Virtual reality, once prohibitively expensive, is becoming a viable commercial product. Just a few years ago, the technology simply wasn't there. Now, consumers have flocked to buy VR headsets like the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and the Oculus Rift.
The numerous failures of virtual reality are falling away from memory, and we're beginning to see companies and consumers embrace the nascent tech. AR, or augmented reality, has softened the blows of past failures even further with successful AR apps generating a great amount of value.
Some still remain skeptical as to the impact of VR. Some contend that virtual reality applications are vaporware or that the technology inherently has no room to grow. Quite the opposite is true, however. VR is making more headway than you may think.
Let's take a look at the numbers: PSVR has sold over 2 million units, well over Sony's projections for the hardware. Even more impressively, AR has become a substantial subset of revenue-generating apps on smartphone platforms. Look at the example of Pokemon Go, an augmented reality app that has generated $1 billion in revenue. Finally, the global AR/VR market as a whole generated $11.4 billion in 2017 according to IDC, but will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 113.2% by 2021 as revenues hit $215 billion.
VR can offer incredible experiences which aren't otherwise available to most of us.
What makes AR and VR so interesting is their capacity to expand all sorts of media. AR and VR have the ability to expand upon more than merely entertainment, too. The New York Times has transformed storytelling with their use of VR, which allows users of the tech to fully immerse themselves with stories from all over the world. In one story, we follow female wrestlers in Bolivia. In another we follow Syrian refugees as they flee the war-torn country. As different as these stories are, they are unified by their ability to allow for a much more immersive, visceral and empathetic news story.
As amazing as these applications in VR storytelling are, they only scratch the surface in terms of possibilities that lie ahead. AR and VR apps on mobile devices have already helped people design their spaces, try on make-up, and build things at minimal cost. Tech-savvy designers can attack more creative problems and do so with completely new perspectives.
Using VR, content creators can build worlds for consumers to experience from anywhere around the globe -- a designer could make a beach in Africa in the Unity game engine, or an alien city in the Unreal engine. For the first time, an immersive experience is limited by only two things: the quality of the world and the power of the PC that powers the experience.
VR and AR technologies could therefore reshape more than video games, movies and journalism -- they could reshape how we interact with the world, in both a physical and a digital sense. How we interact with the web, with media, is largely shaped by designers, and these designers will be able create far more immersive, emotional, and visceral experiences for the viewer.
Much knowledge has been imparted from the speakers at AR & VR World.
However, this has repercussions too: if large companies want to block users from seeing something that potrays them or their partners in a negative light, they can craft the experience in such a way that blocks it from view. This acts much like media companies doing now, only covering certain new stories with specific angles as to influence the world and shape it as they see fit.
Virtual reality, although its use is by no means as widespread as many other technologies, has the ability to change how to process web design and how we interact media. As it becomes more affordable to own VR for the consumer and less costly to produce VR software and hardware for developers and manufacturers, we may see even more interest in the emerging tech. As interest rises, we very well could see design change in ways we never thought imaginable.
AR & VR World has been taking place this week with a variety of talks, exhibitions and panel sessions. Take a look at what we have been up to at the AR & VR section.
— Ellie Martin, technology journalist