Dubai’s VR startups want to disrupt real estate and entertainment market in UAE
When you read the headlines, virtual reality seems to be mainly driven by the US market, but there are also other parts of the world where the technology is flourishing rapidly.
A recent report by International Data Corporation (IDC), signals augmented and virtual reality market in the Middle East and Africa is poised to grow strongly over the next five years.
Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier Etihad Airways and Dubai’s real estate giant Jumeirah Group are some of the major brands in the Arabian Gulf Region that are adopting VR/360 videos to promote their products and services.
In order to get a closer look at the growing Arabian VR market, I interviewed Hassan Kiyany, a visual storyteller from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the founder of immersive video production agency that carries his own name Kiyany.
Hassan Kiyany — Visual Storyteller, Founder CEO of Kiyany
What is the state of VR and AR market in Dubai?
Many governmental organizations have produced VR contents to promote their services and mostly for their exhibition visitors. As far as I know there are few production houses moved towards VR production and it seems there is a taste for it in the market.
How do consumers react to VR/AR projects in Dubai?
Most people love and enjoy the experience. Most returning customers enjoy watching for longer times compared to first time visitors. For many people its a whole new way of experiencing a story. Obviously I’m a fan of exploring how to use the medium to tell stories which was not possible before. Something more immersive. A way to make audience truly present in the experience. We may need to wait for some technological upgrades in coming years but already some very interesting experiences are out there.
Are there large VR/AR meetup organizations or conferences in the region?
One of most known technology events in the region is GITEX which for the first time they got VR pavilion with a few names from the industry like Robert Scoble. The event is scheduled for 16th of October and I’m looking forward to it. We also have a VR section in the next Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) in December which I’m very excited about it. I’m working with a team at DIFF to bring some international best releases to the VR Program and we are in the final stages of selection.
Can you talk a bit about DIFF? Why did you decide to accept 360/VR films?
DIFF is the leading film festival in the region. Since its inception in 2004, the festival has served as an influential platform for Arab filmmakers and talent at an international level, by spearheading the cinema movement in the region. The 13th edition will take place between December 7th — 14th, 2016.
In this edition we are introducing a new section called ‘DIFFrent Reality.’ A brand new section of the program that will showcase an international selection of virtual reality films spanning fiction, documentary and animation from the world’s most exciting VR creators, giving DIFF audiences the opportunity to experience the latest in virtual reality and immersive storytelling.
Most applications right now are about making 360 video productions. True VR applications are not made perhaps because most of the audiences are not equipped with devices such as Oculus or HTC Vive for now. These devices are not even sold in the region yet. I believe 360 video is a great start to making audiences wear VR headsets and then get them ready for more. This could be an organic way to improve the viewership in the long run.
What do VR / AR startups in Dubai mostly work on?
Real estate and entertainment mostly. There are also major corporations that use the medium to attract new clients or provide new experiences. Being a hub in the middle east, I believe there will be other opportunities in Dubai for all types of content and experiences.
Can you show us some interesting projects from the region?
If you ask me about high level investment on VR content, I can suggest watching Reimagine by Etihad Airways featuring Nicole Kidman.
We’ve also done a unique project for a client — a leading information technology business in the region — by providing a private virtual tour inside their facility without exposing private data, which is something they weren’t able to do before. The result is quite interesting. We also aim to produce UAE’s first VR Film in coming weeks. Currently seeking financial support from various parties.
There are amazing opportunities for storytellers from the region which could change the world perception forever.
Are there any specific startup programs for VR/AR in Dubai?
As far as I know, there is Dubai Future Accelerators which is focused exclusively on the identification and deployment of futuristic prototypes and products at a city-wide scale. There is not much announced fund programs related specifically to VR/AR but I believe by end of this year we’ll hear more support to be announced.
What would you recommend to other VR/AR startups who would consider investing in the Dubai market?
I believe Dubai — as a hybrid market — is a great place to invest in entertainment, health and real estate solutions.
I think we need more support and a new set of opportunities from both government and non-governmental organizations to explore possibilities of AR/VR for both content creators as well as innovation accelerators. There are amazing opportunities for storytellers from the region which could change the world perception forever. This could open up new opportunities for everyone as we enter into a new reality age.
Photo credit HubZero
Hub Zero — Indoor immersive entertainment park spread over two floors and 18,000 square meters in Dubai’s CityWalk project. The park has 18 attractions along with the region’s first wireless VR gaming experiences — Time Zombies, and Interstellar Marine’s Bullseye.
BaBa Zayed — A virtual reality book aimed to enhance the national identity among the children of United Arab Emirates.
Dubai Skiing Experience — Developed by GigaWorks, this project brings 360-degree experience of Ski Dubai — the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East.
Colorbug — Augmented reality application that brings kids coloring books to life. Developed by Dubai based technology firm pixelbug
IntelliSense Coherence Kit — A virtual reality-based rhythmic breathing trainer developed by Merlin Digital — a Dubai-based tech startup.