavily in it for years. It’s hard to get a read on Google. The company is notoriously clandestine, and leaks are rear. However, we do know that Google’s Daydream platform was dismantled. Project Iris could set Google up against Meta and Apple in the coming headset wars. The Google mixed reality headset will likely be powered by a proprietary Google processor (possibly a Tensor) and will also likely run on a custom OS. A launch in 2024 is definitely possible, but somewhat optimistic, as the Google AR/VR Headset is still in the early phases of development. The company has distributed a limited number of prototype units under a strict veil of secrecy.
Intel was one of the early players in the AR/VR space. With more than three decades of experience in this field, it’s no surprise that Intel has a central role in shaping the modern landscape for XR technologies.
In 2015, Intel launched its first RealSense depth camera and computer vision SDK for developers.
In 2016, Intel introduced Project Alloy—an all-in-one mixed reality headset designed for developers and manufacturers to use with Windows 10 PCs.
In 2017, the company partnered with Microsoft to bring one of the earliest mixed-reality headsets.
More recently, Intel has shifted away from the consumer market and is focused on components and processors for extended reality hardware. However, the company deserves a shoutout for being one of the earliest adopters of the technology.
Alibaba has announced plans to launch a $5 billion fund dedicated to investing in emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum computing over the next decade. Damo Academy is expected to be the first fund of its kind for Alibaba, which has previously focused on funding startups through its "Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund" or other funds run by partners such as Sequoia Capital China. The move could help Alibaba bolster its products' abilities in areas like machine learning, which is already considered an important tool for tech companies trying to compete against one another. The investment will be made by Alibaba’s financial services arm Ant Financial and its cloud computing division Alibaba Cloud. For Alibaba, this fund is a big move to ensure that it's not left behind when it comes to applying new technologies. This could have huge implications for the company and China as a whole.
Samsung entered the mixed reality market in the early 2000s and today has an extensive portfolio of XR products. Samsung 360° cameras can capture photos or video footage from every angle that can be viewed in VR. One camera model even comes with built-in AI capabilities that helps you automatically stitch together your images into immersive experiences! Jong Hee Han, CEO of Samsung Electronics, hinted that the company might be working on a new virtual reality headset at Mobile World Congress 2022. Han said, “The metaverse is the talk of the town, so we have buckled down.”
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR platform comes equipped with 8K 360-degree video playback capabilities that will feature instant replay, panoramic view, and virtual high-definition. Boundless XR delivers an immersive mobile XR experience with hyper-realistic visuals through a robust combination of processing, 5G, and edge cloud processing. Qualcomm recently acquired Nuvia for $1.4 billion dollars. Through the acquisition, Qualcomm will expand its Snapdragon technology and plans to incorporate Nuvia CPUs across its next-generation XR laptops, which are expected to drop in 2024.
Of course, we can’t complete our list without mentioning Meta. As we all know, Mark Zuckerberg is leading the charge into mainstream XR adoption. In October 2021, Facebook changed its name to Meta and declared its investment of 10 billion USD in its metaverse division. The new name reflected the growing ambitions of the Big Tech company beyond social media. Love Zuckerberg or hate him, Meta has claimed 90% of the XR headset markets, and the future has been irrevocably changed by the massive show of faith in a virtual future. With this move, Meta became more than just a social network—it became an entire lifestyle brand that has since inspired many imitators.
Sliicer questions of the week:
Are you excited for the coming age of extended reality and artificial intelligence, or is it scary?