When Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) paid $2 billion for the start-up virtual reality technology company Oculus VR it was obvious that Mark Zuckerberg, at least, believed that here was a technology whose time had come. But should we believe him and, also what is VR anyway.
To tackle the second part of the question first, virtual reality is the two-dimensional representation of a three dimensional world or, to put it in even simpler terms, it is a technique that can trick the brain into imagining we’re anywhere we might want to be. So you simply don a wraparound headset and the images you see can give a very realistic impression of being anywhere from a futuristic landscape to walking through a building that’s yet to be built.
It’s a technology that’s existed for decades but it’s only now that it’s about to enter the mainstream, with many observers commenting that 2016 is “the critical year for virtual reality”.
That’s because many major manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and the already mentioned Oculus VR are launching the consumer technology that are going to bring it into the everyday.
In fully appreciating the potential of VR it’s also important to acknowledge the growing sophistication and use of 360o camera technology that uses multiple viewing points to create an image in which it’s easy to change one’s perspective.
The most obvious, and probably most common use is going to be in the field of gaming. This has always led the way in striving to create truly interactive experiences so it is a natural fit for VR.
A good example of how immersive the experience could be comes in the field of online poker. Very soon the technology could become available that allows players not just to play others on screen but to actually experience being in a casino environment with virtual opponents facing them across the table.
Businesses are also coming alive to the potential of VR to transform everything from their interview processes to the way they train their staff. So, for example, instead of going to the trouble of calling candidates into their offices for interview the same result could be achieved via virtual reality. This would create an authentic interview scenario allowing for far better judgment of body language and all those other signs that can be easily missed over a Skype or video conference.
For architectural practices and other 3D designers it will quite literally add an extra dimension to their work and, similarly, the highly technical training of professionals ranging from airline pilots to medical students could be carried out in a far more controlled and cost effective way than in “real life” situations.
So there’s no doubt that these are exciting times for VR and the momentum is fast building. As to where it’s headed next, that’s surely only limited by the imaginations of the tech geniuses who are developing it.