The number of VR/AR startups is increasing as venture capital dollars continue to flood in, with investment reaching an all time high in 2015 of $658M in equity funding across 126 deals, according to CB Insights data. Even as VR/AR startups launch, larger corporates are developing VR/AR-related businesses, products, and investing in the space…
Commercial and industrial applications
The companies in this category will advance productivity in an enterprise setting through enhanced visualization. Commercial and Industrial applications of VR/AR include marketing technology, sports training, labor training, retail, interior design, real estate, transactions, aerospace/defense, security, quality testing, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and data analytics.
Pure content studios and agencies that create VR/AR content such as bonus movie or TV show content and journalistic content. This category also includes gaming and education. There are a number of companies that resemble production houses, advertising agencies or VR “work-for-hire” shops that produce VR/AR experiences for their clients. Some of these companies have started off as pure content creators and have later also become distributors.
These companies provide learning and education for people whether it is for the classroom, corporate learning management, or certifications. The education software market will see innovation through immersive learning enabled by VR/AR.
Gaming is of the more obvious and near-term use cases for VR/AR. Popular first person shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D, Halo, and massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) such as Everquest and World of Warcraft were popular video games that immersed gamers in alternate visually appealing environments (for their time) and enabled interaction with bots and other players. New VR games coming out will advance that immersive experience, once confined by a screen.
Discovery & Distribution
These companies provide a destination to search and discover VR/AR content and apps. Some of them have created their own content to seed their platforms while some of the content companies have added discovery and distribution as part of their offering, as noted above.
Companies in this category allow for social, collaboration and communication within the medium. I’ve seen companies here provide virtual meeting environments and chat rooms where the user is represented in a virtual environment with an avatar.
Hardware includes head mounted displays (HMDs), mobile HMDs, other mixed reality displays, cameras and capture technology, accessories and input devices, and specialty lenses. After Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, it is interesting to see other companies’ involvement with HMDs: Google’s investment in Magic Leap, HTC’s Vive, Samsung’s collaboration with Oculus on the GearVR, Sony’s PlayStation VR, and Fox’s recent investment in Osterhout Design Group.
Infrastructure & Tools
This category captures a lot of different types of companies, but in essence these companies (aside from the headsets and mobile devices) provide the backbone, piping, delivery, building blocks, or creation software for VR/AR. I consider this category to encompass creation tools, dev tools, gaming engines, SDKs, gesture & motion tracking, haptic feedback technology, WebVR, encoding, and live-streaming tools. Companies in this space are solving the technology limitations for great VR/AR experiences (such as high quality delivery, VR/AR asset transfer, and the challenges of “presence”).
The top funded categories were hardware, followed by infrastructure and tools, commercial/industrial applications, and content. The least funded category is discovery and distribution.