Technology

Offshore turbines

Green Opportunity

The world is changing.  Over the next half century our use of fossil fuels will greatly diminish.  The UK and most of the rest of the world will transition to using green energy sources.  That means more electric vehicles and a shift to renewable energy.

Two undeniable realities are converging to force the pace of that change. 

The first is the global climate emergency.  To keep global warming in check we must reduce carbon emissions and, to do that, we must move away from using fossil fuels.  The world has no real choice.

The second challenge is the simple fact that, sooner or later, the world will start running out of fossil fuels to burn.  Up to now, this date still appears far off.  New technologies and the discovery of new reserves means we are unlikely to run out any time soon.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that fossil fuels are a finite resource.  At some point or other, we will have to shift to alternatives.

Often, we see the shift to greener energy as a necessary cost, the price we must pay for preserving our environment and securing our future survival.  Indeed, there is no denying that a shift to a greener economy does require investment over the short to medium term.  Electric vehicles are still more expensive to buy new than conventional ones.  Installing solar panels or geothermal heating requires an (often hefty) initial investment.

However, the shift to greener energy is also an opportunity.  The whole world is changing – not only the UK, but every country is challenged with making the same transition.  Such a radical shift requires significant investment, new technology, new infrastructure and all the ancillary products and services that accompany that.  It is therefore also an opportunity.  Those who lead the way and grasp that opportunity will be well placed to capitalise on it in the future.

Some of the world’s largest and most profitable companies today are oil and gas companies.  Their wealth and success stems from the fact that they are central to supplying the world’s economies with energy today.  It therefore follows that, in the long term, those businesses that lead the way in the green economy of the future, have similar success to look forward to.

The process of transitioning to a greener economy is already well underway.

Today the UK generates 48.1% of its electricity from renewables.  There is still a long way to go but when you consider that figure was only 21.3% a decade ago, things are clearly changing fast.

In the past year (up to the autumn of 2023), 55% of all new vehicles registered in the UK were either electric or hybrid.  16.4% were pure electric vehicles, up from a virtually negligible proportion (1.7%) only four years ago.

So, there is no doubt that the UK is making progress.  However, we are not at the very forefront of change.  If we consider the ten largest western and central European countries by population, the UK only ranks 7th highest in terms of the proportion of our electricity requirement generated by renewables.  Sweden is way ahead of us (77.5% renewables).  Romania, Germany, Netherlands, and Spain are also significantly ahead (in all cases generating over 58% of their energy requirements from renewables).

Pie chart of the proportion of tk electricity generated by renewables.

Here in the UK, we don’t get much sun, so we can’t generate as much electricity from solar power as many other countries.  However, the UK is quite windy.  As a result, over half of our renewable energy is generated by wind turbines. 

Our island coastline makes offshore wind a particularly appealing option.  Indeed, the UK generates more electricity from offshore wind power than any other country except China.  In terms of offshore wind power, the UK is well placed to lead the way.

Despite all that has been achieved so far, a CBI report from January 2023 warned that the UK is in danger of falling behind.  Investment by the UK government in tackling climate change is now beginning to run behind some of our key international competitors.

The proportion of government spending committed to climate change by country.

As a result, over the past two years or so, the UK’s share of emerging green markets has remained static or even gone backwards.  Our share of the offshore wind cabling market is unmoved at 12%.  12% sounds a lot, until you consider that the UK accounted for 27% of global capacity for offshore wind in 2022.

By a similar token, our share of EV assembly has fallen from 6% to 5%;  our share of EV batteries from 2% to 1% and of hydrogen electrolysers from 6% to 2%.

A recently published survey by EY warned that the attractiveness of the UK for clean energy investors has fallen from fourth to seventh in the international rankings.

The past year has also witnessed Britishvolt, a UK flagship lithium-ion battery manufacturing venture, go into administration.  The Australian owned Recharge Industries have been attempting to revive the project ever since.  However, at the time of writing, its future still looks most uncertain.

