Virtual Reality – Is 2017 the Year for VR Technology?

Jordan Green
  • Digital Editorial Assistant
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It’s been just under a year since we last dived into the topic of Virtual Reality (VR), and it seems that in one way or another almost every industry has now found a use for either Virtual or Augmented Reality (AR) technology.

In my last blog post I looked at what VR and AR actually means, and how the technology could be utilised to benefit your business; now it’s time to look at the world of VR in 2017:

Virtual Reality Headsets

Virtual Reality has rapidly increased in popularity over the last year, and not just in gaming. This is mainly to do with accessibility; over the past year VR technology has been adopted by more companies, wider developments have been made, which in turn has made it generally cheaper for end consumers to get their hands on a headset. VR has become mainstream enough that there are now even mobile phone deals that come with a VR headset!

In this short time frame, there has also been a massive increase in the variety of headsets that are available for use with VR. Competing with the likes of the Oculus or Vive, many VR developers (large and small) have now built their own headset, such as Google’s Daydream, which is paired with an intuitive controller. There is also a whole host of different headsets – ranging from Google Cardboard to Merge VR goggles (and every price point in-between) – each with their own pros and cons. In terms of functionality, there is a difference between the cheaper and more expensive models; whilst nearly all have been developed to work with mobile, some are definitely more for the PC power user.

Virtual Reality in Social

Social Media was always going to be a huge part of Virtual Reality, simply due to the social nature and community feeling that VR supports… and it didn’t take long for people to start developing it:

So, what are Facebook up to?

Oculus Rooms is just the first of many social apps that Facebook have developed; it’s essentially a chat room where you can virtually meet with up to 3 friends and just ‘hang out’, chat and play games with each other (although the games that can use this feature are very limited at the moment).

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The idea is that virtual reality puts people first. It’s all about who you’re with. Once you’re in there, you can do anything you want together — travel to Mars, play games, fight with swords, watch movies or teleport home to see your family. You have an environment where you can experience anything.
Mark Zuckerberg
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Facebook have confirmed that they are also working on more social apps, showing a preview at the Oculus Connect Conference in 2016… Zuckerberg also mentioned that they are also working on a browser specifically for VR!

What’s new?

VTime: Perhaps a more basic version of what Facebook are planning for their Oculus Rooms, vTime allows users to “socialise with friends and family, from anywhere in the world, inside stunning virtual destinations or your own 360 degree photos…”

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myVR – Virtually Everything: Another very exciting app that’s been developed is something called myVR – Virtually Everything. This was originally developed for Google Play, but towards the end of 2016 it was also released for iOS. This app is essentially a small virtual environment, which you can completely customise to be your own little space. Users can add in pretty much whatever they like and also link in digital portals to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, or have a virtual TV playing Netflix or YouTube!

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Virtual Reality in Tourism

More and more businesses are now offering potential customers the chance to virtually visit their hotel/holiday destination before paying, in a ‘try before you commit’ model. For example, “Best Western-branded hotels in North America will have a ‘Best Western Virtual Reality Experience’ whereby travellers can see each property’s rooms, lobbies, and amenities virtually online before they even arrive at the hotel.” The technology uses snippets from Google Maps, 360 degree videos, merged with narrative and music to create a VR experience when viewed through a headset.

Virtual Reality in the Film Industry

Amsterdam is the first to open the world’s first Virtual Reality cinema where visitors can watch movies like they’ve never done so before, completely immersed in an interactive 360 degree environment. The good news is that the company behind this cinema, &samhoud media are already looking at expanding to other countries, such as Madrid, Berlin, Paris and London…

Virtual Reality in the Future

One very exciting VR/AR development is something called Magic Leap. Although the project is very much being kept secret, the information that has been released sounds amazing! It’s essentially a technology that seamlessly projects computer generated imagery into the real world. From what I can tell, the big difference with Magic Leap is that it directly interacts with the user’s retina, rather than being displayed on a piece of hardware; think like Google Glass but with a more advanced technology.

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Magic Leap is one of the most mysterious and hyped startups in technology. It has raised $1.39 billion from investors including Google, Alibaba, KPCB, and Andreessen Horowitz. Google CEO Sundar Pichai sits on its board.
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With technology like this being developed it could really change the way VR is used, and just goes to show how we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of Virtual Reality. Either way I feel like VR will be a huge part of our everyday lives, no matter where you work or what you do. It’s grown this quick in only a year and there is so much more to come – like it or not VR is going to change how we go about many aspects of our lives.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Virtual Reality, tweet us via @gmdesignltd!

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