Virtual Reality Is Here To Stay
Some journalists and people from the technology sector stopped poking fun at “the year of Linux” and “the year of mobile” and now they are going to wait for “the year of VR” while making jokes about it. And as usual, it will turn out that it appeared in our homes long time before we will announce that its arrival is 100% certain.
And why would you even trouble your head with VR in the flood of all the technological innovations? Are some oversized glasses that have to be put on your head shutting you from the outside world really needed for anyone in the era of all kinds of drones, flying cameras, bit coins and AI?
In this post I will try to answer the most common myths associated with VR (and technologies related).
“Just like 3D movies, Virtual Reality will come and go”
As human species we rely very heavily on our eyes. Thanks to the sense of sight, our brains could analyse the surroundings and give signals to escape if necessary. This is the most important sense thanks to which we can, for example, see light that is 22 kilometres away from us.
With manipulations, our eyesight can be deceived in order to transmit false signals to the brain. This is what happens during VR fights against zombies or riding a roller coaster — in the first case, we really feel the threat posed by the enemy, and in the second one, our bony labyrinth behaves as if we were inside a speeding carriage.
Those who used VR headset at least for a moment know that virtual reality has nothing to do with cinema and 3D television. You simply cannot compare these technologies to each other. 3D movie watched at cinema gives us only a three-dimensional illusion (it only takes moving the glasses a bit and the spell is broken).
On the other hand, VR allows a deep interaction and gives you the freedom in navigating and experiencing — in contrast to the 3D movie, we are in the middle of the sphere and the image surrounds us from all sides.
This is a very important change because it builds a strong feeling of immersion (involvement) and provides completely new sensations and emotions. 3D cinema was a better version of the analogue cinema. VR is a leap that could be compared to the transition from cave paintings to the era of social media.
“There is not enough VR devices on the market and besides, people do not know what to do with it”
The place and time for Virtual Reality (as well as Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality) is here and now because we are technologically advanced enough to create a market based on smartphones that are possessed practically by everyone by now. Before the launch of the first model of iPhone in 2007, it was not possible — there was no user market and smartphones market built.
Speaking of comparisons to iPhone — in 12 months from the release, 6,129,000 units of this phone were sold. In 2016, Samsung confirmed the sale of 5 million units of its VR Gear.
Adding other manufacturers will give us an impressive number. Let us remember about one thing — when trying to map where VR currently is, we need to use comparisons to the days of Netscape on the web browser market. Everything is yet to come — the race has just begun!
VR/ AR and MR market is very large and will grow by leaps and bounds. This will be driven by the Millenials and Generation Z — they are the ideal recipients of this technology (it is a truism to say that they were born with smartphone in their hands).
The next natural users are the billions of people using social networking sites that already offer them the opportunity to post and watch 360-degree videos (Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo). Their footsteps will be followed by others very quickly (Snap?).
”I do not need some kind of helmet on my head to talk to someone. I have Skype and instant messaging”
VR is referred to as the “ultimate empathy machine” and there is no exaggeration in this statement. VR cuts us off from other people and creates a feeling of isolation only seemingly. Thanks to inducing completely new emotions, VR builds a different kind of bond between people communicating using this technology. “Conference Call” in VR is experienced like ordinary meeting or a conversation, which is completely different from holding the phone to your ear or talking to each other via webcam in a laptop.
In one of the reports, Cisco predicts that by 2019, 80% of the data sent in the global Internet will be video files, which means that “visual web” is growing — a completely new type of interface than the one known from the 90s (do you remember what the first interfaces of operating systems such as Windows 3.11 looked like). The new form of interaction requires new methods of navigation. VR and technologies related seem to be the most natural means.
Operators of drones, Internet of Things devices or passengers of autonomous cars — these are the potential users of VR (or AR and MR). The rapid development of technology enforces a paradigm shift in interfaces designed in the 90’s and the redefinition of many concepts related to operating systems (the man with his sight, hearing, speech and touch is the best operating system).
Video and VR enforce new types of interactions, operating in space — it creates a need for a completely new type of design, communication and UX. Adding to it voice services (for example, virtual assistants such as Cortana or Siri), we come to a place in the history of humanity development where people will communicate with machines using images and speech rather than machine language.
Therefore, VR is a completely new “language” of interaction with the world of robots and advanced technology, which (what at first glance may look paradoxically) will improve communication between people.
“It is a niche technology. There is no money in it, no one serious is interested in it invests in it”
It may seem so at first glance. However, current players such as Facebook, Samsung, HTC, Sony, Google, Microsoft (there are even rumours that Apple will show its AR solution), with their billions invested ensure that these are not niche projects intended for one season.
In addition to the leading players, there are many more participants who have their own way of developing different parts of the community. To repeat, if 2017 in respect of time of Internet development is the moment when Netscape appeared on the market, imagine what will happen in a decade or two.
VR is not a fad — it is the next natural step in the development of a civilization based on technology. The adoption will be quick, because contrary to appearances, changes occur instantly due to the fact that the majority of the market will consist of “mobile” headsets, such as Samsung Gear or Google Daydream.
It took smartphones a decade to top the PC sales. It is fascinating if you think about what changes associated with VR will occur during the next 5 years.