Despite economic uncertainty created by the pandemic, almost two-thirds (64%) of 50 UK-based investors polled for a report published yesterday (20 July) think that investment in virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will increase in the coming year.
The finding is included in the UK Immersive Tech: VC Investment Report, a profile of companies judged by Immerse UK to be breaking new ground in the world of immersive technology (XR). Fields in the sector include VR, AR, mixed reality, haptics, and spatial computing.
“This report shows that, as a nation, we are driving this emerging technology and the UK economy is well positioned to benefit from it,” said Asha Easton, Immerse UK lead at the immersive technology network’s parent company, KTN. “It’s the perfect time for investors to get involved.”
Tech featured in the report includes a proprietary haptic VR platform allowing collaborative virtual training for medical professionals, home-based immersive fitness sessions, and interfaces allowing hand-waving interaction with personal computers.
“The ventures highlighted in this report show the huge potential of the XR sector,” added Easton. “They demonstrate some of the various cross-sector applications of this technology, ranging from media and entertainment to medicine, manufacturing, education, training, and more.”
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While lauding its qualities, the report finds that XR still has some way to go when it comes to attracting and maintaining a disparate workforce, noting how few of the companies attracting funding are led by women or people from diverse backgrounds: “There’s a lot more work to be done in encouraging company founders from a more diverse range of social, cultural, and educational backgrounds,” it says.
The report also observes that, while the UK attracted more than US$15bn in tech venture funding in 2020, in spite of the COVID-19 crisis, immersive ventures are only taking a very small share of that capital.
Nevertheless, says sector expert, David Haynes, experience suggests that this need not necessarily be a cause for concern: “Amara’s Law states that we tend to overestimate the impact of new technologies in the short-term, but underestimate them in the long-term.
“Sure enough, in 2016-17 we saw record levels of investment going into the immersive sector, and new start-ups created, as VR and AR first came to market in a serious way. However, the following two years saw the hype dissipate.
“Now, though, we’re entering a new era where the tech is being used in genuinely innovative and potentially life-changing ways. The time is right for immersive tech.”