2020 has been a banner year for Virtual Reality.
Millions of people, stuck at home, have voted with their wallets to jump into virtual worlds on the Oculus Quest, Valve Index, and a wide range of other headsets.
Escape from the “real world” is now but a button press away, but what does the future of VR gaming and other virtual experiences look like over the next few years? I decided to ask experts and enthusiasts what they predict our virtual future looks like, and compiled their thoughts below. In no particular order…
Amaya Adams, NuCurrent
People will view today’s VR headsets the same way they look at a briefcase cellphone; with nostalgia and awe. Tethered VR Systems will soon be obsolete, with all devices becoming lighter, having shallower profiles and with more intuitive peripheral devices.
Many of these features will be a result of having wireless charging enabled to provide more power to these devices. How? Wireless power’s value will initially be weighted in its ability to remove cords. Once OEM’s make that initial change to wireless power – they’ll be more inclined to explore it’s other advantages, like the ability to go with smaller hardware, include larger sensors in the device to provide more advanced directional feedback and increase the durability of the device so consumers are more inclined to take their headset outside of their homes. The increased presence of VR outside of the home will have its own wave of implications beyond the imagination.
Based on the work we’re doing for customers in the industry, you’re going to see headsets and controllers that are charged wirelessly. This will allow for greater convenience, expanded freedom of movement, and elimination of connectors and replaceable batteries. Manufacturers will look to Qi and NFC charging solutions primarily as the methods of charging.
Furthermore, based on conversations with bulk buyers of products like the Oculus, we’ve heard many times that recharging is one of the most frustrating experiences, especially with large installations out in the field. We’ve seen demonstrations of large Pelican-type cases that are customized to allow for 6-12 units of wired charging. But the reports that we’ve heard is that the charging completion rate is an unacceptable 60-70% – and this is inconvenient for large all-day training and experiential programs. This failure to charge is due to the unreliability of connectors in the device – connectors that wireless charging eliminates.
Bringing wireless charging to VR will result in multi-bay charging that works every time. We’ve supported multi-bay charging efforts in a variety of devices including handheld CPUs and concussion-detecting mouth-guards, and we’re sure that VR headsets will be following closely behind.
John Luxford, CTO of Flipside XR
I’ve been working in VR full-time since 2014.In light of COVID-19, virtual reality is going to continue growing at a steady rate among home users, but may not fully recover as a location-based technology for a long time. Prior to COVID-19, it seemed like location-based VR was where the technology was taking off, whereas now those places are all shuttered and people may not be interested in coming back to them even after the pandemic is over due to new habits around cleanliness, especially around things touching multiple people’s faces.
This makes the Oculus Quest particularly attractive to consumers as a safe and affordable headset that can be used at home. The Oculus Quest also currently finds itself alone in that space, with alternatives that don’t require a powerful PC being few and far between. The only real example being the Pico Neo 2, which is primarily targeting enterprise use. PSVR may be the only really viable competition for the next 1-2 years.
So it seems that for the first time since the initial launch of the Rift, the Oculus Quest alone has found the VR “sweet spot” of convenience, affordability, and experience that no other headset offers, and that may continue to be the case for some time.Beyond that, the next Oculus Quest is likely to improve on comfort, increased resolution and field-of-view, both of which are very limiting factors for many potential uses of VR that require seeing in detail, such as reading text.
Being the low-end consumer option, it’s unlikely that the Quest will include things like eye tracking or face tracking in the near future, which will likely be reserved for enterprise headsets like the HTC Vive Pro Eye, however while these will drastically increase the feeling of presence in multiplayer social VR experiences, we’ve seen that they’re not required to create rich and satisfying immersive experiences for users. As a result, over the next five years, we’re likely to see more incremental than revolutionary updates to the technology.Hope that provides some useful info for you. Feel free to reach out for any additional info.
Yashraj Panda, Founder/Owner of OPtimism
Virtual reality is a relatively new multi-billion dollarindustry that is growing fast. Every year a new study suggests that virtualrealities market worth will reach over 100 billion US dollars in 2027. Manypeople think virtual reality is mainly used for games but a large portion ofthe content in VR is not game related. Virtual reality has dominated techheadlines in recent years and its applications have engulfed a variety ofnon-related fields including the military, education, medical training, mentalhealth, sports etc.
