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EDITORIAL The virtual world becomes a commercial reality

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A year after the world went into lockdown and the landscape within telemedia looks very different. It is now accepted wisdom that the companies servicing the sector have been propelled into the mainstream as locked down consumers turn to their phones for company, comfort and commerce. What is becoming more apparent 12 months in is that the services people are using are also dramatically changing too.

For example, games, while already a massive entertainment sector in the digital economy, are seeing a distinct shift in where they are played and how they are paid. Likewise, digital and mobile payments have long been popular: now they are pretty much the only game in town when it comes to paying for things both in the real world and in the digital realm.

Gaming is now a mobile-first activity, with the raft of new gamers that have started playing during lockdown largely doing so on their existing devices. According to App Annie, games dominate the mobile app business, with consumers spending $100bn of the total $143bn on apps in 2020 on games. In other words, for every dollar spent on iOS and Google Play, games took 70 cents.

App Annie estimates that more than $120 billion will be spent on mobile gaming this year (up 20% from 2020). That’s 50% bigger than the console, PC, Mac, and handheld sectors combined.

This interest in gaming – not least the amount of money users are prepared to spend on it – has driven the deployment of new tech in gaming to run a phenomenal rate. Gaming is becoming an immersive experience and one that can be overlayed onto the real world, and as a result we are seeing the roll out of more augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) games and games tech on mobile.

AR pioneer Blippar has secured $5m in Series A funding to continue the roll out of its mobile AR overlay tech into the gaming – and other – sectors and, as our special guest on this week’s podcast, Leon Dijksman from Sam Media also discusses, Sam has won a Meffy for its virtual reality tech that effectively creates an off-the-shelf virtual reality content solution for anyone.

This upgrade to gaming isn’t just about games, however. A generation of users has grown up with mobile and gaming and are increasingly looking for their interaction with the world and with brands and businesses to be not only done through mobile, but to be gamified to boot.

With so many eyeballs looking for the ultimate interactive, gamified engagement experience with brands and businesses, brands are looking at how to create some really interesting interaction services.

While we are currently seeing the roll out of RCS and other rich messaging services to aid interaction between customers and brands, the next big thing is going to be some combination of AR, VR, rich messaging and gamification propelling customer interaction and services.

With 5G making anything possible, it won’t be long before we see some really interesting combinations of AR, chatbots and gaming in the customer service and experience space.

New services

While these established categories have developed, so too have a range of new ones. In the news this week education and transport are both getting the telemedia treatment, again shifted in importance by the changing habits wrought by the pandemic – and again 5G is the key.

In Scotland, BT is working with North Lanarkshire Council to create immersive virtual classroom experiences, bringing the web to education in a way that creates a truly new experience. While many children have been learning from home for nearly a year with poorly-conducted zoom approximations of their classroom sessions, this project shows just what is possible with 5G and a little imagination.

And it is big business. According to Futuresource Consulting, 2020 saw unprecedented growth in mobile PC demand to the K-12 educational tech market, with global demand expanding by 69% over 2019 to reach 51 million units.  Furthermore, demand increased by 209% year-on-year during calendar Q4, with shipments of 16.5 million units during the closing months of the year.

Similarly, all this is impacting digital payments, with Juniper Research predicting that revenue from tokenisation provisioning and management in mobile payments will exceed $53bn in 2025, from $18bn in 2020.

All this adds up to some big changes in a very short time. 5G is pretty new, but already the opportunities it can deliver are starting to be exploited. And much of that is starting to revolve around AR and VR and how these overlays on reality can enhance all the things that value added services already deliver.

It is early days, but 2020 has accelerated the interest and deployment of these technologies, and with 2021 likely to be fraught with similar disruptions is will be interesting to see just how advanced all this becomes in the coming 12 months.

>>> Did you know we print Telemedia Magazine every quarter.  Free to qualified readers.  Essential reading for any buisness that wants to engage users, monetise content and drive sales of VAS and premium applications.  Download the current Issue.
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