Virtual reality (or VR) is slated to be one of the next big breakthroughs in our tech hungry world, and for good reason. When it hits the mainstream, this immersive technology is going to transform the way we think about our entertainment - video games, movies, computers, etc. - and our lives. Imagine meeting up with a group of friends to play basketball on the moon? Flying a kite in a valley with dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period? Running through a medieval castle during the dark ages? In the land of Virtual Reality, the impossible can become possible.
But beyond running around with the dinosaurs, Virtual Reality caters to a host of other applications. For example, people who have high-risk, technical jobs - astronauts, surgeons, fighter pilots, etc - find it difficult to practice their procedures without physically going to work and getting their hands dirty. Though these professions already implement some form of VR training, it's still no substitute for the real thing. As virtual reality becomes more advanced, the training opportunities for these professions will advance significantly as well, and will be able to prepare them better for the day that they have to put their training to the test.
VR will also open up all kinds of new social experiences. Mark Zuckerberg commented on this after Facebook acquired Oculus Rift, the current big name in VR technology, for $2.2 billion. "Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home. This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures."
While VR technology has been talked about (and developed to various degrees) for a number of years, it's only now on the edge of becoming a fully immersive experience. Innovative 3D design and powerful computational capacity are the keys to making this a reality. The challenge lies in the fluid movement of the imaging from frame to frame. These virtual landscapes need to be modeled such that our interactions within them are happening in real time - at the natural processing levels of our biology - in full 360° panoramic view. If the imaging lags behind our own eyes as we look around the world, then it's not going to provide the experience we crave. It's going to take some time, but it's clear that we're well on our way. Some analysts have even predicted that VR technology will generate $30 billion in revenue by 2020.
From a business standpoint, the competition is booming. Inventors, developers, and investors have recognized the potential of this technology to change the landscape of entertainment and the way we interact with our world. It's only a matter of time before VR finally hits the consumer market. But until then, it's clear that a big wave of change is on the horizon.
- Nick Ingrisani