This post is part of our new VR Influencer series where we interview the world's leading VR experts to get their take on the state of the industry, the top trends to watch for, and what the future holds.
1. What are the top trends you have noticed in VR?
AB: Training and education applications are really strong at the moment, capitalizing on the unique power that immersive technologies have in enhancing and reinforcing teaching. I believe these will prove to be really empowering tools for teachers in future, and transform the way we learn. HealthTech applications are really big as well, not only with regards to training (which is a huge game-changer for the field) but it is already proving really valuable as a tool for medical professionals and it's no exaggeration to say that it will soon help save many lives and enable us to do things that were impossible before. I'm also interested to see how areas such as creative storytelling and social VR are developing, but they I do think that what will primarily drive and sustain growth are – at least initially – the huge gains that are to be had from industrial and practical applications of immersive tech.
2. What applications for VR make it a game changer in the tech sphere?
AB: The thing that makes immersive tech a game changer is the fact that it's not about one thing. It's literally a shift in the way we think about personal computing, about our relationship with technology, and the interplay between the real and the digital worlds.
✅It will eventually affect every sphere of human action and interaction, it's that transformative.
3. What is, in your opinion, the industry in which VR has the greatest disruptive impact?
AB: As I said above, Healthcare and Education are two big areas, but literally you cannot name an industry that is not already being impacted by this and/or will not be significantly disrupted in the next few years.
4. Would you say that the VR industry is evolving as rapidly as you anticipated, less rapidly, or about as expected? What makes you say this?
AB: In some areas – such as social VR – it is perhaps a little slower than I would have expected, but these things work very much on a “tipping point” basis where sometimes you see a slow build-up towards critical mass, followed by explosive growth. So we'll get there.
I see some talk of a “bubble” when some people who predicted explosive consumer mass market growth don't see sales of VR headsets going to through the roof, but I think that's missing the point in a really big way. Hardware has evolved in leaps and bounds, yet we're still at a relatively early stage, I'm sure we'll soon look back at the gear we're using and cringe wistfully just like we do when looking at the brick-like early mobile phones. I look beyond that to the core of the technology itself and I don't think there is any going back, because this is not a gimmick, the practical applications and ROI can be demonstrated even at this early stage where hardware is not ideal and we're still figuring our way around the medium. That will sustain the growth of the medium until the average consumer is ready to embrace the technology, and that will happen when the cost/ease of use sweet spot is reached, just like we saw with smartphones.
5. What do you see as the most difficult-to-overcome limitations for VR?
AB: At the moment VR still feels a bit far-removed for most people, and I think the challenge and the way forward is to make the hardware cheaper, faster, and easier to use. As I said above, that will come, probably faster than we think. The other thing is integrating VR/AR in this sort of Mixed Reality Spectrum where different levels of blending the real and virtual world are integrated seamlessly into the same experience, through the same hardware.
6. What’s the future of VR?
AB: Both in the short and long term I think we are moving towards this concept of “Mixed Reality” or whatever you might want to call this spectrum of immersive experiences that blend the real and digital worlds in various ways. In the next few months, I'm excited to see the new hardware and platforms that will be released, namely Magic Leap's long-awaited and much-hyped headset and the new version of the Microsoft HoloLens, which is still an extremely impressive piece of kit 3 years after it was originally released. I also think we will see a lot of new players entering the arena, and 2018 will see some real building up of momentum behind these technologies.
About Alice Bonasio
Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief.