The World 2.0- The Future of Virtual Reality

(1) The history of VR

History of VR

(2)The current ecosystem of the Virtual Reality industry

The industry has been developing at high speed with the ecosystem of VR & AR growing constantly. With the support of different infrastructures like HMD (helmet-mounted display), different tools and platforms can act as the information carriers, for content covering games, entertainment, social, live event, sports, education, healthcare and other potential sectors.

(3) Trends of Virtual Reality

1. The potential to become a generic computing platform

Same as PC, smartphone and tablet, VR & AR have shown the strong character to be the next revolution as shown right now in various industries.

With the success of Pokemon Go, AR and VR have been seen as one of the blue seas that all players in the gaming industry want to dive into. Given the fact that this technology will revolutionize the way we interact and will allow gamers to be present at the scene, most types of games including RPG, racing, shooting and even card games will provide the gamers a brand new gaming experience, which of course means more time and money spent on games.

However, the gaming industry is not the only one who will and is benefiting from VR & AR technology. Sports, concerts and other live events can sell VR tickets to enable fans who cannot come to the scene to enjoy the 360-degree live experience at home. Besides, education resources will reallocate without any geographic and even the time limitations. Moreover, the healthcare industry will also benefit. The first VR surgery has been taken, breaking the geographic limitation and cutting down time and money. Various digital treatments for pain have been introduced.

Various industries are sending us a strong signal that VR & AR now is applied in more and more scenes.

2. Explosion of 360-degree content

We are already seeing dozens of 360-degree videos popping up, covering both tech and non-tech events. While these have mostly been pushed by tech companies, we’re expecting to see a surge of such videos coming from anybody and everybody.

360-degree videos will be the new selfie with the coming of affordable 360-degree cameras, either as independent accessories or attachments for smartphones. Just like in the beginning, few were concerned about the quality of front-facing cameras, this time people wont care either about relatively low res 360-degree photos and videos, as long as they’re cheap to make. A few smartphones and social networking sites, YouTube and Facebook included, already support 360 degree content, and that number will only increase in the coming months.

3. More portable VR

Currently, VR systems like the Vive, Oculus, or PlayStation tether you in more ways than one. They physically connect you to computers or consoles via cables. Or, at the very least, they require rigs that need to be located in only one place, usually indoors. Next year, VR will start to break free of those chains in two ways:

The first one is something we’ve already seen in development: VR backpacks. These are practically gaming-ready, desktop-grade PCs stuffed inside a backpack. It might not be the brightest idea at times, as it could encourage dangerous VR behavior, but it offers more freedom of movement compared to VR setups today.

Alternatively, VR headsets will also become wireless. Intel has already demonstrated that possibility. With the push for more consumer-friendly VR products, the need for a more comfortable headset becomes even greater. In the future, you might not even need such a VR backpack, just your VR ready gaming laptop and a wireless HMD.

4. Input needed

All these, however, are dependent on one critical development in VR technology: input. Compared to displays, input in VR is harder to get right. It needs the right combination of technology and design. Cardboard, which lacked significant input methods, is an example of how things can go wrong. But even the more sophisticated VR systems are simply an approximation of an ideal control system for VR.

The instinct of most people who experience VR or AR for the first time is to reach out for objects, betraying what ordinary people come to expect of such technology. It’s not feasible, however, with current technology. VR gloves are far from being easily accessible, not to mention comfortable to wear. But 2017 will be marked by an increased focus in figuring that out, if not from mainstream companies like HTC and Oculus, but from dreamers and makers.

5. Internet of Things (IOT) will make wireless VR more beautiful — and more dangerous

Silicon Valley and major manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways to innovate cords and cables out of the equation. There’s already an enormous development in Internet of Things (IoT) that allows millions of connected appliances to communicate wirelessly (although sometimes get hijack by hackers), and next year will see programmers finding new and exciting ways to leverage all that IOT connectivity.

We’d be negligent if we didn’t mention what could be the most important development in wireless for 2017. Word is that Apple is partnering with a company called Energous on a breakthrough wireless charging solution that will allow the next iteration of the iPhone to charge from across a room. The tech exists, and if Apple really follows what Energous has developed, it would instantly create a new product ecosystem around wireless charging.

6. VR and AR will be combined and applied together as mixed artificial reality

The merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time seems to be the future trend. As different types of artificial reality, including all senses like smelling, tasting, hearing and of course seeing, are also being develop, VR and AR aren’t optimal to be applied in separate scenes anymore and it makes more sense to utilize VR, AR and other kinds of reality for serving the imagined to scene instead of adapting the scene to the technology.

(4) VR Consumer Profile

In the past several years, VR has experienced a fast development and now it is becoming more and more popular around the world.

As shown below, the number of VR users worldwide has grown significantly from 0.02 million in 2014 to 43 million in 2016, and is expected to reach 171 million in 2018.

The 2016 Virtual Reality Consumer Report and the national 2,000-consumer study in the US conducted by Greenlight VR and Touchstone Research, give us a better understanding of VR consumers.

According to the survey, about 80% of consumers are aware of VR and its recent developments. While many are aware of virtual reality technology, 70% of respondents only know “little” to “some” information about it.

In this survey, respondents are classified into four groups: Generation Z (ages 0–17), Millennials (ages 18–34), Generation X (ages 35–50), and Baby Boomers (ages 51–69).

Different groups show different levels of interest in VR. Generation Z is most excited to experience virtual reality, surpassing all other generational segments. About 79% of Generation Z feels positive about VR, compared to Millennials (73%), Generation X (70%), and baby boomers (64%). As we can see, while VR is most appealing to young people — teens and Millennials, there is still a substantial level of interest even among Baby Boomers. A valuable implication for both marketers and developers of VR is that, in the future, the most lucrative long-term play may involve positioning VR content, games, and education for children.

Although people in different groups all have high level of interest in VR, what and how they want to experience varies significantly among different groups. Younger generations like Generation Z and Millennials are more enthusiastic toward the gaming applications of VR technology, since they are tech- savvy and gamers. 71% of Generation Z and 58% of Millennials described VR technology as “cool/fun/awesome”. Generation Z is excited, interested and highly motivated to embrace this new technology. Their parents are also favorable towards VR, being not only open to this technology, but they are also willing to experience VR themselves. Compared to younger generations, older generations like Generation X and the Baby Boomers have a strong proposition towards the exploration and travel-based experiences that VR will create.

Looking from the whole age groups, consumers are slightly more interested in VR for TV, movies, and video (66%) compared to gaming (60%). The overwhelming top choice for interactive VR TV, Movies and Video content is Action/Adventure (60%), followed by sci-fi (48%).

The action genre is full of non-stop high energy and has lots of physical stunts, which usually contains numerous exciting activities, such as chase, battles, destructive disasters, fights and escapes. Consumers can immerse themselves in the action and join the struggle to overcome great odds, danger and evil villains. Similarly, Travel/Exploration & Adventure is the experience with greatest breadth of appeal. People are able to virtually immerse themselves in another environment and enjoy the fantasy of experiencing other lands, people and adventures.

The most appealing VR game across all consumer segments is racing, which enables consumers to enjoy the fantasy of being a professional driver, and also provide them with the challenge of racing against each other. Additionally, regarding to game expectations, 53% of those polled regard VR as a multiplayer and social experience, instead of playing alone.

Consumer behavior also differs among different ethnic. Generally speaking, Asians (53%), Hispanics (43%) and African Americans (35%) are stronger on measures involving awareness, interest and amount willing to pay than Caucasians (30%). Nevertheless, another group of people that shouldn’t be ignored are minorities, who are also enthusiastic about VR.

In terms of purchasing drivers, price is the #1 factor that consumers would take into consideration when thinking about buying a VR device. 65% of consumers would take cost into account when purchase a headset/device in 2016, followed by other factors, such as quality (57%), durability (53%), content (49%) and ease of use (46%). However, it appears that affordability and accessibility will be a major hurdle for VR companies in 2016. Of those who are interested in VR headsets, 60% will not willing to pay more than $400 dollars, and the majority of users will fall into the $200-$400 price range.

