How VR technology will transform industries beyond gaming

Categories: Technology |

virtualreality

VR technology for gamers. This is the year of virtual reality, or VR. This is the year when the price of VR technology will finally be affordable enough for mass audiences, allowing serious gamers to take video games to a new, more immersive level.

That dream became a reality in March with the release of the Oculus Rift VR headset, as well as the rollout of VR-enabled headsets that work by simply connecting to a smartphone. Furthermore, later this year Sony plans to release its own VR headset compatible with its PlayStation gaming console.

While VR certainly has huge potential for gamers, here is a look at why the technology will transcend the confines of the video game industry.

Why VR now?

Virtual reality has been on the minds of gamers for years, but only now can you buy an affordable headset for use at home. For example, the optimal VR experience uses a 5.5-inch screen with high resolution that refreshes 120 times per second. A decade ago such a screen would cost nearly $10,000, but today you can get a very good VR experience with a newer model of smartphone and a compatible VR headset.

With ubiquitous smartphone penetration, millions of individuals now have access to the technology that can run VR. This creates a market and incentive for software developers to develop games and apps designed specifically for VR.

Why gamers are excited

If you like playing video games, it only takes a few seconds with a top-notch VR headset to realize that this is one of the biggest innovations the medium has ever seen. Once only a novelty seen at arcades or theme parks, VR can now quite easily appear in consumers’ homes.

The biggest selling point for gamers is the sense of realism VR gives you. Now, instead of looking at a TV screen at a pack of zombies chasing you down, you’re put inside such a world – as terrifying as it might be – with the ability to look around you in 360 degrees, giving a sense of depth much more realistic than 3-D.

Since VR places the gamer directly inside the world they’re playing in, the possibilities are endless. Games could make you feel like you’re actually driving a racecar, feel the pressure of a last-second free throw in front of a packed house in the NBA Finals or experience what it’s like to be a dragon slayer in a “Game of Thrones”-style world.

Why nongamers should be excited

The implications for gaming are obvious, but it’s the nongaming possibilities of VR that should excite everyone. Because VR headsets by definition put the user in an environment that feels and acts real, there are widespread possibilities:

  • Immersive entertainment and powerful personal experiences. The Coachella music festival developed a VR app so fans can feel as if they are on stage with the performers. Meanwhile apps have been developed to help you relax with the use of guided meditation.
  • Improve training in various industries by providing low-risk, life-like experiences. Technical industries are using VR headsets as training resources as a way of giving employees hands-on experience before heading into the field. In the military, the Air Force already uses VR to train its pilots in the latest fighter jet technology before they get into the air for real. Medical students use VR to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a real-life operating room. Using a high-definition camera attached to a surgeon’s head, doctors capture first-person footage of performing a procedure. Students then view the footage using VR headsets to get an idea of what the procedure is like in the eyes of the person performing it.
  • Lower risk and improve results for large scale projects. Architects and construction workers use VR models of their projects to fine-tune everything from the dimensions of a room to the optimal height of doorways. Oftentimes, making changes to construction plans can be a costly and expensive proposition. Using VR headsets, construction companies can allow clients to make changes for free before actual construction has begun.

Expect a VR boom

One of the most encouraging things about VR is that, even though we’ve heard about it for decades, the technology is still in its infancy. As VR technology is tested and perfected, it will become more affordable and higher quality. Deloitte Global predicts this will be the first year VR revenues surpass the $1 billion mark, with $700 million of that coming from hardware sales and the rest from applications and content.

This year there will be 6.5 million VR users worldwide, according to a forecast from Deutsche Bank, with that number expected to grow to 14.6 million in 2018 and 24.4 million in 2020.

Perhaps not surprisingly, younger consumers will drive much of that growth. According to research from Greenlight VR, 79 percent of people in generation Z (age 10-17) are interested in VR, followed by millennials (73 percent), gen X (70 percent) and baby boomers (64 percent).

This will be the year of VR because it’s the first real time it’s been affordable to enter the market. Like any new technology, it will only become better and more efficient as developers continue to innovate in the space.

Image by Nan Palmero