By Hannah Turner
While we are all stuck at home listening to unpleasant coronavirus news reports, it may be desirable to escape reality for a while. Virtual reality headsets are now more accessible and affordable than ever and can provide the getaway we all need.
Virtual reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated experience that can be similar or completely different from the real world. The user wears a headset and is fully immersed in computer generated environments, with the aim to create an experience using human senses.
The industry of VR technology has been growing rapidly since 2019 and is expected to continue expanding in the coming years. Market volume is expected to reach 98.4 million sales by 2023. Facebook, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are some of the tech giants getting involved with the new trend by offering their own versions of headsets. Apple are also planning on releasing an 8K combined virtual and augmented reality headset this year.
Facebook bought virtual reality company Oculus in early 2014 when all headsets needed to be connected to a high-quality PC. Since then, the company has developed the wireless Oculus Quest model. $US5 million worth of Quest’s content was sold in the first two weeks of sales in May 2019 showing the industry’s growing popularity and interest.
Sony’s PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan told Cnet the company continue to believe that VR has the potential to be a meaningful part of the future of interactive entertainment.
“The current generation of VR has exceeded our expectations. When you step back and look at it, and this is the way I like to look at it, one in 20 of the people who found the money to go out and buy a PlayStation 4, and all the games and peripherals that they enjoyed with that, have also found the money to then go buy the PlayStation VR and all the games and peripherals that go on top of that,” he said.
Nintendo released its version, Labo: VR kit, for the Nintendo Switch on April 12 2019 offering users a programming tool to create their own VR games and experiences. Many popular Switch games, such as Super Mario Odyssey, are compatible with the headsets.
Microsoft offer a mixed reality experience with Microsoft HoloLens 2 using both virtual and augmented reality.
Augmented reality (AR) is a view of the real, physical world enhanced with computer-generated input which responds in real-time to the user’s environment and movement.
Progress with the technology is expected to continue in 2020 moving it closer to reality with better graphics, faster speeds and more stable connections. The adoption of VR in more industries is also expected to expand. According to the IDC, worldwide spending on virtual and augmented reality will increase by 78.5per cent in 2020, as the technology is expected to become more accessible, reliable and immersive.
Virtual reality technology is being developed to not only be used for entertainment purposes but also for commercial applications. VR has the potential to improve productivity and safety in multiple industries making it useful in a consumer environment, not just an entertainment one. VR Intelligence’s 2020 Extended Reality Industry Insight Report suggests that 73per cent of virtual reality companies surveyed are working on using the technology in real world applications.
The headsets are already being used in therapy to treat patients with phobias and anxiety disorders, as well as helping to develop social and communication skills in people with autism. VR can also be used to simulate dangerous working environments for the purposes of training, reducing on-site risk.
Education is also be expected to be enhanced by the technology, with VR becoming a more common feature throughout 2020. The immersive nature of VR means distance learners could be taught in virtual classrooms, creating a collaborative environment where students can learn in fun and engaging new ways.
The emerging 5G network opens a plethora of new possibilities for the virtual reality paradigm. The fast-mobile network provides potential to stream VR data from the cloud rather than through a PC or on-board hardware. The images can be delivered back from remote data centres to the headset in real-time thanks to the increased speed and reliability of the 5G network.
Main image by Frank Vessia, Unsplash