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10+ Virtual Reality Companies to Watch in 2017

2016 has often been called the year of VR. It is the year that virtual reality expanded beyond tech labs in Silicon Valley and became mainstream. Dozens of companies – Apple, Samsung, Google and even Microsoft – are all jostling for space in the new industry, trying to outdo each other in hardware and software. Technology has become cheap, better and easily available. You can even make your own VR headset at home and watch VR content with your Android smartphone. Deloitte predicts that the industry will hit one billion dollars in revenue in 2016 and keep growing from there. This growth has been fueled by various companies; some like Google and Microsoft already veterans in the tech industry and others just startups. Here are the top virtual reality companies to watch in 2017 and beyond.samsung gear vr, virtual reality, Upcoming Technology of the Future - Trends in 2016

1. Google

Google was one of the first companies to bet big on virtual reality. The introduction of Cardboard – a super affordable VR viewer – has played a huge role in the growth of virtual reality. With Cardboard, Google made it possible for everyone to enjoy VR content on their Smartphones, no expensive gear needed.

The company has continued to work on its VR platform and reports suggest that a more advanced VR headset is in the works. This is something to watch out for in the coming year. Codenamed Daydream, the headset and accompanying software are expected to push the limits of what you can do with VR.

The most exciting thing about Google and its involvement in VR is the potential it holds for its sprawling network of products and services. Imagine the result if Google integrated VR into products such as Maps. We can already see the results of such integration in the stunning VR content available on YouTube.

Google has never been shy about going big in anything they have done and we expect the same with their VR efforts. 2017 is going to be a huge year for both VR and AR (augmented reality) and Google is definitely going to be in the thick of it with new gadgets and software.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft another big player investing big in virtual and augmented reality. The best-known project by the company is Hololens, which combines both VR and AR to create something called Mixed Reality. Currently, only the developer edition of Microsoft Hololens is available. You can get it for a pricey $3,000. Unless you are a developer, you might want to sit back and see where Microsoft goes with this project. When perfected, Hololens will have huge implications across numerous industries.

Away from mixed reality, reports suggest that the company is also involved in the development of a VR-capable gaming console. The console, whose release is expected in 2017, will combine 4K resolution and VR gaming to create one of the most powerful gaming consoles in the market. It will also help the company compete against its two closest competitors; Sony and Nintendo.

Something else to look out for in 2017 is the development of PCs capable of supporting virtual reality. Almost all focus has been on Smartphones when it comes to affordable VR. To use VR with a PC, you have to invest in a very expensive gaming laptop. Microsoft and Intel announced earlier in the year that they would partner to create VR-capable PCs targeted at middle-income customers.

3. Apple

Despites its decade-long interest in virtual reality, Apple has been slow in releasing any actual VR products. While companies like Google, Microsoft and Samsung have gone in with full force, Apple has held back.

But recent reports indicate that apple is making big moves behind the curtain, getting ready to release its own product. They have reportedly hired hundreds of people to work on the project. Knowing Apple, we expect something big from the company. It could be a VR headset, a mixed reality pair of glasses (remember Google Glass?) or something else equally fancy.

What is even more interesting is what Apple will do with its VR platform. It could integrate it with Apple Watch, the coming Apple Car and its entertain platforms (Apple TV and Apple Music). Apple has a history of holding back only to burst in with something better and polished, lacking in the flaws of introductory products. It may seem like it has been left behind by the VR train, but 2017 might just prove to be Apple big break in VR.

4. Magic Leap

Magic Leap is one of the most secretive startups. This has not prevented the company from raising over $1.4 billion in investments from names like Google, Alibaba and Qualcomm. While very little is known about what the company is actually doing, most reports indicate that it involves mixed reality technology. Mixed reality is a combination of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

The revolutionary technology is based on a special viewing lens that the company is referring to as photonic lightfield chip. The result is highly realistic virtual reality overlaid in the actual environment. Wearing the gadget, you can hold a virtual elephant in your hand, walk through a store without actually being in the store and project a virtual screen in thin air to replace your computer.

Many tech experts are calling Magic Leap the screen killer as it could spell the end of devices like PCs and Smartphones. That is why everyone is anticipating the final product from Magic Leap. It could be the biggest thing to happen to the VR industry yet. Magic Leap is expected to make a launch in 2017.

5. Bricks and Goggles

For architects and homeowners, being able to visualize a yet-to-be-built house is essential to the planning process. While 3D models are great and all, nothing beats being able to walk through your virtual home as if it were already built. You can see how it actually looks, how different aspects go together and what changes need to be made.

The company accepts models from various programs including BIM and CAD. They then turn these 3D models into virtual reality explorations. Using a VR headset such as Oculus Rift or Cardboard, the client then experiences the design in a whole new way.