In addition, brand isn’t a very strong factor in driving consumers’ purchasing. The majority of VR users are still Brand Agnostic. About 85% of them don’t have a particular VR brand in mind. However, of those that have tried VR, 79% are willing to try it again, and 81% claim they would tell their friends about the experience and the most frequently used word is “cool!”. This indicates that in the future, VR marketers could consider create buzz-worthy campaigns.

In spite of the popularity and novelty of VR among consumers, about 52% of all respondents expressed some concern with VR. The most common concern is “health” (23%), followed by “losing touch with the real world” (11%), “VR addiction” (5%), and “VR being too expensive (5%)”.

(5) A Future Scenario

In the upcoming part of our blog we will guide you through the day of Mary and Simon and their son, Sam, a one-child family living in the not-so-distant future and show that based on our research of the current trends of technology mixed with our imagination how artificial reality may transform the way of life. Let’s start the journey!

The start of the day

It is a nice, windy morning. Hearing the alarm clock Simon gets up and reviews his health condition. The VR device is no longer easily visible and has been implemented in normal, daily things becoming part of everybody’s daily life. It is composed of a part that projects the information in front of the eyes in the retina and lots of sensors connected the body and brain and a microphone to enable voice control. Normal glasses, clothes, wearables, a hat or even an accessory like a necklace are capable of transmitting virtual reality, facilitating life. Virtual reality has blended with fashion.

Sensors can generate a report of his health condition is shown in front of him, clearly telling him the quality of his sleep, which parts of his body are not in a healthy condition, and suggesting the kind of cure or training he should take. Simon, following the suggestions on his strain of shoulder muscles, books a fitness training class through his voice “book the class at 7pm tonight at Orange Fitness”.

When he is washing up, he checks his agenda virtually and calls his self-driving car to park in front of his door. During breakfast, Simon reads the newspapers through his “glasses”. He can clearly see the events happening around the world as if he were in the spot. After breakfast, Simon walks to the closet and looks at his clothes. When he looks at a shirt, the glasses show the image of how it will look like on him and suggests the type of pants and shoes that would make the perfect fit. He chooses a suit and walks out the door. His Tesla is already waiting for him in front of the house.

Getting into the car, Simon dials his secretary. The video call is now so real that you can see the other side clearly, it seems he is talking with her face-to-face. He asks the secretary to send him some important documents and she takes the order with smiles. All this while his car drives him to work. Through mixed reality the car can analyze the way to work and decide based on the traffic which route to take.

Mary is the mother of the family and mixed reality has revolutionized her world in the last couple of years, like her husband’s. Simple house tasks have become even more simple and easier to do, reducing her stress levels and giving her quality time with friends, family and for her to enjoy her own hobbies. Her move to virtual reality has been gradual.

Mixed reality started to change the way things worked on the house a couple of years ago. On a typical day, Mary wakes up at 6 am and starts her training. On her way to the bathroom she can control her shower to make sure it is at the right temperature and ready for her. How is this done? She can actually turn the water on, visualize the shower and actually feel the water temperature by putting her arm under it. After the shower, while she is brushing her teeth she can check her mails, Facebook page and news all on a “screen” that appears in front of her but doesn’t block the mirror. With a simple voice command, she can congratulate a friend who is celebrating her birthday today or change from one news page to another.

Virtual reality started to transform the way she trained and watched TV. Her morning exercise sessions became more entertaining and inexpensive and through virtual reality glasses she could exercise in any environment she wanted, and as a competitive person she could compete with other virtual members and stay encouraged and motivated. A simple biking training session became a race in mount Everest and a yoga session could be done outside in a relaxed atmosphere suitable for a perfect yoga training. On TV, virtual reality changes the way they experience shows and movies. Classical television had disappeared and through virtual reality glasses Mary and her husband could not only experience 3D movies and shows, but also stop fighting over which show to watch. Each of them could watch the one he/she likes at the same time or watch a movie or show together. But the best part about it, for Mary, is having the opportunity to be part of the world of her favorite documentary series about amazing natural phenomenon. She could also have a closer look at the outfit of the presenter and with a single click she could order it instantly. With the help of VR solutions she can also try on some outfits virtually and decide which one to wear today, saving her time.

