Virtual Reality has been buoyed by the launch of headsets by major manufacturers including Oculus and Samsung, as well as the planned launch of PlayStation and Xbox headsets. There are headsets for use specifically with mobile phones, as well as those that are designed for the PC, and there are headsets to meet all budgets.
As well as independent games and VR experiences, consumers can also enjoy access to premium games, through gaming services like Steam, and developers are continuing to push out new hardware and software to further enhance the experience that users can enjoy. While it would be premature to say that VR has entered its golden era, it certainly seems as though it is getting there, but what does the future of VR really look like?
The Current Market
According to analysts, 2 million or more headsets will ship in 2016, which represents a significant increase compared to 2015. This increase will be driven by the launch of the PlayStation VR headset, and it will be backed up by Oculus launching VR wand style controllers so that buyers do not have to use the console controller that currently ships with the unit. As yet, it is not entirely clear when Microsoft will launch its own console based VR headset, but you can expect it to arrive soon after the October launch of PlayStation’s model.
Console VR gaming, then, is very much on the cards, and this means that additional funding is likely for game developers. It is possible that major developers like EA, and those that use Unity and Unreal engines, will make some kind of move over to VR and the accessibility of consoles will be the driving force.
While a lot of developers, apart from Steam, are reticent to invest too heavily in PC VR gaming, with the $700+ headset price putting all but the most serious of gamers off, you can expect an October launch of a new technology to mean that it will be on Christmas shopping lists around the world. Game developers will not want to miss out.
Currently, the HTC Vive offers arguably the best and most immersive VR experience. It doesn’t require the use of an Xbox controller, because it comes with wands, which play better than they sound. It also has better viewer resolution than the Oculus, which is the company’s main rival. The Oculus may not be quite as expensive as the Vive, but it has more problems.
Thankfully, though, Facebook owned Oculus are already working on producing a better controller. Companies like Samsung are apparently gearing up to join the PC VR marketplace too and increased competition is only likely to be good news for consumers.
The mobile headset space is already a burgeoning industry. Google arguably started the trend with the launch of its Cardboard Viewer. The device cost around $20 when it was launched, and the tech giant also offered a free blueprint of the design so that consumers could even create a complete VR mobile headset completely free of charge. Eventually, they stopped producing and selling the headset, but not before attracting competitors like Samsung Gear to join the fray.
The Samsung Gear VR has emerged as being the best quality mobile VR headset, in many peoples’ eyes, but it is only compatible with some of the latest models of Samsung mobile phone which means that its reach is limited.
Many other manufacturers have created mobile headsets, and it seems likely that this trend will continue. Samsung is already preparing to launch a second version of their own headset, in line with the launch of new Galaxy smartphones and Note tablets. The specifications have not yet been released, but it would be churlish to think that the only update would be to add USB-C to the equation.
Virtual Reality Content
Another important area where we are likely to see further improvement is in the software or content. Currently, game developers tend to side with either Unity or Unreal Engine, although there are other engines available. Games are published on platforms like Steam on the PC, through Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR on mobile handsets, and will be available on console marketplaces and in game shops.
The PlayStation VR
Despite the fact that their VR headset is slated for launch in two months’ time, Sony has not yet released full details of the launch lineup and executives from the tech giant have said that they won’t be pushing or forcing game developers into adopting a VR policy. Some developers will be champing at the bit to create what is considered the latest state of the art content, while others may baulk at the potential losses they stand to make if they produce games that are not popular with the game playing public.
Other Industries To Benefit From VR
Away from entertainment, we are likely to see VR emerge in other sectors and industries. For example, healthcare and medical industries have put VR to good use already. The headsets have not only been used to help train surgeons and other medical professionals but they have even been used to help combat phantom pain that amputees can suffer after losing a limb. VR is extremely useful in training situations, because it means that less skilled doctors can hone and improve those skills without having to be let loose on patients.
Fashion and retail is another area where we should see improvements. Retail companies can use VR to offer experiential advertising and marketing, and they can use the content that they produce to help pre-sell and sell items. Similarly, tourism companies can provide complete tours and real estate companies can offer a similar experience.
Mixed And Augmented Reality
Expect more Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality apps too. Pokemon Go showed that there is definite demand for branded augmented worlds, and this means that gaming companies and franchises will look to jump on the bandwagon in the hope of producing games that prove just a fraction as popular as the global phenomenon that is Pokemon Go.
Get Started In VR Development
Whatever the future holds, it is potentially very exciting for VR and AR users but also for developers. If you want to try developing virtual worlds, you can download and learn to use Unity or Unreal Engine, both of which are free until you are turning a profit, and it is possible to use asset marketplaces like Best3DModel.com in order to buy existing models that can be customised and used to create immersive experiences.