Virtual reality wearables are arriving soon, and they’re some of the headline tech items we’re expecting to see a lot of in 2016. These devices are featuring heavily at CES, fulfilling common predictions that they’d be among the hottest items of the New Year, and it seems as if we’ll be seeing them regularly on store shelves in no time. But what exactly will people be buying them for?
The obvious answer is gaming, and this indeed is where a lot of the early energy has been focused in developing and promoting VR headsets. Wareable did a comparison of the best VR headsets out there right now, and you may notice that most of the companies involved in designing them have significant stakes in the gaming industry. Sony and Microsoft stand out, and even the popular Oculus Rift has long been associated with gaming, to the point that it’s compatible with Xbox control pads. Most of the headsets on this list have already dabbled in gaming to an extent, and minimal research will reveal that there are actually quite a few titles that have already been unveiled.
It’s also believed that the spread of VR wearables holds potential to expand categories of gaming that either don’t exist or currently exist in a limited capacity. For instance, there’s likely to be a strong market for fringe one-on-one games like boxing or table tennis that could be greatly enhanced via VR. Additionally, casino gaming could be made spectacularly realistic given the importance of environment and the relatively low level of action involved. The casino rooms at Gala have progressed to the point of utilizing live dealers to provide this sense of environment, making it feel more realistic than ever to sit at a computer and play bingo, poker, and other games. The very same concept in VR will likely help the whole casino genre progress in the near future.
However, it’s not only gaming that stands to benefit from the rise of VR. There will be other applications, and one we’re beginning to hear about is film. This is actually a little bit surprising given that the idea of in-home 3D film and television hasn’t been nearly as popular as many predicted. However, VR is a different category, and it could produce hybrid experiences that meld cinema with gaming. One of the first big experiments with this idea is actually underway this month, with Hollywood Reporter revealing that a VR spinoff of The Martian is debuting at CES. It’s not exactly like watching the film (about an astronaut stranded on Mars), but rather it allows you to step into the shoes of the character played by Matt Damon and try to survive on the Red Planet yourself.
It’s also believed that VR could unlock new potential for travel simulations here on Earth, as opposed to through known fictions like The Martian. This idea was discussed by Future of Storytelling, specifically with regard to an Oculus Rift-sponsored projected called “The Wild Within.” It will allow users to use VR headsets to explore real natural areas and enjoy actual experiences (such as seal spotting), almost like a travel preview. There are some who believe concepts like this will detract from real human experiences but at least in the case of “The Wild Within,” the idea is to attract real tourism by offering a taste, rather than to substitute virtual reality for actual reality.
Really, the list goes on and on. VR is going to have applications in education, allowing students to explore geography, history, and potentially even other subjects. It may have relevance in engineering or medical offices given the potential to step into designs or even anatomical displays to gain a new perspective. It’s even expected that VR capabilities will be built into real estate businesses as a means of allowing clients to explore multiple properties with ease. Simply put, this is going to be a huge industry, and while it seems to be beginning with video games, it’s going to affect our lives far beyond basic entertainment.