We continue to look into some of the AR/VR trends in the ecosystem, focusing on the main differences between developers and non-developers active in this space. You can view our first part of this article here.
22% of AR/VR non-developers are learning to code
15% of people involved in AR & VR as non-developers have zero knowledge of how to code, whereas 17% are actively coding to get things done. There is a large range of skills, but the biggest group here are those that are actively trying to build on their coding skills, with 22% of AR/ VR non-developers doing so. This indicates that no-code tools, whilst useful for getting things done, don’t cover the needs of more than 1 in 5 AR & VR practitioners who are subsequently learning to code to overcome these limitations. Despite the large amount of effort – and marketing – that has gone into positioning no-code tools as a solution for non-coders to get into AR & VR without worrying about writing code, a sizeable proportion of those who do get involved subsequently decide they need coding skills to realise their vision after all. This represents an opportunity for platforms aspiring to appeal to non-coders to create more functionality in these tools in order to capitalise on this under-served audience.
Games is the most popular app category for developers and non-developers alike
AR & VR practitioners are primarily focused on creating entertainment and services products, but the primary focus is different for developers and non-developers. 77% of AR/VR developers are building products in the services category (such as business logistics products) whereas only 67% of non-developers are doing so.
The most popular category for AR and VR practitioners is games & toys, with 52% of developers and 44% of non-developers working on products in this category. The picture is somewhat different for other entertainment products (such as moves and animation), with 65% of non-developers working on apps in this category and only 47% of developers operating here. This indicates that developers are using their coding experience to experiment and create games in AR and VR, whilst non-developers are inspired by other use cases.
Industrial applications (such as manufacturing and construction) for AR/VR are much less popular for both groups, but a larger proportion of developers are creating products in this category than non-developers. As AR and VR mature and stabilise, commercial applications will become more viable and we will see further innovations in industrial areas from developers and non-developers alike, but the pull of building entertainment apps will still be strong.
Which AR/VR skills will you need to sharpen in 2021? Which tools do you think will be irrelevant as early next year? Our State of AR/VR survey is live. Spend 10 minutes sharing your experiences, we’ll donate $0.10 to Techfugees to for every completed response.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have captured the public imagination for decades; from the Holodeck in Star Trek to Ironman’s Heads Up Display, this technology is synonymous with visions of the future. Recently however, AR & VR processing has become commonplace on smartphones and companies like Oculus & Sony have released consumer-quality headsets. In this post we take a look at some of the AR/VR trends in the ecosystem, focusing on the main differences between developers and non-developers active in this space. Let’s look at those AR/VR trends.
AR & VR are the smallest individual software sectors
Considered individually, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality remain the smallest software sectors out of the ones we research (the others being mobile, desktop, web, games, backend, industrial IoT, consumer electronics, data science & machine learning). Even when combined, AR and VR (AR/VR) are only marginally bigger than Consumer Electronics, the next smallest sector. Only 0.4% of people are involved solely in AR or VR, the rest are involved with at least one other development area.
AR/VR trends – Only 0.4% of developers are involved solely in AR and/or VR
Of the 9% of people involved with AR or VR almost half (46%) are involved with both AR and VR. This shows that there is a significant overlap in the skills needed to work in these sectors. There are more people involved solely with VR (31%) than with AR (24%). AR is slightly less mature than VR and there are some technical challenges in AR (occlusion, optics & object registration, for example) which are still being resolved, this also means that there is a smaller market for AR products, as the technology is less established. This results in a slightly higher barrier to entry and subsequently a smaller number of people involved in AR than for VR only.
AR & VR trends – practitioners are mostly hobbyists
One of the defining features of AR & VR practitioners is their diverse involvement in different development areas. As previously discussed, the number of people involved solely in AR & VR is very small, but in fact, many of them are also involved in multiple development areas. Over 60% of practitioners involved in AR and VR are involved in 5 or more sectors in total. This is a large contrast with respondents who don’t work in AR or VR, where only 9% only are involved in 5 or more sectors.
Most people who are involved in AR or VR are hobbyists, and not just in AR & VR. These people are more likely to be hobbyists in every other sector than people not involved in AR or VR. They are technology enthusiasts who like to experiment outside of their professional duties, and are currently experimenting with AR & VR, potentially with a view to incorporating AR & VR into their existing development projects.
Looking at this from the other side, 28% of VR professionals also consider themselves to be hobbyists in the same sector. Out of AR professionals, 24% take on AR projects in their spare time as a hobby. This is higher than most other sectors, with machine learning being the next highest at 26%, then games at 25%. This shows that AR & VR practitioners are enthusiastic about the sector, often having passion projects on the side.
