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The nascent world of the virtual reality (VR) space has become increasingly more realized as Oculus’ Kickstarter fades into the past and actual products materialize into consumers’ hands. Yet, these realized headsets have produced high expectations for virtual reality, and technologists remain resolved on a technology that some have called the next interface of computing. Recall Apple’s haughty yet incredibly prescient slogan for the original iPhone: “This is only the beginning.” That slogan describes the present scenario with virtual reality headsets; the technology exists but it is fledgling and, more importantly, we know it can be iterated upon into a wholeheartedly disruptive technology.
Facebook, Google, Apple, HTC, Sony, etc., the list of companies investing in the VR space isn’t short of funds or technological prowess. Facebook is committed for the long-term with its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus and recent hosting of 360° videos. Google is spread far and wide across the virtual reality space. For Google, the smartphone is the lynchpin of making VR readily accessible, and the tech giant is set to roll out its own Daydream mobile VR platform this fall, an improvement upon Google Cardboard. The company also recently partnered with GoPro on a VR camera rig and led a $542 million investment into the secretive startup Magic Leap, which from all accounts has the most immersive technology to date. Lastly, the Vive headset, a virtual reality system developed in partnership by smartphone manufacturer, HTC, and celebrated video game developer, Valve, rounds out the virtual reality space with what many consider the best consumer available headset.
While the hardware for virtual reality technology is starting to be manufactured and made available to the everyday consumer, software applications are playing catch up, and with that there are two looming questions. First, how will virtual reality technology move beyond its core gamer demographic and include other experiences, like sports events, in its offerings? Second, as we have seen with the smartphone, how will businesses attempt to enter this space and how will they provide useful content or applications to their customers?
One option is to use virtual reality technology to enhance or otherwise augment an experience. For instance, we partnered with iFLY to bring a different experience to indoor skydiving. Virtual reality technology allowed us to take the feeling of free fall beyond the confines of a wind tunnel and into different environments with the sensory immersion that comes from VR.
Ultimately, the future of virtual reality technology looks incredibly exciting. You should be excited, too. Seek out a demo or search for a VR meetup, and you can experience firsthand the complete and vivid immersion of virtual reality.