2016 has come and gone, and with it, we got an exciting glimpse at the long-awaited birth of the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) industries. No longer is VR a science-fiction fantasy—anyone who has put on an Oculus Rift and lost themselves in its realism for an afternoon could tell you that. Nor is augmented reality a developer’s daydream—Pokemon Go, which enables people to catch digital Pokemon in real-life physical locations, was one of the biggest hits of the year. The possibilities of VR at this point are, quite simply, boundless.
The monumental technologies that have shaped our world in the last three decades—mobile phones, personal computers, etc.—arrived quietly, but before we knew it, they controlled everything (the first iPhone came out less than a decade ago). 2016 may be remembered as the first year VR became an accessible commodity to those seeking it, as well as a press darling, but 2017 looks to be the year that VR hits the mainstream. As Jesse Joudrey, CEO at VR Chat, states: “In 2016 VR has barely begun to affect the world. It’s like the first iPhone. There are a small number of people that are extremely excited about it, but it’s true power (for the iPhone it was the app store) still hasn’t been created.”
To hear evangelists tell it, VR may be the most important invention since the printing press. Some believe that VR will usher us from the ‘Information Age’, where we’ve had unprecedented access to vast amounts of data, to the ‘Experiential Age’, where we can experience and interact with the information itself. “VR has the potential to more fully express and explore the full complexity of the human experience, [take us] from the Information Age to the Experiential Age, and catalyse a new renaissance that unlocks the latent potentials of our creativity and imagination,” Kent Bye, Host of Voices of VR podcast, has said. Which makes 2017 a very exciting year for the VR industry. Here are three things we can expect to see in the next twelve months:
1.A Killer App to Emerge
Bye has compared VR to the Gutenberg Press, “because it’s a new medium that captures human experiences in a new way, but we still don’t have the equivalent of the 1454 Gutenberg Bible, which was an inflection point of adoption… we’re still waiting for the app that is going to drive VR engagement beyond gamers and enthusiasts.”
Although the VR technology is available, right now, to the average non-technical person, it still seems either too pricey, inaccessible, or unnecessary. The way that Halo moved millions of Xbox consoles, or Facebook was the social network to rule all social networks, so too does VR need an experience that can persuade with the force of its own necessity. Watch for this—a game, a movie, a less pricey headset—to emerge soon, as whoever comes up with it will make a lot of money.
- A Transition from Early Adopters to the Mainstream
VR, until now, has been largely limited to events or conventions. It isn’t a fixture of living rooms across America. Yet. As the industry grows—Facebook and YouTube now support 360 degree videos, and Microsoft and Sony are busy integrating VR into their consoles—we will see more casual and diversified users buying VR, from kids putting it on their Christmas list to soldiers using VR to deal with PTSD. As time goes on, the industry will grow, and the bigger the market, the more incentive for innovation.
- VR Art Will Emerge
VR is an entirely new medium, far more immersive than anything humanity has ever conceived. It’s so exciting and so new that whatever emerges from its potential will probably be zanier than any prediction we could ever make.
In 2016, short immersive horror films, such as Oculus Rift: Blackmass, skimmed the surface of the technology (allowing one to look around a moving film), but 2017 and beyond looks to be the years in which developers brilliantly innovate the platform to deliver new and unprecedented experiences. VR will be found in the museum space, in journalism, and in education, just to name a few. The iPhone fundamentally changed society within a decade, and VR looks to be a more disruptive technology than the smartphone. 2017 should be an incredible year for VR.