57% of AR & VR hobbyists work professionally in at least one other development area
We also see more diversity in the type of roles that AR & VR practitioners do. Because AR & VR sit at the intersection of arts and technology, practitioners often fulfill hybrid (both technical and non-technical) roles. In fact 35% of AR practitioners fulfill a hybrid role. Subsequently, people involved in AR/VR are less likely to be ‘Pure Developers’ (people solely fulfilling developer-type roles) than those involved in other sectors. This difference is especially pronounced for respondents working in VR or in AR and VR, with only 34% and 38% respectively working solely in developer roles, compared with 50% of respondents working in AR only.
Practitioners who are involved in VR only, or VR and AR are more than twice as likely as their counterparts who are only involved in AR to be in non-developer roles. This shows that non-developers tend to favour working in VR in some capacity.
Drilling down into the roles, we see that 49% of AR practitioners work as programmers or software engineers, compared with only 37% and 32% respectively for VR practitioners and those who work in both AR and VR. Many AR practitioners are also involved in web & mobile development and machine learning. This suggests that these coders are interested in AR from a technical point of view, looking to challenge themselves by using the latest technology or to implement AR in their projects.
On the other hand, VR practitioners and those involved in both AR and VR are more than twice as likely as AR practitioners to be game designers or work as product managers. The popularity of these roles reflects the quick uptake of VR by the game market – moving from being an emerging technology to generating revenue.
Not only do AR & VR practitioners hold different roles compared to people involved in other sectors, but they also wear a lot of different hats. More than 20% of people involved in AR or VR take on 4 or more roles, compared with only 12% of people involved in other sectors. We already know that AR & VR developers are often passionate hobbyists, but it’s also clear that they have diverse interests and skills. This diversity comes from the fact that as AR and VR development technology matures, tools are appearing which require fewer technical skills to create an AR or VR product. This attracts non-developers who can more easily realise their vision.
AR & VR practitioners take on more roles than people working in other sectors
What other AR/VR trends are there?
Almost as many AR & VR developers use 3D animation software as use IDEs
While there is some overlap in the technologies used by developers and non-developers involved in VR, none of them have a strong appeal for both audiences. The Oculus technology suite comes closest to being the go-to platform for both developers and non-developers, with over 35% of each audience using the platform. Playstation VR, Windows 10 Mixed Reality & Google Daydream all attract a good proportion of non-developers (36%, 28% and 26% respectively), but fail to appeal to VR developers. This landscape creates an opportunity for a technology vendor willing to invest in widening support and access for one (or both!) audiences, as a unified tech stack would provide large efficiency benefits to integrated teams by integrating with other tools and platforms, streamlining training needs and reducing the variety of tools being used.
Unity Mobile AR, AR Core and AR Kit lead the pack of software tools for people creating AR products, but all of these tools are favoured more by developers than by non-developers. This suggests that there is space in the AR software market for a tool which allows non-developers to more easily realise their creative vision.
Over half of developers use game engines and 48% use 3D modelling and rendering software. The high uptake of these technologies amongst AR/VR developers is testament to the powerful efficiency gains available from the abstraction they offer, as well as that AR, and especially VR, lend themselves to game development.
Over 50% of AR & VR developers use game engines
We’ve already seen that practitioners that undertake developer and non-developer roles (hybrid developers) make up a sizeable proportion of those involved with AR & VR, and this is validated by the popularity of 3D animation software (39%) and designer tools (30%) amongst the technologies used by AR & VR developers. In fact, almost as many AR & VR developers here use 3D animation software as use IDEs!
Backend-as-a-service, ML APIs and app store analytics are all used by less than 15% of AR & VR developers. The usage rate of app store analytics for AR & VR developers is 3 percentage points lower than for game developers, and 10 percentage points lower than for mobile developers. This suggests that AR/VR developers are focusing on getting the basics right, rather than trying to extract maximum value from their apps’ marketing funnel.
We see some overlap in the tools used by non-developers; 49% use 3D modelling and rendering software, 43% use game engines and 42% use 3D animation software. The high usage rates of the more artistic technologies is to be expected, given that these people are, by definition, not developers.
The Adobe toolset is the most popular software tool amongst non-developers, but the next three most popular software tools are all SDKs used by 24% of AR non-developers (ARCore, ARkit and Unity Mobile AR). This begs the question, do non-developers involved in AR & VR know how to code?
What are your biggest pain points in getting into AR/VR development? You can share your experiences in our AR/VR survey.
Here at /Data we offer certainty to those that are speculating about software developers: who they are, what they are choosing to do with at work and with their hobby time, and how they are doing it. We consider ourselves the analysts of the developer economy and often say that we help the world to understand developers…and developers to understand their world. ARVR
Two of the areas that we are often asked about by big businesses with skin in the game are Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Part of my job is to brief top tier organisations on what the developer audience is focussed upon so the companies can make the best decisions. I don’t speculate — I’m not brave enough for that. Instead, like every analyst at the company, I use our data to find trends and outliers in this emerging sector.