Once ready, it is breakfast time; but Mary has never been a good cook and she is awful at following instructions from online videos or cooking recipes. Now, however, through mixed reality she can have a personal instructor right next to her in the kitchen telling her what to do and showing her how to do it. At the same time, specific guiding lines appear on her food to indicate cuts and seasoning area. Cooking has never looked better! Her personal assistant answers questions and even ads suggestions if she sees Mary making a mistake. Her cooking now looks like a 5 star Michelin restaurant every day!

Sam, the 11 years old child, is just about to get up but unfortunately he feels a strong pain in the lower part of his left leg. It seems the most frustrating symptom of his recent sport accident is back again. He has to stay home so after his breakfast he goes back to his bed. Although he cannot meet his friends today, he can proceed with his history lesson easily and it will also deter his thoughts from the disease. In less than a few minutes he almost forgets about the real word and find himself in the ancient Egypt. Along the Nile he can see the people working, the flora and fauna of the age and of the region, he can even visit some buildings from inside and follow a worker’s day.

Sam loves learning that way. The experience of almost being on the spot of different ages and events makes it much more easier to understand history. As he once said ’I remember it almost as it actually happened to me.’ This is due to the fact that the sensors continuously monitor his eye and head movements as well as some main biologic reactions of his body and he can interact with the people in the virtual world. An intelligent program understands his words, feelings and reacts to them. Apart from History his favorite subject is biology. ’The best — as he explains — is when I can actually see the parts of an animal or the human body with a functioning cardiovascular system and see how it really works.’

During the day

Although more information became transparent and the robots could do tons of analysis better than human, companies became more serious about information security to protect the company and make sure nobody disclose important information. Therefore, humans are still needed to gain trust from the customers, keep the relationships, and obtain confidential information to do the analysis. That is why Simon is on the way on an initial meeting personally.

As the client is late, Simon checks what happened in a conference yesterday. He was unable to attend it at real time but now he can see everything and listen to it as if he was right there. Also, he reviews the operation performance of the company, the KPIs and facts processed by the AIs and calls John, his subordinate. John mentions that there is a client that is being very difficult to deal with and asks for Simon’s suggestions. At the end of their conversation the key points are recorded and automatically shown in a very structured way in front of their eyes for later review.

After his personal meeting, Simon connects to an international monthly meeting of the company. The partners from all over the world can have this gathering with very high quality interactions. Simon makes a presentation that all participants can see at the same time. He demonstrates a case of a new engine, from which thanks to mixed reality all the members can see every little detail.

When it comes to lunch, it is possible to choose from a virtual menu and order it automatically. Since everyone is connected to the internet and authenticated by bio information, the payment is made automatically.

After Sam has lunch, it comes to his mind that his father’s first question will for sure be if he did the daily exercises to recover his leg so he goes to the living room to do it. On the way walking slowly to the machine he is thinking about which sport he would like to do: diving he really likes but rock climbing seems to be even better. He gets on the fitness equipment and chooses to climb in the Montserrat mountain — without going out of the apartment. Then he plays a bit with a new interactive VR game one of his classmates recommended last week. One of his friends is playing at the same time so they join the same group. He really enjoys his role and hours pass without even noticing it. The sunset is over by the time he finishes the mission. As he quits the game he realizes that he is very hungry.

While he learned and exercised, his mother worked. Fashion has always been Mary’s passion, that’s why she became a fashion designer, a quite successful one until the kinds arrived. With so many things to do at home, she had to quit her career, but her life changed drastically 2 years ago. Virtual reality made it possible for her to work from home. With a 3D virtual mannequin she can design her clothes easily making as many changes as she wants and having real time information of how the final product would look on a real person. She can also check the different sizes, colours and elements the design can have. Her design is automatically saved on her personal cloud and she can access them from anywhere she wants. She can also combine her design with all kinds of accessories, shoes and even hair styles. Then she has a very important meeting with some fashion runway planners for her next big presentation, through a virtual meeting she can not only see the person at the other side of the call but they can also plan together the runway design process and look at the changes the other one is making in real-time basis as if they were in the same room and on a real venue.