The UK has made good progress in transitioning to a green economy thus far.  We are still well placed to capitalise on the opportunities this transition will bring.  However, there is no denying that things have stalled somewhat of late. Investment has levelled off and is being surpassed by international competitors.   The UK has ambitious targets but there is little by way of any detailed long-term industrial strategy in evidence.  The government’s recent back-peddling demonstrates a relatively lukewarm commitment to drive things forward.

All this recent reticence to make detailed plans or commit to significant further investment no doubt helps balance the books in the short term.  However, short-term cost savings could lead to the UK paying a bigger price in the longer term (especially if short term becomes medium term).

83% of businesses at a Chamber of Commerce event at the Eden Project on 27th September thought that recent government back-peddling on net zero policies were unhelpful for business.  Indeed, only 2% thought they were helpful.

But let’s be positive.  It is by no means too late to address these setbacks.  The UK is still well placed to take advantage of the emerging green economy.   Even as I am writing this piece, the UK government announced it will be increasing the amount paid for offshore power.  This should help to kickstart an erstwhile stalled offshore sector.  It’s a start at least.

However, whether the UK keeps pace with our international competitors or not, there is no doubt that the world is transitioning from the age of fossil fuels to the age of renewables.  Those who lead the charge and remain at the forefront of this green revolution will be well placed to reap significant rewards in the future.  The UK still has plenty of opportunity to capitalise on this.  Let’s hope it does.  It would be a great shame if these opportunities were squandered. 

Carbon Brief – What do Rishi Sunak’s U-turns mean for UK climate policy?

CBI Green Growth, January 2023

EDIE – UK fast becoming less attractive to international clean energy investors, EY warns

IRENA – Renewable energy capacity statistics 2023

Price paid for offshore power to rise by over 50% – BBC 16/11/23

SMMT – EV vehicle registrations

Synchronix is a consultancy service, offering a full range of professional market research, data analytics and technical copywriting services.

For any questions or enquiries, please email us: info@synchronixresearch.com

You can read more about us on our website.  

You can catch up with our past blog articles here.

Hands holding tablet and watching Youtube

The Visual Communications Age

The past few years has seen a boom in visual communications across social media.  An estimated 2.3 billion people now use YouTube every month.  Instagram and TikTok have around 1 billion monthly users each.

Visual social media of this kind – be it in the form of still images or video clips – are transforming the way in which we communicate.  Part of this change is simply a function of accessibility.  Technology has made it far easier for people to create visual images and make short video clips and mini films than ever was the case, even ten years ago.  And now there are more social media outlets than ever before where it is possible to publish such material.

It is incredible to think that twenty years ago Facebook, YouTube and Twitter did not even exist.  How much the world has changed!

However, we should not be tempted to think that social media platforms will continue to grow forever.  There is a finite limit to the number of users any platform can attract, after all.  Like in any other market, market growth will inevitably give way to market maturity at some point.

Platform maturity

Facebook’s owner Meta Platforms recently recorded a record daily loss on the stock market.  This came in the wake of the news that Facebook’s Daily Active Users fell to 1.929bn in the three months to the end of December. This compares to 1.930bn in the previous quarter.

This is the first time Facebook has experienced such a fall; a clear sign that this particular platform is reaching its mature phase.  Of course, it was bound to happen eventually.  After all, there are only so many active daily users you can have from a global population of 7.7 billion (some of whom do not have good internet access).

Rising Platforms

TikTok’s owner ByteDance, by contrast, saw revenues grow by 70% in 2021 (although even this is slower than the spectacular growth seen previously).

Facebook is primarily about written communication, albeit pictures, images and gifs are often shared on the platform.  TikTok is, of course, mainly about the short form video clip.  The BBC recently reported that Facebook’s owner has warned of pressures on revenues precisely because of stiffer competition from TikTok and YouTube.

Are these signs, therefore, of a wider trend?  Are we seeing a real sea-change in the way in which we communicate?  A transition from a culture of communication based on the written word to one where visual images and video become the dominant mode of interaction?

