Virtual Reality: It’s not quite The Matrix, but it’s near enough
A brand new digital landscape is emerging around us – and by ‘around us’, I mean in a real, physical way, but also virtually. The act of using a headset to project images and videos and immerse yourself in computer games and films has been around for a while. Working models of what are essentially television goggles stem back to the early 2000s. I’m sure, like me, you immediately think of it as something Spock or a Jedi would wear in some super-futuristic sci-fi…. No?… Just me? Okay then.
Companies such as Microsoft (Oculus), Google, Apple, Samsung and HTC have invested millions in developing technology that can create virtual worlds within our own surroundings – which sounds beyond the capabilities of modern technology, considering it’s sometimes difficult enough to make a simple phone call with the latest smartphones!
Education, healthcare, sports, entertainment, retail and of course gaming (gaming alone will generate around $99.6bn globally in 2016, according to newzoo.com) are just a few immediate industries that VR can positively impact on. Imagine students in school learning about dinosaurs – a VR headset will transform the educational experience, bringing the environment to life for pupils. You could even simulate a T-Rex chasing after them (too terrifying?) but ultimately offer a fun and super-engaging educational experience. With shopping, you could go on your favourite clothing website, pop on the headset, and walk around the virtual store looking at the clothes as if you were there. In a professional environment, imagine you’re designing a product – be it a car, bridge, gadget or medication. Putting the headset on will construct an image of the final product. This is only the beginning of VR’s potential impact on the digital world we all live in, but it really shows you where technological investments and developments lie for the future of consumers and professional environments.
The amount of VR headsets owned by consumers is set to double this Christmas, which increases the appetite and excitement for such futuristic gadgets. Although we’re yet to see virtual shops and VR classrooms, you do have to question what effect it will have on people in general. Do we really want a society that would rather shop via a headset than actually taking the time to enjoy a shopping trip? Of course, most individuals will use VR in moderation, but I can’t help but think there will always be a small section of the population that will overuse the technology.
On the whole I think it’s time we embrace this technology like any other. There’s so much around the corner for consumers, workplaces and professionals that we can’t make use of just yet, but the future of VR is promising.