How do we get the data? We ask the people at the coal face, the developers. We do this twice a year through one of the largest and broadest surveys in the developer calendar. We have a set of questions about AR/VR which we update regularly to find out how the latest frameworks and hardware are faring, and which programming languages are most popular. We can tie the data back to the types of apps that developers are creating, whether they work professionally or as hobbyists, and where they are based, among other things. We write reports after analysing the data, which you can find here. The AR/VR reports are in the “Emerging” category.
In the rest of this blog post, I’m going to share a few key facts that we gathered in a recent wave of our survey (Q2 2018). We currently have another survey running and would love to include your opinions; if you share them with us, there’s the chance to win some awesome prizes. Interested? Take the survey.
ARVR development is immature
OK, that probably came out wrong! AR/VR development is still not a mature area in that it’s hardly established in the same way as desktop or web development. We generally use the more polite term “nascent” to describe an area where most of the developers working in it are hobbyists, though often professionals in other sectors, or students. In nascent areas, we find most developers are simply trying out ideas to find out more about the basics of the technology and work out where to go with it.
ARVR development is increasing in popularity, with over 20% of our survey respondents saying they had worked on such a project in the past 12 months. Given our estimates of the total worldwide developer population, that gives a global population of AR/VR developers of over 5M.
We see a high number of young, inexperienced developers in this area, which is another sign of a sector that hasn’t yet settled down sufficiently for businesses to build a stable ecosystem of professional developers within it. It’s a sign of churn, where developers try the technology and move on. Most AR/VR apps are developed within the games category and, where they are not, their developers are still uncertain of their audience. Among AR/VR developers, almost 2 out of 3 are not so much bothered about making revenue from their efforts, but are simply interested in gaining experience.
Hardware moves rapidly in this sector, and we find ourselves updating our question set for each survey as acquisitions and closures affect the vendor marketplace.
When it comes to VR, developers are clearly keen on sexy dedicated hardware such as Oculus. But our data reveals that the same number of VR developers work with the cheaper, smartphone-based option Google Cardboard. The hardware created by a range of third party device manufacturers, incorporating the Windows 10 Mixed Reality platform (which can also be used for VR) is also highly popular with VR developers.
AR is a very different beast to VR. It’s well-suited for a smartphone platform, most famously made popular by Pokémon Go. Huge investments by Apple and Google are paying off. They are keen to get you developing on their platforms because of the massive potential within the app stores (again, see Pokémon Go for an example).
ARCore on Android and ARKit on iOS are the platforms of choice for AR development by some margin. The most popular wearable for AR is Microsoft HoloLens, as Magic Leap had yet to be launched at the time of the survey. It will be interesting to see how things have changed now that device is out of the closet. So, if you’re working on this newest of hardware, tell us about it in the survey!
AR is the simple, more accessible end of the spectrum for developers. The spectrum crosses from more sophisticated mixed reality up to full-blown virtual reality. Developers are finding that AR is a good place to start, particularly during this period where underlying technology and hardware undergoes rapid evolution and pricing levels for consumers start to wobble. Starting with AR, developers can learn how to blend virtual elements ever more seamlessly into the real world, and take their experience later into the convergence zone as virtual reality becomes a more realistic proposition for users and developers alike. It’s the gateway for many, and we are seeing more growth in AR than VR for this reason.
Fragmentation is real, and being able to deploy across a range of hardware is always attractive. If you’re a game developer, and even if you are not, Unity and Unreal provide sophisticated cross platform development and tools that include ARVR. They do come with a steep learning curve so we find them mostly popular with those already initiated (e.g. game devs). Other platforms such as Lens Studio, Spark AR and Sumerian are empowering AR developers, and we want to find out how popular they are becoming in the developer community.
To get this kind of useful information, and more, we need you in the survey this time around! We want to know what languages you are using, the hardware, the platforms, and the apps you are creating. Has the new Oculus Quest has piqued your interest and restarted the heart of VR development? Or is AR and mixed reality where it’s at? Why not take the chance to tell us? Help us tell the teams behind these products what you are deciding, so they can do their best to support you.
As most of you know, we recently published our brand new State of the Developer Nation report 14th edition. Findings are based on the insights from our Developer Economics survey which ran in Q4 2017. The survey reached over 21,700 developers in 169 countries, asking them to share their experiences with tools, platforms, developer communities, resources, and emerging tech.
What’s new in the State of the Developer Nation 14th edition?
In this edition, we also reveal which emerging tech will have the most impact in the next 5 years, what lies in the future of serverless platforms, and which is the most promising AR/VR hardware among developers.
Check out our infographic which highlights the key findings from the report and don’t forget to share it!