A visual future?

Are these portents of things to come?  Of a world where communication is primary achieved with the video clip and the streamed podcast?  Some would argue it is already happening, after all it is now quite easy for anyone to broadcast their own content on YouTube, TikTok or Twitch and it will only become easier with each passing year.  Now everyone is a content publisher.

There are also signs of generational differences.  Anecdotally we are hearing that younger people are more likely to engage with social media like TikTok and YouTube.  Social media such as Facebook, with its higher reliance on written content, still has an appeal for older generations but is, perhaps, less suited for a generation addicted to the video clip. 

But can we put any hard numbers to these claims?

Generational differences

A Synchronix survey from last year looked at social media use amongst gamers.  We wanted to understand the extent to which people of different ages engaged with social media to discuss or exchange information about gaming.  The results showed some clear generational differences in terms of preference.

Graph of gamer social media preferences by age

Platforms

YouTube: Emerges as the most popular social media platform for gamers under the age of 45.  Older gamers also engage with it extensively but, for the over 45s, is relegated to the number two spot. 

Instagram: is the second most popular media with the under 25s.  It is less popular with the 24-35 age group but still ranks 3rd overall.  Its popularity clearly diminishes with age, especially amongst the over 45s.

TikTok:  If anything, TikTok illustrates the most significant generational differences of all.  It is used by nearly 40% of the under 25s, placing it neck and neck with Instagram within this age group.  This drops to 26% amongst the 25-34’s (still significant).  However, its popularity wanes markedly in older age groups.

All three brands of visual based social media reflect the same overall pattern.  Their popularity is greatest in the youngest age groups and lowest amongst the over 45s.

Facebook:  Despite the recent slight dip in use, Facebook is popular with all ages.  However, it is not even one of the three most popular platforms for the under 25s, although this soon changes when we start to consider older age groups.  It is the second most popular platform for the 25-44 age group and the most popular with the over 45s.  Its higher reliance on written content lends it greater appeal for older audiences.

Twitter: Twitter is fourth most popular in the under 25s but drops in popularity with older age groups (especially the over 45s).  This is interesting as it shows that Twitter, which is primarily text based, demonstrates that written communications retain a certain degree of popularity with the younger generation.  The short form tweet, with its soundbite feel, is still able to resonate with generation Z in a way that other forms of written communication appear to struggle to do.

The future

One thing is now clear. Visual media has become critical for effectively communicating with Gen Z.  However, they are not entirely abandoning the written word.  Their preference for Twitter above Facebook is likely influenced by a texting culture in which short soundbites are strongly preferred to longer written posts.

The recent dip in Facebook usage likely reflects this generational behaviour shift.  However, the downtick in Facebook engagement should not be exaggerated.  The fact is that Facebook remains very popular amongst the over 25s and the most important social media for engaging with the over 45s.

As newer generations of internet users reach adulthood, it is likely that different generational preferences will become increasingly marked.  Marketeers will increasingly need to adapt strategies to employ a different mix of social media channels depending on the generation of customers they are aiming to communicate with.

So, a campaign aimed at the over 45s may need to focus more on Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp.  However, a campaign aimed at a Gen Z audience would need to take very different approach, and would do better to focus mainly on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Given the rapid pace of change we have experienced in the world of social media over the past decade, we can expect further significant changes over the next few years.  The next TikTok is likely to be a platform that facilitates video and/or audio interaction rather than something more reliant on the written word.   

As Gen Z comes of age and as younger generations follow, we will move to a culture highly dependent on streaming, video communication and visual interaction.  Perhaps we will eventually see this evolve into virtual reality driven experiences.  In fact, I’m sure this will happen at some point.  And although I suspect it is still a good way off, I would not be surprised if we found ourselves living in such a world twenty years from now.

About Us

Synchronix Research offers a full range market research services and market research training.  We can also provide technical content writing services.

