We’ve come a long way in virtual reality in 50 years. The first VR headset created by Ivan Sutherland between 1965 and 1968 was nicknamed the Sword of Damocles because it looked just like a huge sword hanging over the head of the person using it.
VR hardware is now much friendlier, looking less like a torture device and more like a chunky sleep mask. Sutherland’s headset showed a cube suspended in the air. Now when we put on a VR headset, it can feel like we’ve been transported to the Moon, the rainforest or into our favourite video game.
Because of how immersive they can be, experts predict that we may choose to spend less time in the real world and more time in a virtual one. ‘In 20 years, VR use will be as common as mobile phone use is today,’ Sol Rogers, CEO and founder of VR agency REWIND, tells Metro.co.uk. This may have been hard to imagine a few years ago but advances in VR technology are moving fast.
That’s not even to mention what happens when quantum computing hits the mainstream and/or when graphene devices hit the market. We’re virtually (sorry) at the start of what’s possible. Facebook-owned Oculus recently launched the Quest headset, one of a small number of VR headsets that are completely untethered, not needing to be physically connected to a second device.
Until recently, the best VR experiences needed powerful PCs to keep them running but the Quest shows that you don’t need fancy (and pricey) extra equipment to try VR for yourself.
There’s still a long way to go before we’re using VR headsets to choose our watches, but this is another step towards what some experts think is inevitable: ‘Eventually, we will reach a ‘lifelike’ level of graphics quality,’ Albert Millis, managing director of Virtual Umbrella and immersive experience company Steine, tells Metro.co.uk. Not only will experiences be almost indistinguishable from the real world but the advent of 5G makes many more things possible. ‘The arrival of 5G will push the storage, power consumption, and processing power away from the PC and into the edge cloud,’ Rogers says. ‘This means VR users will only require a headset, which opens VR up to be consumed any time, anywhere.’
As VR becomes more lifelike and more available in the near future, what will we all be using it do? The short answer: almost everything. Many successful gaming titles have already been adapted to work in VR, such as Skyrim and Borderlands 2 but it’s already growing with bespoke virtual reality titles. Social VR gaming is already growing, with recent predictions saying that group experiences allowing you to try VR in groups will become more popular. There’s already a bespoke VR theatre in Bristol and many events spaces across the country have been host to immersive theatre events. Sales experiences within virtual environments are also expected to become much more commonplace, allowing users to taste and feel new products.
In the future, however, social VR could be less about meeting new people and more about connecting with the store, partner, friends and family you already know. Oculus Rooms, a customisable social space from Facebook’s Oculus, allows you to hang out in with your friends while playing games or watching films. It doesn’t feel too far away from what you’d imagine a Facebook of the future to look like.