Virtual reality is a term popping up with increased frequency in the past few years, but what is it exactly? And what does it mean for content creation?
What is Virtual Reality?
It is simply a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.
The History of Virtual Reality:
Not exactly a recent innovation, virtual reality (VR) has been around in some form for decades. One early example would the creation of American VR pioneer Morton Heilig (1926-1997), who in the 1960s prototyped the Sensorama, a working (but commercial failure) device that screened 3-D images designed to trigger all the senses, from tilting the viewer’s body to accompanying sounds and aromas. Many people unfamiliar with VR imagine crudely drawn computer-generated worlds, limited by technology at the time. But this is all changing.
Virtual Reality Now:
Built on years of research and experimentation with VR headsets, full-body suits as well entire VR rooms, a headset called the Oculus Rift emerged in 2010, offering users an immersive and responsive 90 degree field of vision. All the major tech players have become involved in the past few years. Facebook purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014, while Google introduced Google Cardboard, a cheap fold-out that transforms your cell phone into a virtual reality viewing screen, also in 2014. 10 million units of the simple viewer have been shipped to date.
The Future of Virtual Reality:
But this is just the start, with similar headsets popping up left and right throughout the market. VR’s uses are seemingly endless. Videogames can offer an enhanced experience to its customers in the comfort of their own home with specially designed consoles equipped with headsets. One example would be the HTC Vive, which retails at 799 USD, offering consumers motion tracking handheld controllers and sensors in addition to a headset that can transform a living room into a variety of different interactive scenarios.
If people want to engage in a more social form of this, VR cafes could soon spring up around the world, perhaps being absorbed by internet cafes or becoming a special niche of their own. Some prognosticate virtual reality could also be something that wildly changes the landscape of cinema, giving viewers an interactive experience transcending anything 3D-screens or IMAX can provide.
And just to have some more tangible numbers for this market, it is estimated to reach $41.01 billion worldwide by 2023, up from $147.5 million in 2015. Clearly, the content creation possibilities with VR are limitless. Developers and artists can create entire worlds for their consumers with this technology, which is no longer hampered by the constraints of the past. The major players have already claimed their stakes, but as with any new business, there’s always a niche to be found or created!