You can read more about us on our website.  

You can catch up with our past blog articles here.

If you like to get in touch, please email us.

Sources

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60255088#

Playbook – UK Gaming Market Report 2021, Synchronix Research

https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/population

https://backlinko.com/instagram-users

https://backlinko.com/tiktok-users

https://www.globalmediainsight.com/blog/youtube-users-statistics/

https://www.reuters.com/markets/funds/exclusive-tiktok-owner-bytedances-revenue-growth-slowed-70-2021-sources-2022-01-20/


Flying Drone

The Drone Revolution

Since 2010, the growth in the use of drone technology has been gathering pace at an incredible rate.  When first developed in the mid-1930s drones were highly experimental and expensive.  Today, they are not only used for a wide variety of commercial applications, but have also become a popular and affordable piece of consumer tech. 

So, are we on the verge of a Drone Revolution?

How many people are using Drones?

In the UK, in May 2021, there were nearly 4,500 certified commercial drone operators of small drones and 1,751 operators of larger drones.   These are businesses using drones for serious commercial applications – applications deemed to present an equivalent safety risk to that of manned aviation.

However, these are now dwarfed by the number of hobbyists.  The CAA estimated there were over 130,000 UK drone users at the end of 2019 – the vast majority of which were hobbyists rather than commercial users.

In a larger market like the USA, the numbers are even higher.  The FAA figures show that there were nearly 875,000 registered US drone users in May 2021.

The Hobbyist

Drones are now very affordable, and a hobbyist can buy a decent drone to easily get up and flying for under £1,000 these days.  

Research by Drones Direct shows that hobbyists are mainly using their drones for filming video (77%) or taking photographs (75%).  The typical profile of these people is mostly male (96%) and middle aged (52% are aged over 45).  It is also clear that these are hobbyists using their drones quite frequently (58% fly at least once a week). 

There would appear to be a strong link between drone use and photography, with two thirds of drone users are also keen on photography.  Around one fifth of the adult population list photography as a hobby (that’s potentially millions of people), so the potential for future growth, just based on current use patterns, is clearly significant.

Commercial Users

Drones have been used extensively by the military for decades now and much of the impetus for the development of this technology has come from the development of such applications. 

The military will no doubt continue to provide an important impetus for innovation in drone technology.  However, these days, a wide variety of other commercial applications are emerging.  These are likely to prove increasingly important markets for drone tech suppliers in the future.  Key commercial areas where drones are now being used would include:

  • Journalism & film making; drones are increasingly providing the primary way for obtaining aerial shots.
  • Disaster management; in gathering information and getting emergency supplies to isolated areas following disasters such as earthquakes.
  • Search and rescue; when fitted with enhanced imaging and thermal cameras, drones can play a critical role in search and rescue operations.
  • Mapping: drones can map terrain features in locations that are difficult to cover by other means.
  • Law enforcement and surveillance; drones provide a relatively unobtrusive means of surveillance and allow observation to be undertaken without the need for a physical human presence.
  • Weather monitoring and storm tracking.
  • Building inspections; drones allow construction workers to view the exterior of large structures and gain detailed photographs of places that are difficult to physically access by other means.
  • Inspections of processing plants (e.g. for the oil and gas industry); any large structure can now be inspected by drones.  Detailed images, including thermal ones, can be taken of inaccessible areas, allowing maintenance engineers to view the state of equipment without being physically present.
  • Shipping and delivery; at present applications are being developed that focus mainly on the distribution of small packages. However, in the future, it may even be possible to transport larger cargos using large drones.

Developments

Virtually any application involving observation, or transport and delivery of small items are potentially suited to drone use.  One thing is for certain.  As the price of the technology reduces and the technology improves, it will become increasingly practical to perform a wider variety of commercially viable applications.

So, what further developments should we look out for in the future?

Logistics – Amazon Prime Air

Amazon have been working to develop a fleet of drones to deliver small packages as part of its logistics network.  One key potential advantage of such an approach comes from the fact that drones can avoid traffic and deliver packages by a more direct route (as the crow flies in some cases). 

