Despite the apparent burst of the virtual reality (VR) hype-bubble, we’ve learned a lot about the technology’s capabilities and limitations throughout the past couple years. We learned that hardcore PC players just aren’t jumping on the technology as much as people had hoped. Steam’s own statistics shows less than 0.3% of all users owning or actively using a VR headset. So if the Oculus Rift isn’t the next big thing, what does that bode for VR?
Well, it’s worth noting that as of writing, there are 1,760 VR-related company startups, with focus spread all over the map. What we’re basically looking at is the hopeful boom of VR into the mainstream, and bringing the technology into everyday use. We’re a couple decades away from full-dive VR, which is the total immersion experience most people think of when they think of what VR ‘is’. If VR technology is able to align with mainstream consumer interests, however, then funding towards making that vision a reality (no pun intended) will certainly happen.
Now, here’s what we can expect for VR trends in 2018:
The possibilities of VR advertising is something a lot of companies are drooling over – things like car companies being able to put you inside the seat of their latest model, such as Audi’s VR showroom. Or the NFL advertising the SuperBowl with commercials from a helmet-camera perspective being plugged into your VR. Performing artist concerts being advertised with footage of the band from inside the crowd. There’s just generally going to be a lot of exploring ways to use VR in marketing campaigns.
Travel and Tourism
While technically falling under advertising, we’re most certainly going to see an increase in VR used to promote the travel industry. Take a look at KLM RoyalTraveladver Dutch Airline distributing VR headsets to travelers waiting to board their flight, giving the passengers a virtual experience of KLM’s flight services. While several tour companies have already been using VR to give virtual tours, its mostly been in the 360 video realm – what we’re going to see is trying to bridge the gap between 360 video and immersive VR, allowing travelers to explore locations before booking vacations.
There’s a lot of potential application for VR in the classroom, and we’ll most certainly see it adopted into online virtual classroom scenarios. Companies such as ClassVR are already promoting standalone VR headsets, aimed at both primary and secondary schooling. And while some colleges, such as the University of Southern California, are offering programs such as medical training in VR, we should also see online courses adopt the technology to simulate a classroom experience.
More Casual Gaming
VR as a serious gaming technology isn’t quite up to expectations yet, as indicated by the current sales and reception from amongst the hardcore gaming crowd. But the problem there was trying to market the technology to the hardcore gaming crowd in the first place – as VR begins catching on in the ‘mainstream’, we’re certainly going to see the technology adopted into casual gaming. Browser based videogames in particular are a great place for VR to find a foothold with the mainstream – if you consider even simple videogames in like Bonk.io have received millions of visitors, we’ll definitely see developers trying to work VR into their creations. And the tools exist for it – engines like Unity3D are able to export to WebGL and utilize WebVR plugins.
In-Home Theatre Experience
There’s two schools of thought regarding VR as a technology for watching movies at home – the first is that it’s totally awesome. The second is that it is completely isolationist and makes it impossible to enjoy a film with the family, when everyone has their own headset. Thus, its likely we’ll see app developers try to bridge this gap – something like each family member having their own virtual avatar, and being able to “see” each other in a virtual movie theatre, with the movie on a big screen. In fact, Paramount Pictures just recently partook in a deal to bring one of its films to a virtual movie theatre.
Increased Demand in the VR Job Sector
The job market itself in the tech sector is experiencing a massive demand for nearly all things VR related. With so many startups and million-dollar investment companies, there is currently over 1,700 job postings in the VR sector on Indeed.com – and around 47% of VR industry positions are hired through LinkedIn. Companies are on the hunt for everything from UI/UX designers, Unity developers, to the ever-popular Computer Vision Managers. It’s going to be a hot year for the VR job industry, for sure.
VAQSO VR was revealed at the 2017 Tokyo Game Show, which is a small device that attaches to any VR headset and can emit realistic smells. This has tremendous implications for how we’re beginning to include all of the senses into virtual reality. Numerous demos were showcased alongside the VAQSO VR, such as a tour through scenic areas of Japan, with environmental scents to complete the atmosphere. I’m just really praying this technology doesn’t find its way into fart gag apps (somebody had to say it).
At the end of the day, it is important to understand that even if the VR niche is in full development, there are still a few years before we can consider it a serious trend. For now, people only get a headset if they absolutely want to try a new experience and a different point of view.
We definitely like the idea of having access to a more immersive cinematic experience, but the main application for VR is still in the gaming industry. The day when you’ll be able to be completely transposed into a game (yes, TRON reference everyone!), VR will become extremely popular! Until that day comes, most of us will watch the development of this niche from a distance.