Immerse UK recently released a 100-page report of the state of the immersive economy. While most of our readers are in the US, the UK is one of the world’s biggest centers for XR technology.
There are definitely some differences between the immersive economy here and across the pond. However, what bodes well for the immersive economy in the UK bodes well for us all.
A Note on Methods
Authors gathered information for the report through surveying stakeholders in Immerse UK and Digital Catapult networks. If you’re unfamiliar with one or both of those groups, just sit tight. We’ll take a look at them toward the end of the article.
The report looks at information from 2019. A PDF is freely available to members of Immerse UK.
In general, the companies surveyed were either large companies using XR to achieve other goals or smaller dedicated XR companies.
The report found that UK XR technology companies are scaling up, creating industry solutions, and exporting those solutions.
“It has been a hectic year for the UK immersive sector and headline trends are positive,” Immerse UK’s Fiona Kilkelly said in her forward to the report.
The downside is that the industry still faces problems with finding funding and skilled contributors to meet industry demands.
The “knowledge and skills gap” was a recurring theme in the report. However, authors also pointed out that this is a problem in all advanced technologies.
“Low levels of device consumer penetration, incompatibility between competing hardware platforms, lack of concerted venture investment, and immaturity of markets makes it an ongoing challenge to achieve resilience and sustainability in immersive companies,” Dr. Jeremy Silver of Digital Catapult said in his forward. Dr. Silver also repeated the sentiment that UK XR technology companies trend toward exporting products and applications.
Much of the paper was dedicated to the identification and discussion of real and potential growth areas.
Entertainment remains the largest sector, representing over half of 2019 UK XR technology spending, according to the report. However, industry is the fastest-growing sector.
“Having emerged from the digital media and entertainment sectors, industrial application of immersive technologies remains the fastest-growing part of this emerging market,” reads the report.
The paper identified a number of principal barriers to adoption. These included the ever-present skills gap. Further, some companies reported not seeing the advantages of XR technology. Some reported that the perceived high cost and training time were too high.
The authors also identified healthcare as a potential growth area. Here, identified barriers to adoption were somewhat more complicated. These included caution around sharing research, a federal lack of collaboration, and a complex legal atmosphere.
Having emerged from the digital media and entertainment sectors, industrial application of immersive technologies remains the fastest-growing part of this emerging market.
The authors also identified transportation as a growth area in this year’s report. The section is new from last year suggesting exciting growth in this large sector.
“Advancements in immersive technologies are creating new revenue streams for businesses and breaking down traditional barriers to entry in the motor sector,” said the report. “The transport sector faces many challenges: reducing congestion, costs and emissions, improving efficiency, and combating climate change – all against a backdrop of strict regulation. If these are to be addressed, a long-term action plan is vital for integrating new technologies such as AR/VR with an interconnected transport system.”
Entertainment XR Technology
Despite its already being the largest sector, expect to see continued growth in entertainment. Specifically, XR technology is expected to make its way deeper into esports.
This is largely due to an increasing market of products available at decreasing costs. Stand-alone XR technology is making it easier and less expensive for consumers to engage with XR content. And consumers are grateful.
“We are emerging from a period of low levels of device penetration, awareness, and buy-in from the consumer market,” said the report.
This puts consumer XR technology in a more favorable position than XR intended for industry. This often must be durable and effective in hostile environments.
Investments in XR Technology
The final section in the report touched on trends of investment in XR technology.
The authors identified a decrease in venture capital investment but an increase in seed stage investment.
“This increase is markedly different from the rest of the UK’s investment trends, which may hint at this being seen as a hot sector,” said the report.
Meet the Authors
Immerse UK is a network of organizations that have a stake in the UK’s XR technology market. Much of the information used in compiling this report and last year’s report came from Immerse UK members.
Digital Catapult is a digital innovation hub in the UK. They aren’t only interested in XR but definitely have their fingers on the pulse of the immersive economy.Content was also provided by glass.ai, a UK-based company that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to interpret large volumes of web data.