The service will be called Prime Air and is currently being tested in several countries.  In the UK Amazon have recently doubled the size of their Prime Air team and we are likely to see the service launch in a matter of months rather than years.

Hydrogen power

Hydrogen is an emission-free fuel and has the advantage of keeping a drone airborne for longer. The technology first appeared in 2016 but we are now starting to see more hydrogen powered drones come onto the market.  The capability to remain airborne for longer makes them particularly suited for applications such as agriculture, mapping and for disaster response in remote locations.  Any application, in fact, where there is a need for a long flight time.

At present the primary barrier to hydrogen power is the cost but as prices come down and technology improves we can expect to see more hydrogen powered drones in the future.

AI and improved navigation

As more drones fill our skies it will become increasingly important for them to navigate their way around avoiding each other and various other safety hazards.

AI drones that use computer vision to detect and navigate their way avoiding other airborne objects and hazards are now starting to appear on the market. High performance on-board image processing coupled with other navigational aids will make this increasingly possible.  At present, of course, such technology is expensive, but we can expect to see it become more commercially available over the next few years.

Perching drones

Drones all have a limited amount of flight time available to them.  However, this can be prolonged significantly if a drone is able to land on a building or other high object and make its observations without needing to expend energy to remain airborne.

Various technologies are being developed to allow drones to do this; perhaps enabling a drone to ‘perch’ on a streetlight or to rest on the corner of a building.  This would have the benefit of making a drone more stable whilst it is making its observations as well as conserving power.

Problems and dangers

Of course, as drones become more ubiquitous, they bring with them their own unique set of problems and challenges.  Not least is the potential for this technology to interfere with existing air traffic or for it to be misused by criminals and even terrorists.

In 2019, the year before Covid cleared our skies of aircraft, UK aircraft pilots reported 91 confirmed incidents involving drones and a further 29 incidents that may well have been drones but were unidentified.  This compares to only 4 confirmed incidents involving drones and 1 unconfirmed incident that were reported in 2010.

This has prompted the UK government to introduce a registration system in 2020 and to require users of certain types of drones to obtain specific certification.  Now even hobbyists must hold a flyer ID and past a test to legally fly their drones in the UK.

Whilst such measures will no doubt serve to help minimise the danger of accidental incidents, the threat of criminal or terrorist misuse is a different matter.  In warzones, drones are already used for surveillance, to disrupt airspace and even to deliver small explosives. 

With new threats comes new technology.  Countermeasures of various kinds are being developed, these include directed energy weapons with the power to disable drones using such techniques as lasers, particle beams or radio frequency waves.  One of the latest uses high-powered microwaves to knock out a drone’s onboard electronics.

If future, we can expect to see measures of this kind deployed to protect airports and other sensitive potential targets.

The Future

It seems clear that the coming decade will see an increasing proliferation of drone technology.  This technology has grown from the highly specialised and niche use of a decade ago to a stage where it is now beginning to experience mass commercial and consumer adoption. 

The coming decade will see this technology becoming more ubiquitous as it develops further and the costs come down.  The challenges faced by drone suppliers will be to keep developing the technology at a rapid pace whilst remaining conscious of the public safety concerns.

However, the future is bright and no doubt there are many potential applications out there that new technological advances will enable drones to exploit.  There is also a potentially significant untapped consumer market.  As the technology reaches out to a mass market, so manufacturers will need to think increasingly about their marketing, and building strong and distinctive brand image and awareness amongst potential customers. 

It would seem that we are indeed on the verge of a drone revolution.

About Synchronix

Synchronix is a full-service market research agency.  We believe in using market research to help our clients understand how best to prepare for the future.  That means understanding change – whether that be changes in technology, culture, attitudes or behaviour. 

We have considerable experience in the design and execution of market research surveys in the field of both b2c and b2b science, engineering and tech markets.  We can offer a range of services to help you identify new market opportunities and to understand the position and strength of your brand in the market.  You can read more about this on our website.  