As VR becomes more mainstream, companies like Bricks and Goggles will play a more important role in the development and adaptation of VR by the market. The Dutch company has come up with promising technology and it will be interesting to see in what direction they expand in the coming year.

Another company to watch out for in this area of VR architecture is IrisVR.

6. DeepStream VR

Who thought that one day medicine would be delivered in digital form? DeepStream VR is making this seemingly outlandish idea into a reality. Using proven technology and strong science, the company is making inroads into the health industry.

One are they are involved in is pain relief, whether chronic or short term. This is based on scientific research showing that virtual reality can actually help reduce pain. Their app, COOL! Is already in use in various clinics for pain relief.

The app transports patients into an immersive experience where they fly over scenic landscapes and meet with other creatures. There is a wide variety of fun activities players can choose from and the game can be played endlessly.

According to the company, the app provides 60-70% in pain reduction during the VR treatment and 30-50% reduction after treatment. The pain relief effects last 48 hours after usage. The best part about it is that there are no side effects unlike traditional pain medications that cause dizziness, nausea and other complications.

One cannot help but speculate about other areas in the medical industry where VR could be used for treatment. It is not hard to think about this company coming with VR treatments for various psychological problems like stress, depression, anger management and low self-esteem. This is one company to definitely keep an eye out for.

7. Realities.io

There has been plenty of buzz surrounding 360-degree photos and videos. Their premise is that they provide a multi-perspective visualization of an object or place. But this technology has its limitation especially if you want to see a place in all its beauty and detail.

Realities.io takes things a level higher. Instead of just showing you 360-degree visualizations, they have come up with a technology that creates immersive VR experiences. You can sit at home and explore the world at your pleasure. You can visit a cultural heritage site without having to board a plane and even kneel down to inspect the dust on the ground. You can zoom to the famous tourist attraction you have been reading about everywhere without having to spend a dime.

The company uses advanced technology to create realistic virtual experiences that you can even interact with. Currently, only the HTC Vive headset can be used though the company promises to add support for Oculus Rift in the near future.
The company offers all these features free of charge to help as many people as possible experience the world in an easy and cost-free way.

8. Facebook

Facebook broke onto the VR scene by acquiring Oculus VR. Since then, they have developed Oculus Rift into one of the most popular VR devices in the market especially among avid gamers. But the company is looking even further ahead with an aim of developing a strong VR platform with varied offerings for everyone.

Facebook has already shown an interest in expanding Facebook’s media offering, having recently made major efforts to make Video a central feature of their social media network. By integrating VR with Facebook, the company might just manage to keep their 1 billion+ users around much longer.

Recently, the company announced that it had acquired another VR company that specializes in audio for gaming and cinematic experiences. By combining audio and visual technology, Facebook could offer a new way for users to interact via VR.

It is really exciting to think how social media could change if Facebook decides to add VR to its platform. It will change how millions of people interact and share with friends. It could also introduce new opportunities for businesses to advertise.

As the company digs deeper into VR, keep your eyes glued on the developments. 2017 could prove to be the year that social media as we know it changes.

9. Samsung

Samsung was one of the first entrants into the VR scene. Their VR products fall somewhere between the cheap and DIY-possible Google Cardboard and much more expensive gadgets like Oculus Rift. With Gear VR, people are able to use their Smartphone to achieve VR experiences almost similar to those of high-end headsets.

With the release of the much acclaimed Galaxy Note 7, Samsung also announced a new version of Gear VR selling at $100. It is not at the same level as HTC Vive but it is perfect for those looking for an introduction to virtual reality content. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you can create your own VR content using Samsung Gear 360 camera, though it is much pricier at $350.

Samsung has excelled at providing powerful VR features at a fair price and we cannot wait to see what they unveil in 2017. They will help make VR even more mainstream.

10. HTC

One of the best VR headsets belongs to HTC. HTC Vive takes gaming to another level by introducing interactive and extremely realistic gaming scenes. The entire HTC Vive kit is expensive, starting at $799. But for the price you get an incredible advanced and feature-rich gaming kit. It will not disappoint.

In 2017, we could see something even better from HTC. With Vive having such powerful features, it is exciting to see what improvements the company can make to an already excellent product. Facebook’s Oculus has its work cut out if it hopes to become a leader in VR gaming.

Virtual Reality Companies – VR and AR in 2017

2016 has sort of been the introductory year for virtual and augmented reality. In an incredibly short span of time, VR has spread rapidly across the market with positive acceptance across the board. Now that the foundation is set and companies have a sure footing, 2017 is the year that big developments take place. Most importantly, VAM (virtual, augmented and mixed realities) will become more integrated into our lives from how we enjoy entertainment to how we socialize online.

Which VR companies do you think will make the biggest waves in 2017? Leave your comments below.

Image credit: theclimbgame.com

See recommended VR headsets on Amazon

HTC Vive

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Oculus Rift

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Sony Playstation VR

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Samsung Gear VR

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