Imagine yourself in your favourite mall shopping for your favourite items, without leaving the comfort of your home. That’s what extended reality (XR) allows you to do. By definition, XR is the umbrella term for immersive technologies — technologies that can merge the physical and virtual worlds — such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Virtual reality immerses users in a simulated digital environment. Augmented reality, on the other hand, integrates virtual elements with the users’ physical environments.
In recent years, the use of extended reality has gained traction globally, with tech giants –Google, Samsung, HTC, and Facebook — launching VR products, which has in turn amplified the interest in XR. However, its adoption is still largely believed to be in its infancy.
The state of Extended Reality in Nigeria: A brief journey
To bring it home, Nigeria began its XR revolution in 2016 — the year, Imisi3D, a female-founded extended reality creation lab hosted an AR/VR hackathon. Being the first of its kind in the country, the event shifted the attention of many towards XR and how this emerging technology can be used to create solutions.
In 2019, Microsoft set up its Africa Development Centre in Lagos and Nairobi, the first XR engineering teams on the continent for a Big Tech company. The same year, ‘Daughters of Chibok’, a film by Nigerian filmmaker Kachi Benson won the Best VR Story at the Venice International Film Festival.
With the COVID-19 pandemic came national lockdowns which restricted in-person gatherings. This expectedly sparked different virtual reality technological interactions and brought attention to the possibilities of XR.
In 2020, Dr Eugene Ohu, a faculty at the Lagos Business School (LBS), won a grant of $234,000 from Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc (TWCF) to conduct two-year virtual reality research.
SwiftXR, a web platform, provides solutions for building lightweight interactive 3D, AR, and VR experiences. Also, Quadron Studios produces VR animation content for advertising and storytelling.
Just recently. Kunle Adewale, a Nigerian visual artist, launched a project that allows elderly people in Nigeria’s retirement homes to listen to and watch their favourite musicians and music videos through VR headsets.
A few weeks ago, tech giant Meta hosted the 6 winners of its Future Africa Grant to XR exhibition for creators in Lagos, Nigeria.
Bright future ahead, but much needs to be done
Buinesswire predicts that the market for AR and VR technologies will reach $60.55 billion and $34.08 billion by 2023 respectively. The XR market is expected to reach approximately $346 billion by 2026 which represents a compounded annual growth rate of 46.5%.
Nigeria, being a leader in the African tech ecosystem, is certain to have its own share of the pie.
The XR industry in the country, however, isn’t without its challenges. Finding talent, government policy and getting more people and businesses to embrace the application of extended reality are some of the biggest problems key players in the space identified in the 2022 Africa XR Report.
Ohu, who heads the Virtual Human-Computer Interaction Lab at LBS, believes that the best way to grow the XR industry is by investing in training.
“If we can train people to acquire the right skills and attitude, then give them a project to see from beginning to end, they will surprise you. That has been my experience with Nigerians. Nigerians are talented, so give them a challenge,” he was quoted as saying in the report.
For Judith Okonkwo, the Founder of Imisi3D, Africa as a continent needs an XR strategy to drive its adoption going forward.
“Without a bold XR vision for the continent, and stakeholders working together, I fear we will fail. We will fail our young people who are the workforce of the future,” she said.
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