The growing influence of virtual and augmented reality cannot be ignored. Technological advancement is moving at a staggering speed and VR has benefitted immensely.
Many have not had firsthand experience of the tech but that could soon change. Here are some of the developments to look out for in the world of virtual reality over the next decade.
Virtual Reality – The Story So Far
The technology has been around for over 50 years in one form or another. Computer scientist, Ivan Sutherland and his student, Bob Sproull created the first VR headset in 1968. Despite initial excitement, it was clear there wasn't much use for the bulky technology that was so heavy it had to be suspended from the ceiling.
While the tech was in its infancy, the idea caught on with many. In the 1980s and 1990s, VR was a common tool featured in some popular science fiction movies such as TRON. The tech could be found on the occasional theme park ride but its presence in every-day life went largely unnoticed.
Over the past decade, things have changed. The first prototypes for the Oculus Rift headset were hashed together in the early 2010s. By 2014, the company was bought out by Facebook for $2 billion.
That brought about a new wave of wearable, accessible, mainstream VR headsets. These have been utilised in all manner of different ways. In the entertainment industry, sports broadcasters such as SKY adopted virtual reality to bring a more immersive experience for its viewers. Football pundit Jamie Carragher famously re-enacted a goal by Adama Traore in late 2019 using the technology, much to the amusement of fans.
In 2018, Capgemini estimated that VR would become a mainstay in business operations within three years. That has certainly been the case as more and more businesses have utilised the tech for everything from training to communication.
The tech has also been utilised in online gaming. Many of the most popular VR headsets are designed with gaming in mind. PlayStation VR has sold more than three million units across the globe. These changes have also been felt in the iGaming world. In 2017, NetEnt unveiled a virtual reality version of its popular Gonzo's Quest slot. The VR equivalent was showcased several years later and is perhaps a sign of things to come.
In education, it has become a mainstay. Software packages such as Google Expeditions allow students to travel the world and visit famous archaeological sites without ever leaving the classroom. In 2018, the University of Bristol showed what the technology is capable of. They trialled a Smart tourism initiative at the Roman Baths in Bath. VR immersed users in the history of the Baths, showing what they would have looked like centuries ago.
Healthcare is another crucial industry that has benefitted massively from VR. Psious is a VR psychotherapy application that can treat dozens of different disorders. Touch Surgery is an app that allows medical students to practice actual surgical procedures in a virtual world. These are just two of an almost innumerable list of start-ups in this sector.
Developments to look out for
In the years to come, we can expect existing trends to continue at an increased pace. Such changes have been expected in the transportation industry for some time but that's not alone. The areas already highlighted will continue to reap the rewards of virtual reality for many years to come.
VR's links with entertainment will only strengthen. As virtual reality headsets enter the home at a rising rate, entertainment-providers across the world will find ways to utilise the tech. In America, the NBA has worked with Oculus for some time to create an immersive basketball experience. This could well catch on with other sports, allowing fans to buy VR tickets for any sporting event on the planet.
VR will continue to thrive in the worlds of video games and movies in the years to come.
We'll also see a similar situation in education and healthcare. VR teaching could soon become a vital resource in the classroom thanks to the mainstream availability of affordable headsets. In healthcare, VR is becoming an increasingly important part of the training process. We already have virtual surgical tutorials but the tech has so many applicable uses. It is estimated that the global revenue of VR healthcare is expected to surpass $10 billion per year by 2025.
Artificial intelligence will have an increasingly important role to play in VR. Facebook's DeepFocus project is a framework designed to make VR images more realistic than ever before. It is hoped that this tech will reduce issues like motion sickness after lengthy continued use of a VR headset.
We should also be on the lookout for VR reaching another of our senses. VR headsets currently occupy two of our senses with sound and vision but we could soon stimulate touch. Haptic feedback uses wearable devices like gloves to stimulate the sensation of touching something. The possibilities for this are endless.
We'll also see the headsets themselves become cheaper and better.
With that, the audience will increase and the demand along with it. Wireless headsets that can be used with 5G will make them far more commonplace, and devices like Google Glass are a glimpse into what could soon be possible.
The world of virtual reality is almost unrecognisable to what it was a decade ago. We've seen staggering development in the last 10 years and the stage is set for even greater changes in the 20 years to come.