But what exactly is virtual reality as the name suggests VRis basically a simulated reality from a system that uses headsets to generaterealistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physicalpresence in a virtual world. A person using virtual reality equipment is ableto look around the artificial world, move around in it and interact with itsvirtual features. The VR headset consists of a head mounted display with asmall screen in front of the eyes and typically incorporates auditory and videofeedback but new and improved haptic technologies may enable other types ofsensory and force feedback like the sense of touch or smell and even the simulationof gravity where you can feel the weight of an object.
This is particularly useful for training soldiers for combatsituations where they can re-enact a dangerous event or engage with an enemy ofcourse without the risk of death or serious injury VR has also been adopted ineducation for learning and teaching students can interact with each other in a3d environment, they can take virtual field trips for instance to museums,explore the solar system and go back to different eras. Medical students use VRto practice surgeries on virtual patients which allows them to develop andsharpen their skills for real-world situations. Virtual reality has also been usedto treat post-traumatic stress, anxiety, phobias and even depression, wherepatients are exposed and re-enact traumatic events under safe and controlledconditions in which they come in contact with the things they fear.
The sports industry has also been affected in many ways byvirtual reality. VR is being used to train athletes and help measure athleticperformance. It’s been suggested that the viewers’ experience in sports we’ll becompletely revolutionized in the near future. Now broadcasters will stream livegames in VR and are preparing to one day sell virtual tickets to live events imagineinstead of sitting in your seat at the stadium of your favourite sport, youjust put your VR headset on and you are in the middle of the field running alongsideyour teammates not just watching the game but living it in high-definition that’sthe promise of virtual reality in the coming years.
Another entertainment industry that will change dramatically in the near future due to VR is gaming. One might argue that virtual reality has already revolutionized the industry of gaming with games like bone works,loan echo, Resident Evil 7 etc. however there are still many challenges facing VR in gaming for example locomotion is still rigid and not ideal in virtual reality as many users complain about motion sickness and find common locomotion methods such as teleportation not as immersive. Graphics is another area that needs further improvement both in VR and gaming in general. Once engineers find solutions to these problems where you can’t distinguish reality from virtual reality, it’s been hypothesized that gaming will absorb the film industry entirely and the only remaining difference between a game and a movie will be the choice to interact or not interact with the story line. Possibly most people will prefer to become the protagonist of a story-line and engage with it, with all their senses on their own terms rather than just sit on a chair in a theater and watch someone else perform.
The near future is going to be truly exciting to witness,perhaps a little too exciting according to some experts that have expressedconcerns about a possible psychological addiction to these newly adoptedtechnologies as we’ve seen with smartphones but it will be comforting to knowthat even if we get an epidemic of psychological addiction to virtual realitythe people affected by it will be fit and in shape.
Bottom Line :- Only improvement in existing tech and wide adoption of VR can bring the virtual reality we can think of.
Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO of GetVoIP
In the next five years, most vendors will have figured out that delicate balance between image frame rate and power or battery life. With the Oculus Quest, games such as Robo Recall look pretty rough because they need to run on an incredibly high frame rate. Facebook has not figured out how to implement a high frame rate without compromising on battery power.
To their credit, they are working on it. A while back, Bloomberg reported that Facebook was testing 120Hz rendering, which is an improvement from the current headset’s 60Hz. Bloomberg further said that to ensure they preserved battery life, they would probably opt for 90Hz instead of 120Hz.
Generally, most VR games require a high frame rate, and even at 90Hz, some games will still look rough compared to the PC version. In the next five years, as battery technology improves, I reckon vendors will come up with gadgets whose image frame rate is not limited by battery life.
The higher the frame rate, the better the gaming experience. Also, it will ensure that more games can seamlessly transition from the PC to the VR headset giving gamers more options to choose from. Most important, it will expand the scope of the VR headsets. So far, most of the use cases have revolved around gaming.
Neal TapariaCEO of Solitaired
VR presents new opportunities to upskill employees.
While there has been a huge movement to teach people computer coding and product skills, VR now is creating an opportunity to teach other skills. Companies like TransfrVR, or working with manufacturing companies and workforce development agencies to creating virtual reality training specific to the roles they are hiring for.
This means a couple things:
- Anyone can learn the skills needed at an auto manufacturing plant. You can live anywhere in the country, and have a pathway to upskill yourself in your home because of VR.
- It creates an affordable alternative outside of formal education to get a middle income job. You don’t have to go into debt attending a college any more. Instead, VR presents new opportunities to get skill bases apprenticeships that can land you great jobs.