If you wish to follow our weekly blog you can view all out past articles on our website here.

Sources

Airprox

Amazon

BBC

Business Insider

CAA

Cloudemployee

Dronelife

Dronesdirect

FAA

Interesting Engineering

Pilot web

Reliability web

Sciencefocus

UAV coach

Your Story

Virtual Future – how will virtual reality shape our future world?

Part 2:  VR beyond gaming

More than just a game

In our last blog we began our discussion of VR by looking at what the future may hold in store for this technology in the world of computer games.  However, whilst gaming still represents the most widely used application for VR and AR at present, this technology has many other applications.

In this article, we would like to take a closer look the potential for these.

Remote working

One of the huge changes covid has forced on our professional lives is the need for virtual working.  The business world has discovered that it is perfectly possible for most office staff to work effectively from home for long periods of time.  Indeed, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have helped to make home working become the new normal.

But a remote working world, for all its video calls, can be an isolating experience.  Yes, we will be returning to the office sometime this year.  But let’s not kid ourselves it will be the same.  Many people will now be working from home as the norm and hot desking in the office when they need to.  The days of the daily commute, five days a week, every week, are gone.

This remote working scenario is ripe for transformation into a virtual world.  Using VR and AR technology can help to humanise the experience, it can make it more real, more interactive and allow work colleagues to participate in a wider range of interactive tasks.

This technology is already here.  One such solution is Spatial; an AR version of Zoom, enabling work colleagues to interact in an AR office space.  You can interact in a more 3D environment rather than just with 2-dimensional video but the technology also offers other tools such as enabling you to share ideas by scribbling on a virtual white board, share content and images in 3D and so on.  No doubt, as time goes by, technology such as this will continue to add features and tools that make the experience even more interactive.

Socialising

In lockdown we have all, to some extent or other, been forced to get used to the idea of remote socialising.  Often armed with a glass of wine and a Zoom call.  Arguably many Gen Zs have been socialising remotely far more than they do in person for most of their lives.  The only thing that’s changed over the past year is that the rest of us have joined them.

Now, I’m not suggesting people are going to abandon the pubs and restaurants any time soon.  In fact, once these places can re-open, I’m sure they can expect a bit of a boom.  Imagine the novelty value of going to the pub with your friends again? 

But that said, I suspect that socialising remotely will remain a much more important part of our lives post-covid than it was before.  For one thing it is a great way to meet up with friends and family who live far away.  No need to travel, just hop on a Zoom call.

Again, as with working, remote socialising tends to lead naturally to virtual socialising.  The ability to interact in 3D in a virtual environment is unlikely to catch on if it is expensive but – as soon as the price is right – this will eventually become a normal way of communicating.  As with virtual reality workspaces, it is more a question of when than if.

Indeed, tools already exist for virtual socialising such as Altspace VR, VR Chat and Rec Room.

Interior Design and Architecture

An obvious application for VR and AR is interior design.  Using this technology a designer can show their clients how they might transform an interior space.  Such a visualisation can make a design look far more real and can be used to show clients what a range of different alternatives might look like. 

Such technology should ultimately make it easy for people to visualise a range of different options and to alter and adjust designs to see how different scenarios might play out.  And what goes for interior design applies equally well to architecture.  Now it is possible to visit an empty plot of land or a building site and use AR to see exactly what a new building might look like.  You can even walk around it to see just what it looks like in its environment from every angle.

Many clients find it hard to visualise what an end design might look like.  VR can show them in a way that is clear, avoids misunderstanding and negates the need for lengthy explanations.

Having a clear virtual view of what the end product will look like before you even need to build, buy or change anything, clearly has the potential to avoid costly mistakes.   Most importantly, it makes it much less likely that designers and builders will hear the dreaded words “Now I see it, I’m not sure I like it like that.”