Suddenly the alarm of the fridge rings, it has realized that some food has run out. With a virtual tour of the fridge, Mary can easily see what she needs to buy. Going to the grocery store would normally take Mary an hour and delivery meant she couldn’t have control on the quality of the products. With a click on his earrings though she can take a virtual tour in the supermarket. She can pick up, feel, smell and have a better look at all the products, making sure she buys the best ones. If she needs help, a virtual assistant can be called. Finally, she can indicate the order to be delivered to her house.

But that’s not the all Mary can experience from home. Through virtual reality Mary can plan those holidays they are all waiting for. She can take a tour at the hotels, parks, even airplanes and choose the one most suitable for her family with no disappointing surprises awaiting. For the trip, she will need to buy something from Amazon, through virtual reality she can look at the products, try them on, even on her family members. All that without a mouse or a keyboard. Later in the afternoon, Mary has a date for lunch with her friends that live all over the world. Once again, through virtual reality they can see each other, talk, and act as if they were in the same room.

The end of the day

After work, Simon goes back home, enjoys dinner with his family and then he plays with Sam. They paint, using simulation to draw the pictures with their hands swinging in the air. In the end, they can also print the picture in 3D.

Afterwards the family decides to watch movie together. It is an opera called Rigoletto. Theatres no longer exist but the device shows the play super realistically. Although the songs are the same as Verdi composed them, the way it is presented is a revolutionary art piece and it feels like being really on the spot. Mary and Simon are amazed but Sam prefers when they travel together. They have been to 3 different countries last month — mixed reality makes it really easy, quick and affordable to see the world’s most amazing natural, architectural and other art pieces.

Sam is going to bed soon and in one or two days hopefully he will be back in the children’s community house. This place, once rather called school, now is designed to learn the offline interactions instead of passing knowledge to the next generation — the latter is easily available via online experiences.

The story ends here. It may seem futuristic but the technologies we are talking about already exist or are being developed. In the upcoming paragraph, we are going to present how these may affect life and our society and their risks.

(6) Impact of mixed reality in the future

A New Way of Work and Life: Efficiency and Productivity

When mixed reality connects to the Internet, humans can control everything in it through a virtual world that improves the efficiency and productivity of the society. It creates a new way of working where the majority of processes will be shortened, and the cost of business operations will decrease, creating great benefits for the entire society. With robots doing a huge part of the work, productivity levels will reach unimaginable goals. Humans will have to learn to work with data and creativity and innovation will become highly valuable skills.

Communication breaking time and space barriers

The technology will be applied in different industries that previously required high-level of intercultural human interaction saving time and money for those who are constantly involve in multinational affairs (international meetings, education, etc.). It will so easy to make international friends and maintain intercultural relationships.

The World 2.0

With the integration of mixed reality and Haptic technology or Utility fog (technologies that create the sense of touch), a very realistic second world could be created. Distinguishing between the real world and the virtual world would become almost impossible for people. Especially in the gaming world, which has lots of virtual characters people can interact with. Especially Utility Fog, a hypothetical collection of tiny robots that can replicate a physical structure, if developed and connected to the virtual reality, will together create a world that is totally the same as reality in our brain’s perception.

Human Intelligence and New Business Ecosystem

Traditional jobs will be replaced by those that require more knowledge and creativity. Human brains will be developed to an unprecedented level because they no longer need to focus on those repetitive tasks but instead on deep thinking and creating innovative ideas. Through mixed reality online stores will be so convenient, that offline stores will concentrate more on culture and leisure (e.g. restaurants, bars). New businesses are more about the value of knowledge and creativity: literature, methodology of doing things or thinking, gaming, and culture industry.