TransfrVR, for example, is working with Lockheed Martin to create new skill-based VR courses which high school students can take and then be hired. It’s reinventing how we think about education. College education and jobs will be drastically different 5 years from now because of VR.
Winston Nguyen, CEO of VR Heaven
Here are the things that I expect to explode in popularity over the upcoming years:
- VR dates. Crazy as it may seem, there already exists some of this on Youtube, but it is a largely untapped niche. The dating industry will be largely contested on VR – there’ll be VR dating videos, dating apps like Tinder and dating sims..
- VR fitness is quickly becoming a trend. Still relatively unknown, but it is the best hack for your fitness life. I think when most people discover VR fitness, they won’t go back to the gym unless they’re bodybuilding.
- More triple A titles (e.g. Half-Life: Alyx) will be designed for VR instead of being ported to VR. PSVR 2 will bring a lot of consumer eyes to VR.
- Headsets will become smaller and lighter, eventually becoming the size of glasses. HP Reverb G2 is a good example of this.
- Social VR will be the next big thing (maybe Facebook Horizons will make that happen sooner than expected). Other industries that will take off first are: gaming, adult, fitness (we’re seeing more and more apps designed with fitness in mind).
- More down the line are psychiatric visits through VR. People who can’t afford VR will be able to use VR booths.
- VR rooms aren’t doing well right now, but after COVID-19, they will rise in popularity as they can afford thousand dollar accessories normal people can’t afford.
- Wireless streaming is the future of VR. If you’ve used Virtual Desktop on your Quest, you’ll know that it’s just as good if not better than Oculus Link. In the future, headsets will be designed with wireless streaming in mind and will have less latency than the current Virtual Desktop app.
- VR fitness/boxing trainers: No need to pay a coach to hold mitts for you when you can just train in VR.
And we’re only talking about VR.
VR has some industries which it will do well in like gaming, social, adult, fitness etc. but AR will be more your ‘everyday use.’
Imagine wearing glasses that show you the way to your destination with a huge arrow pointing the direction. Imagine going to work and wearing glasses that show the information of all your co-workers (their names, what they do, their description etc.). And imagine being able to share what you’re seeing through your glasses with a work mentor or someone training you to do those tasks.
In the future we’ll be walking in our AR glasses and seeing all kinds of things: train/bus times, advertisements, our digital pet dragon following us and other things to entertain us during our boring trip to work.
Antony Vitillo, AR/VR Expert of The Ghost Howls
In the next five years we’ll see the following trends:
- VR headsets will become smaller. Research on pancake lenses, holographic lenses and other optical systems will let headsets become smaller in size and they won’t resemble shoebox in our faces anymore, but they will look like glasses. You can have a look to the latest VR headset released by Huawei to see this trend in action, or you can also admire the latest research by Facebook that will soon be presented at SIGGRAPH;
- A consequence of the above point is that headsets will be more comfortable to wear for many consecutive hours;
- VR headsets will improve their performances. This is normal, and part of the evolution of every gadget: they will have better resolution, wider Field Of View, crisper colors, etc… All headsets will feature eye tracking, and this will make interactions more natural, and will also allow for displays with higher resolutions because of foveated rendering.
- Apart from the premium enterprise sector, all the other headsets will be just standalone, and they will be able to attach to your PC via Wi-fi (your Wi-fi or a dedicated wi-fi). The tether will disappear, and will remain only for industrial headsets having very high resolutions (e.g. 8K)
- All controllers associated with VR headsets will track all 5 fingers of the hands
- 3 DOF headsets will die completely, substituted by cheap 6 DOF devices
- Talking about content, we’ll have more and more AAA games: Ubisoft, Valve, Bethesda, EA have already started entering VR. In 5 years, the VR gaming market will be mature and there will be plenty of games that people will be able to play
- VR headsets will also be able to provide AR. Vive Focus Plus, Cosmos XR, Lynx R-1 already present this mix of virtual and augmented reality, even if a bit rough. In 5 years, the same device will offer virtual reality and passthrough augmented reality.
