You might think you’ve experienced VR, and you might have been quite impressed. Especially if you are a gamer there are some great experiences to be had today.
But in the years to come, in VR, as in all areas of technology, we’ll see things that make what’s advanced today look like Space Invaders. And while the games will be great, the effects of this transformation will be much broader, affecting our work, education and social life.
Today’s most popular VR applications involve taking full control of a user’s senses (especially sight and hearing) to create a totally immersive experience that puts the user in a completely virtual environment that feels fairly realistic.
Climb up something high and look down, and you will likely feel dizzy. When you see an object moving quickly towards your head, you feel the urge to get out of the way.
Very soon, VR creators will extend this sensory hijacking to our other abilities – touch and smell, for example – to deepen that sense of immersion. At the same time, the devices we use to visit these virtual worlds are becoming cheaper and lighter, removing the friction that can currently be a barrier.
I believe extended reality (XR) – a term related to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) – will be one of the most transformative technical trends of the next five years. It is enabled and complemented by other technical trends, including high-speed networks, allowing us to experience VR as a cloud service, just as we currently consume music and movies. And artificial intelligence (AI) will provide us with more personalized virtual worlds to explore, and even give us realistic virtual characters to share our experiences with.
VR in education and training
VR is already on the rise in education, with a large number of startups and established companies offering package experiences and services aimed at schools. Engage’s platform is used by Facebook, HTC and the European Commission to enable distance learning. And a study published in 2019 found that medical students trained with VR could perform certain procedures faster and more accurate than peers who have been trained in the traditional way.
These new methods of teaching and learning will become more and more effective as new technologies emerge. One that’s likely to make waves is the Teslapak, which uses a full body suit to provide haptic feedback, enhancing touch immersion. It also offers a range of biometric sensors that measure the user’s heart rate, perspiration and other stress indicators. The suit is already used in NASA astronaut training, but the possible applications are limitless.
For training, it can be used to safely simulate a number of dangerous or stressful conditions and monitor the way we respond to them. For example, Walmart has used it to train store employees to work in Black Friday situations, instruct them on how best to operate in busy retail environments with long customer queues.
It not only trains us for dangerous situations, but also drastically reduces the financial risks associated with letting go of students and inexperienced recruits with expensive tools and machines in any industry.
VR in industry and work
The pandemic has changed a lot in the way we work, including the widespread shift to working from home for large numbers of employees. This poses challenges, including the need to maintain an environment that fosters collaboration and building a corporate culture. Solutions with VR are rapidly emerging to address them.
Spatial, which creates a tool best described as a VR version of Zoom, one reported 1,000% increase in using its platform since March 2020. According to research from ARtillery Intelligence, the value of the VR business equipment market is expected to grow from $ 829 million in 2018 to $ 4.26 billion by 2023.
Communications giant Ericsson (who has supplied Oculus VR headsets to employees who work from home during the VR meetings pandemic) has spoken about creating the “Internet of Senses. “This includes developing projects that simulate touch, taste and smell, and sensations such as hot or cold. It predicts that by 2030 we will be able to enter digital environments that appear completely real to all of our five senses at once.
This will lead to the advent of what it calls the ‘dematerialized office’ – where the office effectively disappears from our lives, as we can create fully interactive and collaborative work environments anywhere in the world, simply by putting on a headset. and any other equipment required for the job.
VR in fun
There are already a number of VR-based social platforms that allow friends or strangers to meet and chat or play in virtual environments, such as VR chat Altspace VR, and REC RoomAs with VR in other fields, the growing level of immersion possible thanks to new technological advancements will make them more useful and appealing to mainstream audiences over the next decade.
This year, Facebook, which has long had a stake in VR through the acquisition of headset manufacturer Oculus Horizon platform. Currently in beta, it allows people to build and share collaborative online worlds where they can hang out, play games or collaborate on collaborative projects.
While we will always make time to meet up with friends and loved ones in the real world, as our work and school life becomes increasingly remote, it is likely that more of our social interaction will also go to the online realm. Just as an increasingly virtualized world no longer excludes us from careers or education opportunities, we will have more meaningful ways to connect with other people as technology in this field improves.
And of course – VR in games and entertainment
The “killer app” for VR is gaming, and the reason technology is evolving so quickly is due to the large market of people willing to spend 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 offers some of the most immersive experiences yet.
Using full-body haptic feedback suits, they offer five games – one licensed from Star Trek – that allow groups to team up or fight in space, aboard ghostly pirate ships, or through a zombie plague.
CEO Steve Zhao describes the experience his company has created as a “minimally viable matrix or holodeck”. In a recent conversation you can look here, he told me, ‘The result is that you believe in the world – it’s very real, and to make progress, you and your friends must communicate and work together. One of the best ways to describe it is that you are the stars in your own movie – that’s basically what we made. “
In many ways, it makes sense that there could be two markets for consuming VR entertainment – at least in the early days. While the most immersive and impressive technology is large and expensive and requires technical skill to operate, it is better to offer it in special locations than as a home experience. As with movies, the stay-at-home offerings may be a little less spectacular but more convenient – at least until we get to the point where we can have full-size Star Trek holodecks in our own homes!