VR’s Big Bright Future is Virtually Here

2016 turned out to be the year of virtual reality, but it came in with more a whimper than a bang. Thanks to rapidly falling device prices, mass adoption is on the horizon—led by gaming, of course. With the rising popularity of the Playstation VR, and the expected flood of VR headsets shown at CES, VR is on its way to become mainstream in 2017. What will we see? Based on pre-orders, acquisitions, and good old-fashioned rumors, here are some reasonably well-educated guesses about what we’ll see in the VR industry in 2017.
Room scale—Inside-out
Room scale VR is a fancy term that means, “you put on a headset and move around” (as opposed to sitting or standing in one spot). It’s cool, but requires some special set up that involves external IR cameras or projectors that detect the movement of your headset and controllers. Advances in computing power and sensor technology, however, will let users explore larger spaces without having to go through the complicated process of setting up external devices—something called “inside-out room-scale VR.” A more seamless setup experience will lower the barrier to entry and increase adoption across the industry.
Wireless Room Scale
One of the current problems with room-scale experiences and high-end headsets like the HTC Vive are the wires. It’s annoying and dangerous when you become immersed in a virtual experience only to trip over a three-inch wide cable—shattering the illusion, your headset, a lamp, and maybe a few bones. HTC, painfully aware of this problem, is now selling the TPCAST accessory that makes the Vive wireless. Expect competitors to step up their game in order to provide desktop quality graphics in a wireless experience during 2017. Combined with inside-out room-scale VR, wireless is a game changer for immersive experiences.
Eye Tracking
With Facebook/Oculus’ recent acquisition of The Eye Tribe, the upcoming social VR giant is ready to take a giant leap in making headset-based VR truly immersive: depth of field. In real life, when you focus on different objects, the depth of field in your vision changes (it’s what causes an object close to us to blur when focusing far away and vice versa). On screen-based media, like VR headsets, the depth of field never changes. Expect that to change soon. Hopefully by the end of 2017.
Storytellers Begin to Adapt
Virtual Reality seems like an intuitive medium, but the possibilities and limitations of the platform provide unique challenges to storytellers. 360-video will continue to grow as a medium for immersive, linear experiences. Directors like Chris Milk have already begun to demonstrate what’s possible when we take advantage of an environment from multiple perspectives. As devices become more prevalent, traditional storytellers will begin to unlock the power of the medium, creating incredibly engaging world for us to get lost in.
AAA games
The small penetration of VR adoption hasn’t tempted many of the major studios to step up and make major investments. The increased overhead of producing a game in Virtual Reality is likely not helping to push things forward. In 2017 expect to see a trickle of AAA titles hit the mainstream VR platforms like Serious Sam VR. You can expect to see more publishers climb on board as room-scale VR becomes more accessible and wireless desktop VR goes mainstream.
VR and Porn
While marketers and brands find ways to create great user experiences with VR, a sizeable number of people will find shadier uses for the technology.  It won’t make headlines, but VR porn will proliferate in 2017. One often unspoken truth of the tech world is that porn is always on the bleeding edge of technology, and appears on every new platform. As VR technology becomes more apparent in everyday life, we can expect its unseen and ulterior uses to become more commonplace as well.
So there it is—2017 is poised to be a breakthrough year for VR. A combination of technology and content will launch VR closer into the mainstream, and we can’t wait (for most of it).
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