Ideas in Motion

The Future of Virtual Reality

Jan 28, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Virtual Reality (VR) is one of the most discussed and anticipated technologies in recent years. With increasing advancements in hardware and software, VR is moving closer to becoming a mainstream technology. This blog post looks at the current state of VR, its future potential, and some challenges that need to be addressed for it to reach its full potential.

Before we imagine the future of VR, it might be interesting to note the incredible metamorphosis of the concept of VR from its earliest iteration as immersive cinema to the present. Many believe that the first example of VR was immersive cinema. First used by Morton Heilig in the 1950s, the immersive cinema concept involved removing the stage of a playhouse and creating a backdrop of a specific location where the audience and actors interact as if everyone is together at that place.

 An actual VR headset, known as the Sword of Damocles, debuted in 1968. The headset had an embedded stereoscopic screen that displayed simple shapes superimposed on real-world images that changed with the movement of the user. In 1978, The Aspen Movie Map (precursor to Google Earth) enabled drivers approaching Aspen, CO, to “visit” the city before actually arriving. Photographs taken by cars traveling in and around Aspen were pieced together to provide an in-person experience. By the 1980s military engineers had perfected a simulated cockpit capable of projecting computer-generated 3D maps, infrared and radar images, and real-time aeronautical data within a 3D space where users could practice gestures, words, and even eye movements.

 Next came laser-disc players, touch screens, and headsets with first-person interactive views, which, in turn, spawned the video gaming industry in the early 90s. In 2010, the Oculus Rift headset debuted with a 90-degree VR view. Around this time, VR technology “jumped” from gaming to applications in medicine, education, and many other uses to reduce risk to humans. Current versions of the Oculus Rift, and other competing devices are affordable and much more advanced.

 According to experts, the future trend of VR technologies will be toward a few big breakthroughs with a significant impact on society, especially in education, entertainment, gaming, travel, cryptocurrency, and warfare.

Early versions of VR are already being in used extensively to train doctors. Applications such as the medical image management suite developed by Ambra Health, enable physicians to experience surgeries, learn human anatomy, understand illnesses, and conduct remote surgeries in a more sensory-rich environment. As VR progresses, interns will be able to practice thousands of hours of virtual surgery before ever working on a patient.

Over the next decade, we can expect VR to be used in many types of skills acquisition training from home improvement projects to complex engineering tasks, enhanced flight simulations, and combat scenarios for military training (something the military has been exploring since the introduction of 5G cellular capability).

The entertainment industry is pouring billions into the research and development of devices that can connect to the virtual world to make scenes that individuals can experience in the next iteration of immersive cinema. Already a $250B industry, video gaming will attract more users and, has begun to do. The 2018 movie, Ready Player One, contains a bit of foreshadowing of the direction VR gaming might move. In the movie, a virtual reality world was created called, “OASIS,” and much of the world participated in OASIS in one way or another. It became a giant entity.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook was investing billions into its own virtual reality world, “Metaverse.” His vision is to create a successor to the mobile internet. It imagines a digital world that will make us feel “present” with others, no matter how far apart we are. The “metaverse” is much closer to attainment than most people think. Much of the technology already exists to build it, such as full-body suits that allow virtual interactions to simulate human touch, as well as the availability of broadband connections. Facebook’s plan is to innovate the required hardware and software to enter the Metaverse and become the leader in virtual reality.

Another major trend of VR is the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs utilize the blockchain to identify unique digital items as the original. An NFT is a unique “token” that authenticates a digital asset like artwork, clothing, recordings, real estate, etc. These unique digital assets can be bought and sold online. There are already several models with real data to show how in-game purchases could work. In fact, games like Clash of Clans and the Diablo franchise have generated billions of dollars by selling in-game items for real-world money, and is selling in-game real estate as well as other rare items. NFTs are already a multi-billion dollar industry, and they will only continue to grow as more uses for them are found.

As if these “real” possibilities were not “mind-blowing” enough, imagine a microchip brain implant where human thought could control real-world devices and interact with VR. Elon Musk’s company, Neuralink, and Synchron, a New York start-up both recently received FDA approval to implant microchips in human brains. The idea is to integrate human biology directly with the internet.

Virtual reality is a revolutionary technology with the potential to change many industries. It can be used for more than just gaming and entertainment, but also in architecture, health care, education, engineering and design. In fact, VR has been called one of the most important technologies ever developed by some experts because it will likely have widespread adoption in future decades.

What do you think is going to happen? Join our conversation on Linkedin We’d love to hear what your thoughts are about this cutting-edge trend that promises so much innovation across different fields.


Topics: technology

Anthony Butler

Written by Anthony Butler