First, there were clunky desktop computers, then technology improved and personal computers became much smaller and powerful. Now we have smartphones, computers in the palms of our hand. This leaves us wondering, What will be the next form of personal computers?
The answer: Virtual Reality (VR). Technology with the ability to alter our senses of reality. Transporting us to digital worlds where we spend time with friends, learn new skills and even work 9-5.
The idea of Virtual Reality becoming an essential part of our everyday lives seems far-fetched. However, recent advancements from companies such as Facebook and Apple hint that it might not be a pipe dream after all.
- Virtual Reality headsets trick your senses into thinking you’re in a virtual world.
- It can change the way we work, learn, socialise, entertain and much more.
- Tech companies such as Facebook and Apple are developing AR and VR tech that could help it become more mainstream.
- There are some practical issues with VR tech which will take some years to address.
- VR and AR will have big implications on our lives, it just may take some time for this to happen.
Virtual Reality Explained:
What is Virtual Reality (VR)? Virtual reality shuts out the physical world and makes you feel as if you’re in a different reality. Headsets wrap around your eyes and block out your surroundings. Mini screens within the headset fill your vision, transporting your mind from the real world to a digital one. Examples of existing VR headsets include the Oculus Quest, Samsung Gear and HTC Vive.
It’s also important to mention Augmented Reality (AR): This technology doesn’t override your vision, it adds to it. While you can see the outside world like everyone else, phone cameras (or even smart glasses) display extra information in front of your eyes. The most common examples of AR are Snapchat lenses or Pokemon Go.
How VR Could Change Our Lives:
The pandemic has already changed the way we work. With most of us now working from the comforts of our own homes, a society in which most people work remotely seems possible. However, remote working comes with many challenges. Problems that VR might be able to fix.
Companies such as Facebook are working on the idea of a ‘virtual workspace’. It’s simple, slip on a VR headset and you’re instantly in a virtual office space in which you can chat with your co-workers, share files and work collaboratively.
A virtual office would make working from home less lonely and more efficient.
Employees could attend meetings, networking events, training days from their own home. That’s a lot less money businesses would have to spend on expenses. A physical office could become a thing of the past.
A big advantage of VR is that anyone could live and work anywhere in the world. This expands job opportunities and wealth across all areas of the world instead of centralised cities.
VR is a great opportunity for students to learn from anywhere in the world. It can be used to improve the way we learn and help us develop new skills while instantly putting them into practice.
VR could make learning more creative, resulting in children becoming more enthusiastic about school.
Schools wouldn’t rely on textbooks to teach subjects. Imagine history lessons with no books. Instead, you strap yourself into a VR headset and you’re transported back in time to the streets of Italy during The Renaissance.
The same goes for training people in certain job roles. Trainee doctors/nurses could use VR to train for operations. A much safer and cost-effective way to learn complex skills.
VR could also be used to train people for stressful or challenging situations. Perfect for public services like the police, paramedics and firefighters.
We’re always looking for easier ways to socialise with one another. VR could be a game-changer in the way we interact with friends and family.
While applications already exist for people to socialise in virtual worlds, it’s hardly mainstream. Facebook is currently working on their Horizon project. Allowing people to meet up in virtual environments, chat, play games and solve puzzles.
In a time when social contact is restricted, Virtual Reality has the power to keep us all connected.
The possibilities with this new kind of socialisation are endless. You and your friends could visit virtual worlds and live amazing world experiences without having to leave your sofa.
You can meet and spend time with people from all over the world. You could even go on virtual dates with people you met on Tinder…
This could lead to a whole new digital economy, paying for experiences and accessories for your virtual Avatar.
One of the main industries to benefit from Virtual Reality could be the entertainment industry. Gaming is already the focus for many companies developing VR. Many Virtual Reality games exist – and despite not being the most advanced – they’re a lot of fun.
The gameplay is much more immersive, placing you in a world that feels as real as our own. Imagine the horror of playing a game like The Last Of Us in VR with next-gen graphics. Other possible virtual experiences include museums, theatres, theme parks, art galleries and more.
Once again, VR could have been useful during the pandemic. Imagine being able to have front row tickets to watch your favourite artist perform without being physically next to people. Sure, they’d need to put a lot of work into making the experience feel realistic, but it’s possible.
The Tech Giants Developing VR and AR
Tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are all developing AR and VR technology. With companies like Facebook and Apple working on developing this tech, it makes it more likely it will become mainstream. Here’s what some of the biggest tech companies have been working on.
Facebook acquired VR startup Oculus in 2014. Facebook Reality Labs brings together researchers, developers and engineers to build AR and VR technology and applications. It’s reported that now a fifth of Facebook’s employees are working on VR and AR.
This quote from Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg says it all: “I think it really makes sense for us to invest deeply to help shape what I think is going to be the next major computing platform, this combination of augmented and virtual reality, to make sure that it develops in this way that is fundamentally about people being present with each other and coming together.”
It’s rumoured the Apple have their own secret team of employees working on secret VR and AR projects. It’s also reported that they’ve been working on this tech for over 10 years. They recently hired a leading VR researcher and acquired multiple companies developing the tech.
It’s believed that their first VR/AR product will be some type of headset or glasses. Potentially being released as early as 2022.
Google has been working on developing AR and VR projects for many years. in 2013, they released a type of AR headset in the form of Google Glass. In just two years, Google Glass was discontinued. It failed for a variety of reasons including privacy concerns, limited applications and a hefty price tag.
Samsung developed a Gear VR headset. Boasting over 1000+ apps and games for people to enjoy. However, like Google’s headset, it’s used by inserting your mobile phone and using that as the screen.
Microsoft, HP and Valve:
Have all confirmed they’re working together to create a VR headset for the Xbox Series X.
Problems With VR:
It’s fair to say that VR is seriously impressive and the impact it could have on improving our lives is astronomical.
However, there are still a few issues with VR that need to be ironed out:
- Most headsets are bulky, heavy and impractical.
- Most of them cost a lot to buy.
- They’re not all wireless yet.
- Graphics for games aren’t great.
- People still get motion sickness.
- Technology isn’t mainstream.
However, it’s important to note that these are all problems that can be solved as technology advances. Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 was recently released and it’s already a lighter, less bulky, affordable headset.
What to expect from VR in the future:
It’s not a question of if VR and AR will be the next step in computing technology, it’s only a question of when. As technology evolves, big tech giants will figure out ways to make this technology mainstream and practical for our everyday lives.
While it will take some time, we can be sure that VR and AR will no doubt have big implications for people all over the world.