Rise of Great Software
There are over 1,000 VR experiences on platforms like Steam and the Gear VR. Users of all types can be catered too based on their interest. History buff? Head back to the 7 wonders. Travel fan? Explore Japan on a lunch break. Want to travel through space or time? Curiosity fulfillment is only a download away.
The high end desktop head-mounted displays (Vive and Rift) have all reduced their prices drastically, nearly halving the cost of adoption. While it is still a costly market to join in, a better product at a better cost equals a market that is aggressively moving towards more than a niche.
Established Workflow and Platforms
Rise of Social Interaction
Despite criticism of virtual reality as a singular, isolating experience, VR is increasingly being used for real-time human interaction and communication. Virtual reality applications like RecRoom, Bigscreen VR, and VR Chat allow users to meet one another and socialize in an entirely virtual environment.
Customized Marketing Experiences
In 2017, we saw major brands finally beginning to leverage virtual reality applications as powerful and unique marketing tools. From McDonald’s to Lowe’s, VR-based campaigns are becoming more mainstream.
Virtual reality development is all about creating as immersive an experience as possible. This includes sound design! In 2017, we saw improved audio be a priority for the medium, with built in audio a standard now on the Rift, Vive Pro, and Oculus Go.
Controllers Become Standard
Platforms outside of the HTC Vive and Playstation VR started bundling controllers in 2017. This allowed for more intuitive experiences by default, and less stilted developer considerations, drawing from the established familiarity consumers have with hand-controlled devices.
Virtual reality applications are still relatively new to consumers. This means that older consumers or those without larger pocket books who are often the last to adapt to new technologies can be left out of the industry. Despite VR’s unique potential across every age range, VR is far from the mass market dreams of other consumer electronics.
Unlike established UI/UX web standards, VR is still a new experience and with so many first-time users (and designers!) are still figuring out what works and what doesn’t. The introduction of controllers to major platforms this year was one step forward in creating smoother functionality for users, but much more can be done in UI/UX for VR.
One of the biggest advancements in VR app development this year was the initial practical application of light fields. With 30+ years of theory and tech demos, real world uses of this technology is finding its way to market. This new, robust technology allows exact reproductions of objects, people, or places into VR, no fancy 3D model needed. In short, we’re bullish on light fields as a unique alternative to the challenges inherit to 3D models or photogrammetry. We anticipate seeing much more of this tech moving forward.
The advent of the Internet changed the way the world functioned – especially the retail industry. In 2018, we foresee virtual reality playing a large role in shifting consumers’ approach to shopping. Major brands like IKEA are already jumping on VR’s retail opportunities with apps and we expect to see much more of this in 2018.
Increased User Base
From 2014 to now, the number of active virtual reality users has risen exponentially. In 2018, the number of users is expected to reach 171 million – almost twice as much as last year!
The future of virtual reality is dependent on accessibility. In 2018, systems like Oculus Go will offer consumers a dedicated virtual reality system for an affordable $200.
The ultimate goal of virtual reality applications is to be as immersive as possible. In 2018, we see designers and developers going beyond sight and sound to explore how additional senses like taste and smell can be leveraged in a virtual space.
One of the most exciting virtual reality guarantees is ever evolving technology. Each year, VR pushes the boundaries of what’s possible. Kickstarter campaigns like Pimax are already in the works to fund the world’s first 8K and 200 FOV (field of view) VR headset. And recent surprise debuts like the Vive Pro’s built-in wireless functionality make what we believed impossible only months back a consumable reality. Onward!
Takeaway: The future of virtual reality lies in continued technological and creative advancement. Consumers want unique experiences predicated by passion and immersion. While the consumer market might not see hockey stick adoption curves anytime soon, the organizations willing to take thought leadership positions will eventually see their rewards. In 2018, we expect virtual reality applications to push boundaries like never before.