The future of virtual reality/augmented reality(VR/AR) technology is looking bright. Headsets are getting better and cheaper, and with a vast array of new applications for the technology, the VR industry is set to record explosive growth. In fact, according to Statista, the global VR market is set to balloon from $30 billion dollars in 2021 to $296 billion in 2024. That’s a staggering 886% increase in just three years. So, what’s driving this change, and what should we be watching out for in 2022?
- Training and Teaching
Among the more practical uses of VR technology is its ability to simulate environments to augment both classroom teaching and workforce development. Students studying ancient history can strap on a headset and find themselves walking the streets of Rome or exploring the inside of the Egyptian Pyramids at Giza. Surgeons can practice both routine and incredibly rare surgeries in a realistic, immersive environment that doesn’t put patients at risk. Corporations seeking to develop talent can lead sales teams through virtual negotiations, or introduce common scenarios that customer service staff may encounter. The possibilities are endless when it comes to introducing students and employees to new experiences.
Imagine a virtual showroom that allows users to get a more complete look and sit behind the wheel of a brand new sports car. Or, picture yourself walking the aisles of a furniture store to get a true multi-dimensional representation of what that stylish couch really looks like. Now, imagine being able to place that couch in your living room virtually so that you can make sure it fits just right before you buy. What if you could use an immersive environment to see yourself in a new pair of jeans before you add them to your shopping cart? Retailers have long attempted to offer features that allow for shoppers to virtually ‘try before they buy’, and now the technology has finally caught up with that desire.
For obvious reasons, gaming is one of the first industries that is seeking to take VR into the mainstream. VR gaming offers a truly immersive environment that allows users to be in the game, not just watch it on a screen. With devices becoming easier to use and more games being developed specifically for VR, watch for massive growth in both in-person and at-home virtual gaming.
- Cost & Quality of Devices
Overall, the cost of VR devices has been on the decline and the quality of those devices has been on the rise. That means more people have access to VR technology and are having a better experience with the product. VR headsets that used to cost thousands of dollars can now be purchased for a few hundred dollars. Cheaper and better devices along with a growing list of applications for the technology will be a strong driver of growth for the industry.
- Virtual Events & Remote Experiences
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic upended every aspect of the way we work, live and play. Company meetings, trade shows, concerts, and sporting events were all forced to take place virtually. Through that experience, we found that many of those experiences were just as effective or entertaining as virtual events. Going forward, we’ll look to VR to allow users to ditch the meeting software to create more immersive and rich experiences.
- The Metaverse
While the overall version for what is also being called Web 3.0 is still being defined, technologists are looking to a future where we socialize, shop, play and work in an immersive virtual environment. Right now, the most viable entry to that online universe is the VR headset. While the Metaverse may not become a reality for years or decades, important building blocks are being put in place now by the tech companies who hope to play key roles in enabling this massive transformation. Look for VR technology to gain momentum as more and more conversation surrounding the Metaverse enters the mainstream.
If you’re in the VR industry, or just an eager consumer excited about what VR has to offer, the next few years are sure to be a wild ride! Wide adoption of the technology as well as the introduction of new use cases is leading to rapid growth that has no signs of slowing down.