Engineering and Industrial Design

Technical design work can often involve large teams and often those teams may be working together but are based in different parts of the world.

Here VR/AR has the same potential as in other fields to link remote working colleagues together and enable them to visualise concepts and designs in 3-dimensions.

People can all see how things might fit together and how the finished article might look.  This can be particularly important if the physical styling and appearance of the end product is key.  It is much better to spot potential problems in a virtual world and correct them, rather than having to wait until an expensive prototype has been created.

Like architecture, the key benefits will come from remote teamworking and the ability to visualise the end product fully before you need to start spending serious money on making it real.

As with other fields, the barriers will be all around cost and, given the data hungry nature of engineering design work, the ability of the technology to cope well with that.  The ROI will become simpler and easier to justify, as the technology improves and costs come down.

Some companies have already been using this technology for a while now.  Businesses like Jaguar Land Rover and Arup have been deploying VR in design for over a decade.  In time smaller businesses will inevitably follow.

Healthcare

Another field where we might expect to see VR make increasing inroads is healthcare.  Here the technology can be used for training in various surgical procedures.  It can also be used to help surgeons plan for particularly complex operations.

Students can now study human anatomy extensively with VR, potentially continuing their studies from home if need be.

VR can assist with robotic surgery enhancing the degree of control a remote surgeon has over their instruments during a procedure and providing them with a much clearer visualisation of what is happening than would be possible just by looking at a video screen.

Other Applications

VR’s inherent ability to visualise and simulate makes it ideal for any training application where people need to interact with complex technology or a difficult environment.  It can safely create realistic simulations that help prepare people for working in demanding and potentially dangerous work environments.  It also enables students and tutors who may be scattered in remote locations to come together and interact as a group.

As the technology improves and the costs come down, it is inevitable that we will see VR become increasingly used as a go-to technology for many training applications.

Clearly the primary application for VR in entertainment is gaming.  However, this is not the only one.  VR can be used to enhance rides in theme parks or perhaps even to create an entire VR experience as a theme in itself.

VR can create spectacular interactive 3-dimensional landscapes and environments.  The potential to use this technology to create something of great artistic beauty can deliver entertainment in the form of a sense of wonder.

Could we perhaps be engaging with VR films or other entertainment experiences in the future?  I am sure we will, in time.

The Future

Given the wide range of different potential applications we could be looking at a world dominated by VR technology at some point in the future.

The fact that covid has rapidly accelerated the extent to which the world works and interacts remotely can only serve as an accelerator for the adoption of new VR applications.  The only question is how fast will this happen?

Unfortunately, VR has suffered considerably from over-hype in the past.  I am sure we can all remember the heady prophecies of 800% growth over four years and such like.  In a way, predictions such as that have done more harm than good for the industry and run the risk of creating a sense of the “boy who cried wolf”.

We may not see a sudden, spectacular, VR revolution but I believe we will see a steady evolution and a sustained growth.  One day we will wake up and all of a sudden it will seem as though VR is everywhere.

For the VR industry it is important to remember that VR itself is only a technology.  For a technology to succeed it must have applications.  So the real challenge, beyond improving the technology, is to identify and develop a meaningful range of products for which there is real demand.  And here it helps to start by taking some advice from Steve Jobs:

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.” 

In this context that means looking for potential situations that would benefit from the visual power of VR – i.e. where visualisation can add real value.  Its other key benefit is its ability to operate virtually, bring people in different locations together in a single experience.  Those two things in combination represent the key to developing killer applications.

Identifying and refining how these applications work, overcoming customer objections and reservations and then successfully communicating the benefits of the technology all require a good understanding of the potential market.  This would be where market research can help of course.

About Synchronix

Synchronix is a full-service market research agency.  We believe in using market research to help our clients understand how best to prepare for the future.  That means understanding change – whether that be changes in technology, culture, attitudes or behaviour. 

We provide a wide range of market research and data services.  You can learn more about our services on our website.  Also, please check out our collection of free research guides for more information on specific services offers.

