Last year we were preparing a report on Finland’s VR/AR ecosystem here at the Finnish Virtual Reality Association (FIVR) and were happy to discover that it includes more than 100 companies. In terms of size, know-how and innovation, the Finnish ecosystem can compete with much bigger countries like France and Germany.
In fact, has Finland has already produced innovative companies across the whole emerging VR/AR sector. Their expertise covers the software, tools and platforms that enable VR/AR production as well as visionary content production and hardware that will captivate users like never before.
The leading lights of the sector include 3D graphics optimization expert Umbra whose technology is in the core of Unity3D which a game engine behind most of the current VR/AR content created around the globe. Display hardware developer Varjo is set to launch a headset later this year to deliver VR in human-eye resolution for corporate customers. In fact, there is probably some Finnish input involved in almost all VR-technology today; even the Microsoft Hololens’s technology is based on Finnish design.
A growing ecosystem
The globally successful Finnish game industry has also played a significant role in the growth of the VR/AR sector, with experienced game companies and developers actively involved.
FIVR is also doing its part to bring companies and talented people together in developing the ecosystem. Over 30 startups have gone through the FIVR-Hub programme which is open to everyone with the passion to become an VR/AR entrepreneur. We provide promising startups free access to premises, equipment and mentoring in four cities around Finland.
As a next step after getting their company rolling under the FIVR umbrella, the startups can apply for financing from the international business incubator Nordic VR Startups which set up operations in Helsinki in 2017 and is already funding its second batch of portfolio companies. The rising stars of the accelerator program will next showcase their talents at the X Reality Day held as part of SLUSH, the annual startup event held in Helsinki on 4-5 December 2018. Nordic VR Startups is supported by gumi, Nordisk Film, FIVR and Business Finland.
Strong demand in the B2B market
Many of the Finnish VR/AR companies are currently focused on the industrial and enterprise customers market because the mass consumer market is still some years away. It’s already clear that the power of VR/AR can be harnessed to make a useful contribution in almost every type of industry, if nothing else then in training and marketing. The lasting memory print provided by a VR training session is on a different level compared to what is achieved by traditional classroom methods.
In Finland, the occupational health and safety field has emerged as a significant source of VR/AR customers in recent years. Education is another sector where I see huge potential. Machine learning combined with augmented realities can offer an effective solution for educating the whole world – and why not surround learners with Finland’s proven pedagogic excellence?
Ready for impact
The Finnish government has signalled its commitment to the development of the sector by supporting a Mixed Reality campaign that aims to make Finnish companies leading producers of VR/AR technology and content, and forerunners in developing and utilising VR/AR across the economy, health, education, entertainment and other sectors.
Based on Finland’s long tradition of technological and artistic excellence, and inspired by the exciting innovations that we are witnessing at FIVR, I’m confident that Finnish companies are firmly on track to make a major international impact as the full potential of the VR/AR revolution unfolds in the coming years.
About the author
Olli Sinerma is a game industry veteran in design, marketing, education and production, who moved from flat video screens to extended realities four years ago. He is co-founder and managing director of the Finnish Virtual Reality Association which acts as the information hub and starting point for companies that are looking for the possibilities of the near future.