Is Virtual Reality (VR) Becoming More Mainstream?
VR focuses on making the digital world seem real by providing interactive experiences. Let’s explore all the new possibilities by using VR.
The surprise hit of 2016 was Pokémon Go, uniting augmented reality (AR) technology with a smartphone game. At its peak, the app boasted 28.5 million daily users. By the end of 2016, it had fallen to 5 million daily users. But it still proved AR and virtual reality (VR) technology can reach a mass market.
VR existed in the early 1990s, and companies like Nintendo tried to marry VR with video games. Their Virtual Boy headset ended up the second worst performing product in their history.
But the release of the Oculus Rift in the mid-2010s helped usher in a new era of VR. It’s not just available for video games. It appears on theme park rides like Galactica at Alton Towers in the UK. Psychologists use VR in behavioral studies and even the military uses VR to help with training.
With these exciting new uses, we will ask is VR becoming more mainstream?
Charities and Newspapers Explore New Possibilities Using VR
For better or worse, advertising is always quick to pursue new trends to stay current. The charity Amnesty International produced a film about the devastation caused in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Their street fundraisers used VR headsets in the UK to show passers-by the film. Sign-ups for monthly donations increased by 16% across a single week. The charity believed the immersive VR experience helped people empathize with those in Aleppo.
In a bid to boost subscriber numbers, the New York Times turned to VR to provide interactive experiences for their readers. In 2015, they gave a million Google Cardboard VR headsets to the subscribers of its newspaper. Over 600,000 subscribers downloaded the accompanying VR app. The headsets allowed them to watch a VR film about children affected by war.
Their project achieved such success because it placed the readers into the lives of the refugees. Viewers connected with the story on an emotional level in a way they couldn’t through a written article. The New York Times continues to make VR films for subscribers.
App Developers Explore VR
We’ve already talked about Pokémon Go and its use of AR to win over new fans. What uses do AR and VR have for smartphones beyond gaming? With so much technology now using voice recognition, is VR relevant for interactions that don’t need a screen?
Apple is the latest manufacturer to get involved with the new technology. The latest iOS includes VR functionality for app developers, which also gives developers more scope to use the tech for AR (augmented reality) purposes.
Imagine being able to point your phone at an object in your house and determine its measurements with two swipes on the screen. Such apps are no longer science fiction. Apple’s ARKit allows you to do exactly that.
The technology can track your position in space based on where you are every time the frame refreshes. It matches a point in the real world to a pixel on the sensor in your camera. It also uses the Inertial system of the phone to gauge your movement – that’s the gyroscope and accelerometer.
The phone uses the best system to match the environment. Such technology is similar to the SLAM functionality used by the latest Roomba models to map a physical space.
These advances in VR mean your smartphone can perform even more functions than it did before.
VR and the Internet of Things
While VR focuses on making the digital world seem real, the Internet of Things (IoT) focuses on letting devices in the real world communicate digitally. Can the two technologies cross over?
OdenVR created their telepresence robot to combine the two areas. A VR headset allows the user to explore a distant environment while using IoT technology to control the robot remotely. Such technology could help bridge physical distances between families; the individuals can enjoy face-to-face conversations with no expensive or complicated travel arrangements.
The military could use robots in war zones to save soldiers from entering dangerous conditions. Specialist doctors could visit patients in far-flung hospitals to help diagnose conditions with no need to travel. The da Vinci Surgical System already allows surgeons to carry out precise keyhole surgery, but VR would open the system to training purposes.
On a domestic level, VR could combine with IoT home security systems. An app like the SURE Universal remote could control the cameras to let you monitor your home while you’re on vacation. Or why not visit your pet while you’re at work?
These exciting developments still aren’t mainstream yet, but the future looks bright for VR.
Over to you – can you see yourself using a smartphone as a tape measure or some other handy tool? Or how about using a robot to talk to your family virtually?