Briana Brownell, Founder and CEO of Pure Strategy Inc
The next step for VR in the next 5 years will be large-scale events. We’ve already seen significant interest in virtual events — the Travis Scott concert in Fortnite attracted 27.7 million viewers. I attended Billie Eilish’s virtual concert last fall in VR and there were several things that I missed: 360 degree sound, the immersive feeling of space in community with fellow fans, and the ability to feel that connection with the performer in front of you. Are these fixable problems? I don’t know. But with concerts on hold for the foreseeable future, I’m betting on much more interest in moving concerts into a virtual space — not just a performance that is a Zoom video on your living room TV.
Chao He, Founding Partner of Swenson He
It’s a not-so-veiled secret that the success of Oculus, advances in computer vision, and explosion of possible applications have captured the attention of Apple. Within the next 5 years, we expect Apple to release a category-defining VR product that has the potential to ultimately displace the iPhone as their dominant product. It’s not hard to envision a world in which a vision-based user interface can perform everything that can currently be done on a smartphone, better and faster.
Want to navigate city streets (sorry Elon, autonomy is not coming that soon) via holographic directional arrows? Want to shop for furniture and truly “see” it in your living room? Want to video conference someone and actually look them in the eyes? Virtual reality has the potential to do all of that much better than a smartphone can, and Apple is ultimately the company that is best positioned to create an ergonomic product (i.e. Google Glass for non-nerds) that people will actually want to wear and use. Their vertical integration of hardware and software, which is critical for such a demanding application, will enable the future Apple VR product of delivering a performant user experience that is actually useful, and not just a novelty.
Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris
As the CEO of a tech company who works closely with consumers, I can tell you that the future of VR will be surprisingly commonplace. In the 2010s the majority of people who asked me about VR were gamers who wanted to combine it with their favorite hobby. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing social distance and contactless interaction, VR has gained an entirely new audience. Managers, executives, and high-level employees alike have asked us if they can essentially go from Slack and Google Meet to collaborating in VR.
The technology is almost there, but the adoption hasn’t kept up with innovation. There’s been too much confusion over what VR actually is, but that’s changing rapidly. It’s the need to find new methods of working together – and actually feeling that human connection – that’s driving this growth. Hobbyists, gamers, and tech enthusiasts will still purchase Oculus Rifts and Samsung Gears for personal use, but it’s the widespread adoption of VR in business environments that will signal the leap to our uncanny future.
Pretty much every major tech company is working to integrate this tech into their apps, and you have up-and-comers like spatial.io really striving to make VR part of the new normal. Over the next five years, companies will figure out exactly how they want to integrate the technology into their business processes. The ones who lead the way on investment will likely set the tone – perhaps it won’t be long before we’re having job interviews over Oculus Rift!
Andrey Koptelov, Innovation Analyst at Itransition
Today, VR technology extends beyond gaming and entertainment and is considered extremely promising in many industries. Here are the three virtual reality applications from across the domains that are expected to develop rapidly and become viable in the next five years.
● Remote virtual workplace. With telework considered the wave of the future, companies need game-changing technologies to sustain remote operations in the long run. This is where VR offers to break new ground, allowing employees to meet, discuss, collaborate, and interact with simulated objects without leaving home.
In May, Facebook made headlines with the demo of a VR workplace that demonstrated floating displays, resized and moved with hand gestures, and a virtual keyboard the user types in a simulation. The company plans to “supercharge remote work and productivity” with the cutting-edge solution leveraging Oculus VR hardware and Passthrough, the proprietary technology creating virtual experiences.
● Immersive learning. Virtual reality also promises to make K-12 and university education ultra-immersive and practice-oriented. Students can put on VR headsets and go on field trips to museums, farms, manufacturing sights, historical cities, and even to the moon. In a simulated environment, students also can interact with abstract concepts or conduct experiments that are hard to recreate in an average classroom.
Before the pandemic, virtual reality was tentatively introduced in the classrooms, yet lately its use accelerated immensely, adopted by teachers who wanted to render at-home education efficient and fun. Due to this popularity, educational VR is expected to remain a common support tool in the physical classroom and continue to advance.
● Virtual reality therapy. Virtual reality is being increasingly employed by large-scale medical facilities for the treatment of various psychological issues, from PTSD to depression and phobias. The technology is highly regarded for being a drug-free method with proven effectiveness, as well as for the capacity to design individual treatment simulations for each patient.
Today, the VR therapy market is burgeoning with new developments, the prime example being the recently announced OVR social engagement by Oxford VR. This automated platform is meant to help people suffering from anxious social avoidance by allowing them to participate in different public situations, from riding a bus to shopping to visiting a doctor, in virtual reality.”