Virtual reality is already the next big thing, and its future is looking even bigger. 2017 saw around 3.7 million VR headsets sold with 2018 on par to move around 5 million. Considering that most analysts still place VR in the early adoption phase of the product lifecycle opportunities are varied and the future looks not only bright, but fascinating.
Previously the stuff of science fiction, with companies like Sony, Samsung, HTC, and Facebook investing in the sector, the future is already here. With well-equipped options such as the Oculus Go starting as low as $199 the barrier for entry into the space is slowly being lifted.
2016 saw Pokémon Go capture the world’s imagination with a simple AR phone app raking in an estimated 1.2 billion in revenue within its first year. While sister technology VR has yet to find its own success at that level, the interest in immersive interactive technology is very real.
The future of VR lies in total immersion; with advances in controller technology, audio transference, and the headsets themselves, the ability to get lost in the reality of a VR environment is what sets VR apart from other mediums. With games like Epic’s Robo Recall placing you in a world filled with enemy robots, and personal weapons with seemingly unlimited ammo, you can live in the action movie. If art is more your speed, with Google’s Tilt Brush the world is your canvas, allowing you to create drawing-sculpture hybrids at any scale imaginable. Not a gamer? VR takes you to the top of Everest, or through the halls of the Louvre.
VR allows you to be part of the story in ways never before possible. Like a real-time choose your own adventure story, you can be in the heat of the action. If the $199 price point for the Oculus Go is too steep, a Google Cardboard can get you a ticket to the show for under $10 assuming you already have a smartphone.
The 1999 film Being John Malkovich showed a fantastical portal into someone else’s mind, with VR that fantasy can be a reality. As adoption rises, new technologies such as wearable glasses will allow us to show our friends and family the world as we experience it. Our gait, our perspective; through VR we can get as close as possible to actually walking in another person’s shoes.
Putting on a VR headset takes you out of the room you’re in, and as such, some may fear that it will be a solitary or even exclusionary experience, but in truth VR will allow for unique group experiences, with current apps like rec room, or in development offerings such as Offworld Laboratory’s Camp Victory -a virtual summer camp for those who can’t make it to a real one- showing the potential for the medium to be experienced collectively.
As technology advances the opportunities could be truly endless. Could VR be paired with olfactory simulations to tell you not only what it looks like on top of Mount Everest, but what it smells like as well? Can resistance in an advanced controller be used to mimic the feel of an object in your hands? Will a real-life Mrs. Frizzle be able to take her classroom on a field trip of the human body on a virtual Magic School Bus? We have only just scratched the surface of what VR can be, but one thing is for sure, the real world will be changed forever by the virtual ones we’ve yet to create.