Virtual reality first surfaced in the 80s and was touted as the next big thing in interactive technology. However it was big, heavy and prohibitively expensive. Since then it has been made smaller and benefitted from tremendous leaps in technology including high definition displays, phenomenal computing power, lithium ion batteries and breath-taking graphics.
Although the initial popularity of devices like the Oculus Rift was strong, it remains to be seen as to whether or not it will succeed this time round.
Its portability however, opens VR headsets up to the commercial sector as a whole new means of presentation and communication.
Virtual Reality is a general term for an immersive experience that modifies our surroundings, of which there are two main types along with some other variations:
The original version of the technology is known as Computer Generated Virtual Reality, or CG VR. It is what’s called a fully immersive experience that replaces everything you see around you with a computer generated world through the use of a headset. Multiple users are able to be present within the same space essentially populating the world, and users enjoy a deeper experience.
The more recent development is known as Augmented Reality, or AR, which overlays images onto a real world, or ‘live’, view using projections or cameras to achieve the effect of having those images appear as if actually there – to the user at least. This has become increasingly popular as it does not necessarily require dedicated equipment to make use of it, with smartphones and their cameras currently acting as the primary user tool.
TOO BIG TO IGNORE
The numbers surrounding the potential market are huge and - if sources are to be trusted on their forecasts - worthy of attention:
• £110billion global market by 2022.
• 50 million active users on worlds first AR game.
• 5 billion potential install base on smartphones by 2018.
• 300 million units projected VR headset sales between now and 2020.
• 8/10 consumers interested in AR/VR based products.
There are some who may remember similar speculation the last time VR was hailed as the next technological revolution, and may well be sceptical as to what it can achieve.
That the technology has been improved cannot be denied. The introduction of a diluted version in the shape of AR makes it far easier to reach a wider audience and improve uptake of the technology - acting as a gateway into accepting full CG VR.
The staggering growth of the internet and connection speeds around the world since the technology’s inception has also opened up new potential for it to exploit.
IT’S ALL RELATIVE
Three key areas VR technology could be of great use to business is in training, communication, and presenting.
Learning new tools, new software, new methods or best practises is a challenge, not least for the person whose job it is to deliver the information and make sure it sticks.
Virtual Reality offers trainers an unprecedented new way to engage with their audience by immersing attendees in to an environment where they can see a system or machine working. They can interact with their surroundings and influence it in a way that would be utterly impossible using any other means.
One of the biggest advantages of using Virtual Reality in training is that it frees the audience to enjoy the training. It stops being about vigorous note writing exercises and takes the learners back to a method of teaching that has worked for centuries – learning by doing.
You could potentially hold virtual meetings using the technology, with people from all over the globe populating the same space through their own head set and being able to engage with each other. No longer would you have to travel thousands of miles to attend a meeting or event, the event and the people attending could come to you instead.
There’s no limit to the personalisation of how others would see you. It could range from a simple portrait photograph being laid over your computer generated self, to full body scanning being used to faithfully recreate your exact appearance in a virtual world.
If you wanted to truly wow your audience with your presentation or product launch, how better to do that than with CG VR. When speaking to any audience what better way to convey your point, share your vision or convince them of an outcome than to show them.
CG VR would provide you with the means to show them exactly what you were talking about, removing any vagaries or ambiguity. You would spend less time describing your concepts and more time helping your audience experience them - and take them to places they may have never dreamed of.
But more than that, it changes the rules of presentations. You no longer need to stand at the front of the room with a remote in your hand. You become a narrator to an audio visual experience that has the potential to move your audience in a way that was never thought possible.
When it comes to VR, the limits truly are the extent of your imagination.