Virtual Reality (VR) has made a long way from a sci-fi concept to an affordable and widely used technology. No one is wondering `What is virtual reality’ anymore. On the contrary, the worldwide science and tech communities have no doubt that virtual reality will play a significant part in the fourth industrial revolution.
In 2019, consumer-facing and corporate VR applications grew at an impressive pace, the virtual reality development cost became affordable even for small businesses. The technology has innovated most major industries – education, healthcare, finance, software, retail, and more.
What lies ahead for virtual reality? In this post, we’ll take a quick tour down the memory lane, remembering the bright minds that conceived and brought the VR phenomenon to life. You’ll find out what trends and applications will bring the world to its feet in the next decade, and how the technology is pushing the boundaries in the workplace and beyond.
Throwback at the Origins of VR: Where It All Started
It may be surprising to hear that the development of something as modern as virtual reality finds its traces back in the 19th century. Here’s a brief timeline that sums up a two-century long VR development history.
- 1838 – Charles Wheatstone describes stereopsis – the way humans perceive depth and three-dimensional structures. That same year, the scientist created the first model of a stereoscope.
- 1935 – Stanley Weblaum, a sci-fi writer, publishes a short story, describing a pair of goggles that allow full immersion into movies. The invention described in Pygmalion’s spectacles is essentially a VR set.
- 1956 – the first virtual reality device is created. At the time, it’s not a portable set but a large booth, where four people at a time could enjoy experiencing the movies with four out of five senses engaged – smell, sight, hearing, and tact. Though Sensorama was never a widespread device, six films were shot for it.
- 1960 – Morton Heilig creates the Teleshpere Mask – the first head-mounted headset for virtual reality.
- 1980 – the first stereo vision glasses are released;
- 1985 – the founding year of VPL Research Inc., the first company to sell VR headsets;
- 1987 – Dimension International creates software for building 3D worlds;
- 1995 – Nintendo launches the Virtual Boy console that kick starts virtual reality game development;
- 2007 – Google releases Street View;
- 2012 – the release of Oculus Rift;
- 2014 – Facebook acquires the Oculus VR company and turns virtual reality into mainstream technology;
- 2016 – HTC releases a sensor-based headset;
As for now, all tech giants build VR sets, thousands of businesses launch virtual reality products. Virtual reality development software is released faster than ever before – there are many exciting advancements yet to come.
Suggested Reading: Could Virtual Reality Be The Answer To Cutting Business Travel Expenses?
The Future of VR: Top 5 Predictions for 2030
The cost of VR implementation is plummeting, the number of headsets and other devices that give access to the innovation is rapidly increasing – Apple, for one, announced an upcoming headset release in 2021.
It seems virtual reality is on its peak – however, experts believe the technology still has a long way to go. Here is how full-dive virtual reality development is going to progress in the next 5-10 years.
1. VR will bring us closer to space
Even if the handful of major tech leaders that invest in Mars expansion manage to get to the red planet, for most, getting a ticket to Mars will not be affordable. By 2030, virtual reality may be the way for humans to firsthand experience life on the red planet without leaving the Earth.
The space industry is among the frontrunners in VR implementation. Creating simulators that capture the experience of an interstellar journey is not unlikely – in fact, a fully immersive simulator like Mars 2030 might hit the masses by 2030.
2. Wide field-of-view VR displays will become commonplace
When it comes to FOV (field of view), there are multiple considerations manufacturers need to take into account. To create an image with no distortions, companies would have to produce headsets with larger lenses – that doesn’t go in line with the current market trends that promote smaller, more ergonomic products.
The good news is, the solutions for increasing the field of view without adding to the size of the headset are already in development. Oculus Rift is working on virtual reality glasses with extra-thin lenses – the new technology will reduce the detail of peripheral imagery and reconstruct it with AR.
3. Mobile VR boom
As for now, most VR headsets are still computer-based. Having to rely on heavy hardware halts the development and adoption of the innovation. Connecting virtual reality tools and mobile devices in a seamless way is a goal for the leaders in the niche. There’s a long way to go until the world achieves the convergence of mobile and virtual reality software.
Today, users can, to an extent, experience mobile VR applications using Oculus Go, Samsung Gear, or Google Daydream. You will need nothing other than a mobile app and the Wi-Fi connection to experience virtual reality firsthand. These applications are still bulky, with a lot of room for work – however, in the next 5-7 years, mobile VR will likely get its ‘iPhone’ moment.
4. 5G and VR convergence
Latency and bandwidth issues stand in the way of smooth VR implementation. However, with 5G becoming commonplace by 2020, there will no longer be that much delay in VR displays. The convergence of 5G and VR is groundbreaking for communication tools – by 2030, VR-based connectivity could be implemented into Skype, Google Hangouts, and other conference calls apps.
The integration of a virtual reality development kit into collaboration tools will improve the quality of remote work and drive significant changes to the workplace.
Humans in the VR Age: How the Technology Will Change Us?
There is a lot of talking about the impact of virtual reality on the way humans perceive the world and overcome challenges. The opinions are polar – some praise VR as a way to deal with mental illnesses, while others treat the technology as a form of escapism and fear for the loss of connection between a headset user and the world around him.
Let’s clear things up and take a deeper look at the impact of VR on our mental health.
- VR improves spatial orientation. Back in 2014, a team of researchers decided to find out how navigating virtual 3D spaces affects our ability to find ourselves in the real world. The experiments proved that exploring virtual rooms increases the activity within the hippocampus – the part of the brain, responsible for spatial orientation. VR has the potential to increase people’s adaptability and endurance, decreasing the odds of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- VR causes motion sickness. Although technology has many positive effects, it’s far from perfect yet and can yield health damage. For instance, VR causes motion sickness – headaches and nausea. That’s why headset manufacturers advise taking 15-minute breaks after every half-an-hour session – even if you don’t feel like it.
- VR is effective for mental health therapy. The immersion virtual reality provides is widely used for treating mental health issues. PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) patients, for one, can get controlled exposure to a traumatic experience and overcome their fears. Virtual reality can treat anhedonia as well – an inability to feel positive emotions that goes hand-in-hand with depression by introducing people to exciting experiences.
- VR is a risk-free way to get an adrenaline release. Instead of looking for danger, people can try an extreme sport, a fast car race, and other potentially fatal activities without putting others and themselves at the risk of death.
The VR boom is confusing to those who work outside of the tech industry. While the media often portrays technology as a way to escape real-life challenges, VR is, on the contrary, a tool that improves our communication with the outside world.
It’s a powerful assistive technology for many industries – healthcare, space science, retail, automotive, and more. It will open new opportunities for entertainment and communication, without diminishing the value of interpersonal connections.
There’s a long way to go until virtual reality enters every home. However, with 5G connectivity and hardware advancements, we might get to experience a true VR development boom as soon as by the end of the next decade.