You might think you’ve experienced VR, and you might have been pretty impressed. Particularly if you’re a gamer, there are some great experiences to be had out there (or rather, in there) today.
But over the next few years, in VR, as in all fields of technology, we’re going to see things that make what is cutting-edge today look like Space Invaders. And although the games will be amazing, the effects of this transformation will be far broader, touching on our work, education, and social lives.
The most popular virtual reality applications today offer full control over the user’s senses (in particular, vision and hearing) to create a fully immersive experience that puts the user in a completely virtual environment that looks pretty realistic.
Climb something high and look down and you may feel dizzy. If you see an object quickly approaching your head, you will feel the need to get out of the way.
Very soon, the creators of virtual reality will extend this sensory distraction to our other abilities – such as touch and smell – to deepen this sense of immersion. At the same time, the devices we use to visit these virtual worlds will become cheaper and lighter, eliminating the friction that can currently be a hindrance.
I believe extended reality (XR) – a term that covers virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) – will be one of the most transformative tech trends of the next five years. It will be activated and complemented by other technological trends, including ultra-fast networks, which will allow us to perceive virtual reality as a cloud service in the same way that we consume music and films now. And artificial intelligence (AI) will provide us with more personalized virtual worlds to explore, even providing us with realistic virtual characters with whom to share our experiences.
VR in education and training
VR is already making great inroads into education, with a large number of startups and established companies offering packaged experiences and services aimed at schools. The Engage platform is used by Facebook, HTC, and the European Commission to provide distance learning. And a study published in 2019 found that medical students trained in virtual reality we’re able to perform certain procedures faster and more accurately than their peers trained using traditional methods.
These new teaching and learning methods will become more and more effective as new technologies become available. One that tends to induce a surge is the Teslasuit, which uses a full suit to provide tactile feedback, enhancing immersion through touch. It also offers a range of biometric sensors to measure heart rate, sweating, and other indicators of a user’s stress. This suit is already in use in NASA astronaut training, but the potential is endless.
For training, it could be used to safely simulate any number of hazardous or stressful conditions and monitor the way we respond to them. For example, Walmart has used it to train retail staff to work in Black Friday situations, instructing them on how to best to operate in busy shop environments with long queues of customers.
As well as training us for dangerous situations, it will also drastically reduce the financial risks involved with letting students and inexperienced recruits loose with expensive tools and machinery in any industry.
VR in industry and work
The pandemic has changed a lot in the way we work, including a big shift to work from home for a large number of employees. This creates challenges, in particular the need to maintain an environment that is conducive to collaborative activities and the formation of the corporate culture. VR-related solutions are popping up quickly to help solve them.
Spatial, which makes the tool best described as the VR version of Zoom, has reported a 1000% increase in usage of its platform since March 2020. Overall, the professional VR equipment market is expected to grow by $ 829 million. in 2018 to $ 4.26 billion by 2023, according to a study by ARtillery Intelligence.
Communications giant Ericsson (which provided Oculus VR headsets to employees working from home during the pandemic to meet virtual reality) has announced the creation of the Internet of the Senses. It is about designing projects that involve simulating touch, taste, smell, and sensations such as hot or cold. He predicts that by 2030 we will be able to enter a digital environment that will feel completely real to all of our five senses at the same time.
This will lead to the emergence of what he calls “cloud office”, where the office will disappear from our lives as we can create fully interactive work environments for collaboration wherever we are, simply by wearing a helmet and all other devices necessary to perform the assigned task.
VR in socialization
There are already several VR-based social platforms that allow friends or strangers to meet, chat or play in virtual environments such as VR Chat, Altspace VR, and Rec Room. As with virtual reality in other areas, the increasing level of immersion possible thanks to new technological developments will make them more useful and more attractive to the general public over the next decade.
This year Facebook, which has long had a stake in VR due to its acquisition of headset manufacturer Oculus, unveiled its Horizon platform. Currently, in beta, it allows people to build and share collaborative online worlds where they can hang out, play games, or work together on collaborative projects.
While we will always make time for meeting up with friends and loved ones in the real world, as our working and school live become increasingly remote, more of our social interaction will likely move into the online realm, too. Just as we are no longer barred from careers or educational opportunities due to an increasingly virtualized world, we will have more meaningful ways to connect with other humans as technology improves in this area.
And of course – VR in games and entertainment
The “killer app” for VR is gaming, and the reason the technology is developing at the pace it is is due to the large market of people willing to spend money on the most impressive and immersive entertainment experiences.
Sandbox VR operates real-world VR centers where equipment that simply wouldn’t be practical or affordable to use in our homes offer some of the most immersive experiences yet created.
Using full-body haptic feedback suits, they offer five games – one licensed from Star Trek – that let groups cooperate or battle it out in deep space, aboard ghostly pirate ships, or through a zombie infestation.
CEO Steve Zhao describes the experience his company has created as “a viable minimal matrix or holodeck.” In a recent conversation that you can see here, he told me: “The bottom line is that you believe in the world – it is very real, and to develop, you and your friends must communicate and work together. The best way To describe it, you are the stars of your own film – this is basically what we created. ”
In many ways, there may be two markets for VR entertainment consumption – at least in the early days. While the most impressive and impressive technologies are heavy, expensive, and require technical skills to operate, it makes more sense to use them in designated areas rather than at home. As with movies, house suggestions can provide something less impressive but more practical – at least until we get to the point where we can have full-sized Star Trek holders in our own houses!