How big will the virtual reality (VR) market grow? That’s a vital question for developers and other tech pros interested in exploring the space. With their limited time and resources, it would prove disastrous to invest in something that barely becomes a niche; on the other hand, nobody wants to miss out on the next big market while it’s still in a relatively nascent stage.
According to a new research note from Goldman Sachs, those interested in VR’s possibilities have cause for optimism: the investment bank believes the market will generate $110 billion in annual revenue within the next decade, outpacing television.
There are some caveats to that generous prediction, however. Goldman’s analysts think that, for the VR market to explode, the industry must radically improve the underlying hardware technology, especially with regard to battery life and cellular capability. The more portable the headset at the center of the VR experience, the more likely the industry’s chances of growing rapidly.
In addition, the firm’s estimation only includes hardware, not software; the amount of money under discussion could radically increase if developers issue a number of must-have games and apps over the next decade.
If you’re interested in breaking into VR (or augmented reality, also known as AR) from a software perspective, and you already have some experience building graphically-rich apps, good news: you already have a solid knowledge-base upon which to build. Experience in 3D modeling and graphic programming is useful, but anyone building in VR will have to absorb newer concepts such as head tracking and 3D calibration, not to mention minutiae such as ensuring that directional audio syncs up with whatever the user is actually seeing.
While it’s impossible at this juncture to tell which VR platforms will dominate five or even ten years from now, you can play around with the two big players at the moment, Oculus (its SDK 0.8 is available for download) and Google Cardboard (which also has an SDK).