(7) Potential Risks

Mixed reality is and will continue to transform our lives in many different ways making it simple and giving us access to the world with a click. Nonetheless there are still some potential risks that we should be aware of.

Health Risks

Being connected to technology all day long could have a bad impact on people’s health. First of all, mixed reality could create an addiction that could lead to stress, fatigue and even mental problems. 3D images can create a condition called “Eye-strain” that consists on fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, double vision, dry eyes and difficulty focusing.

Nowadays using VR can cause some side-effects called virtual-reality sickness (also known as cyber sickness), which has similar symptoms to motion sickness, such as nausea, disorientation, pallor, headaches, sweating and even vomiting. This may be caused by a conflict in the brain. Your visual and auditory sensory tells you that you’re moving, however, your inner organs don’t detect the motion, resulting to a conflict in your body. This sickness may be more common in children.

Security

Not all virtual environments can protect information and communication very well. For instance, since it’s a public environment, there’s no encrypted password when a user sends messages to another person and some enterprises put much higher priority on information priority.

With Mixed reality connected to every detailed of human’s’ daily life, personal information is at risk. If someone hacks into the system, he/she could have easy access to sensitive personal information and use it for dark purposes. By knowing the exact routine and characteristics of each member of a family, it is easier to trick people, especially children. At the same time, hacking into the system could give the hacker the power to control the office, house, or even the car. For example, by controlling the water in the house, hackers can easily burn someone with hot water. Children could have an easier access to violence, or terrorist groups could easily brainwash them or train them for dark purposes.

Intellectual property rights

In fashion, for example, designs could be discovered and copied by hacking into the system way before they are released. It would become harder to protect and gain specific rights for inventions. By having international virtual calls, hackers could get sensitive company information, like trade secrets, competitive strategies or portfolio expansion ideas without the company knowing.

Economic risk

Mixed reality can create the illusion of success for some companies especially in the early stage, creating huge financial risks. It’s common for some early entrants of virtual reality to spend a big amount of time and money on these projects. However, if there aren’t enough customers, the investment won’t pay off. A recommendation for these companies would be to do some small pilot projects first. After making sure there are huge potential for this technology, they could expand and develop more.

In the future some industries will be forced to completely reinvent their business model. Being able to take virtual tours of hotels before reserving them will make review’s pages disappear and hotels will face a higher pressure to reach high standards. With people being able to visit and “experience” touristic places from home, the number of tourists will trop every where in the world, forcing some hotels, airlines and restaurants to go out of business and putting the touristic industry in high risk. Only few that can offer a different experience and keep high standards will survive. Thus costs will highly increase.

In education, physical universities and schools could also disappear, while the retail industry will take a sharp turn. With most people working from their home, office space will drastically reduce or practically disappear; cities would need to be planed in a way that they could be combined with technology and with houses playing a higher role, their infrastructure will completely change. At the same time, with mixed reality some jobs will completely disappear. The fashion industry, by blending it with technology, will play a bigger impact in society then the one it currently plays.

Social risk

With mixed reality everyone will be immersed in their own virtual world, thus the quality of social life will decrease. People will have more conversations with virtual characters then the ones sitting next them in real life. With the line of mixed reality and reality becoming even thinner, it would be hard to differentiate them. At the same time people will have less privacy. People will travel less and therefore the barriers between countries will raise in the way that no human contact will occur.

Mixed reality can also lead to some behavioral problems. Virtual reality could cause some destructive behavior, such as rudeness, harassment and stalking. For example, being immersed in virtual games may cause isolation and reclusive behavior, depression, suicide and violence caused by the conflicts between virtual world and real world. Here’s a real case; In 2008, a Russian man died after becoming embroiled in conflict resulting from the virtual death of one of the members in the game. His death was caused by a subsequent physical violent brawl. Such kind of extreme case may be rare, but they indeed have the probability to happen, which may lead to some unexpected social problems.

Contributions: Marshall LIN Shoaling, Catherine WU Chun, Jessie YAN Hui, Bence Gergely & Carolina Rollano