Sources & Links:

Spatial

VR Chat 

Altspace VR

Rec Room

British Interior Design Institute

Ingenia

New Medical

VRSYNC

Discovering the Future of Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming has achieved massive popularity in recent years.  The pandemic of 2020 has seen it boom, with Facebook figures reported in the Drum, showing mobile gaming hours spent on its platform doubling when comparing Q4 2019 with Q4 2020.  So, what might we expect to see in the coming year?  Here’s our take on four key things to look out for in the development of mobile gaming in 2021.

Firstly, 2021 will see the roll out of 5G. The consequence of this is that it will become increasing easy to stream games over mobile and this will open the door to new possibilities in terms of gaming development. 

The most popular mobile games up to now have tended to be puzzle games, arcade games and other what might be termed “casual” games.  Part of the reason for their popularity relates to the fact that they are well suited to playing quick games on-the-go on your phone (for example, whilst you are commuting or taking your lunch break).  No doubt that will remain very influential in how the market develops.  That said, other types of games may currently be less popular on mobile only because of the limitations of the technology.  So, if 5G is combined with a great use of edge computing this will allow mobile gamers to play games that offer better graphics combined with a more interactive, immersive experience than has previously been the case.  As a result, we may well find that other gaming genres can finally become more popular on mobile.

Secondly, we should look out for further developments in terms of the links between gaming and social media on mobile over the coming year.  The original Farmville demonstrated the potential of social media gaming on Facebook over a decade ago.  Recently Farmville was retired from Facebook (its flash technology finally consigning it to the history books) but it has provided the blueprint for casual gaming success.  Zynga’s founder, Marc Pincus, noted in his recent Twitter feed that “The real innovation of FarmVille was in making games accessible to busy adults, giving them a place to invest and express themselves and be seen by people in their lives as creative.” Farmville on Facebook may be gone but Farmville 3 will aim to emulate its success on mobile.  But Zygna are by no means done with social media.  In 2020, Snap Games’ players exceeded 100 million, prompting Zynga to enter into a partnership with them to create multiplayer games for their platform.  Facebook too has moved on with its own gaming app and has seen gaming activity double in 2020.  It will be interesting to see how social media platforms and gaming companies seek to find new ways to exploit the opportunities offered by such an obvious symbiotic relationship during 2021.

Thirdly, is the huge potential mobile gaming offers as the advertising media of the future.  There is clear potential here to reach an engaged, fast growing, mass market audience.  Finding ways in which to make this work & exploring how best to use this new media will be an area where we’d expect to see some significant developments in 2021.  And the way forward may not simply be in-game ads but also sponsorships and in-game product placement (less intrusive and potentially as impactful as any influencer endorsement).   Reaching global audiences in the tens of millions means that mobile gaming is not a medium that advertisers can afford to ignore.

Fourthly (and finally), mobile gaming may well prove to be an area to watch in terms of cloud streaming services such as Google Stadia, Microsoft’s Ultimate Game Pass and Amazon Luna. 

These services will need to do some work to get the technology right and (more important in many ways) the content.  5G will have a role to play in terms of the former but, assuming they can get their ducks in a row, mobile could well be the platform to watch.  Why?  Because the mobile gaming audience will include a great many new as well as casual gamers who are not wedded to traditional console and PC gaming.  They will also include many people who are comfortable with streaming film or music to their mobiles already, so Cloud Gaming will not seem like a strange concept to them. 

However, there are barriers here that will need to be overcome – the availability of faster reliable connections (which 5G can play a role in providing) and the limitations of data caps will likely mean that cloud gaming on mobile will start off niche.  More important will be the availability of a strong library of mobile games (and here it is still very early days).  Of course, these services also need to get their business model right – can they evolve a model that is closer to a Netflix or a Spotify to really enable them to connect with a mass market?  All that said, mobile has the potential to offer some significant longer-term opportunities for Cloud services and it is worth watching out for how this develops over 2021.

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