April 24 2016: Virtual Reality looks set to garner wide consumer acceptability in 2016 ( see our main feature on the trends and tools).
In a parallel development, Indian software companies have seized the opportunity to fill the yawning gap that today faces VR equipment buyers: It's great if you are a games freak -- because virtually every big single shooter or multiplayer video game has come out with VR versions that take the player even deeper into the virtualmaidan of the race track, the battlefield or what ever. But what's in it for those who seek a more meaningful experience?
Imaginate, a VR company incubated at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad and founded 4 years ago by Hemant Satyanarayana, has launched a serious of innovative applications for VR hardware:
- Dressy, a virtual online fitting room where from the comfort of your home you can try out a variety of dresses and sizes before ordering them online.
- ShootAR, a simulator for the Indian Army to train soldiers in marksmanship and tackling terrorists
- HeritageAR, an initiative adopted by the Aga Khan Foundation and available as an app at the Google Play Store where one can virtually tour the Quli Qutb Shahi Tombs
The company made at hit at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year with its latest VR product, the Connected Car virtual tour. ( see illustration here)
Another VR content creator, is the Mumbai-based Meraki led by an IIT Bombay- and-film making foursome of Arvind Ghorwal, Sairam Saigiraju, Parth Choksi and Agam Garg which has made a name as a creator of 360-degree videos of sporting events, reality shows, adventure sport etc.
A few months ago, three undergraduates from BITS Pilani- Goa -- Shubham Mishra, Vrushali Prasade, and Harikrishna Valiyath -- decided to drop out and out-do Oculus at their own game. They started a company -- Absentia -- in Bengaluru and created a VR headset they called Tesseract which offers 360 degree military-grade head tracking and the ability to watch any game or movie in 3-D. Like so many of the Indian entrants in this arena, the headset works with all current games and movies. The company has just landed Rs 1.2 crores in funding and the Tesseract is currently offered for pre booking at Rs 20,000.
Chennai-based Ingage founded by ex Intel and AMD executive Vijay Karunakaran, treads the thin line that separates Virtual Reality from Augmented Reality. While VR takes the user into an entirely artificial environment AR integrates new digital information into the user's environment, in real time. The Google Glass -- another pricey invention that has generally been shunned by lay users is a prime example.InGage has launched a multi-brand Augmented Reality Mobile App called “InGage” on Apple itunes and Android Google Play designed for brands across a broad spectrum of industries to engage with their customers in an interactive manner. The company has partnered with educational publishers like Ratna Sagar to enhance class 2 to class 8 lessons with 3-D augmented imagery, even as Indian talent -fueledBlippar, the world's biggest visual search tool has joined Amar Chithra Katha to let readers interact with their favourite characters like Suppandi!
Perhaps the one industry that will embrace VR most zealously is tourism -- and it only needs one look at a site like IndiaVRTours.com, featuring awesome 360 degree views of India's top tourist attractions, to appreciate that the possibilities of enhancing visitor experience are limitless.
For Indians who take the first tentative steps to trying out the future, by investing in a VR headset or a VR paired phone, this year, it does look as if their investment will not be in vain: the critical mass of content for VR is being created right here, in a mix of education and entertainment that they will shrewdly judge to be paisa vasool. The Future has arrived!