Virtual Reality (as known as VR) is a simulated experience that can be similar to or different from the actual world. Besides VR, there are some VR-related technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) technology.
Currently, users need to wear VR-headset equipment to “enter” the virtual world because the realistic images, sounds, and other sensations that stimulate the virtual environment are generated by the headset.
VR technology is now being applied to many different fields, including education, entertainment, gaming, and business. We can expect that VR technology will extend to more fields in the next decade.
Why is VR becoming so popular?
According to eMarketer, it is predicted that 58.9 million and 93.3 million people in the United States will use VR and AR respectively at least once a month in 2021. The statistics show about 17.7% of the user in the US will use VR equipment in 2021. If we compared it to 2020, the percentage of VR users in the US had increased significantly.
The increased number of VR users may be due to the pandemic since most people stayed at home during lockdowns; also people were seeking for a way to interact with others without face-to-face contact.
Besides the pandemic, VR is very popular in the US because of the “metaverse”. Although this is not a new concept, it has become popular recently.
About the Metaverse
The term “metaverse” was originally from the science fiction novel “Snow Crash” in 1992. In the novel, people use a digital “identity” of themselves to explore the internet world, often as a way of escaping a dystopian reality.
Many companies started to use the “metaverse” concept to try to make their meetings/trainings look real. We can look at Facebook as a famous example where Zuckerberg was demonstrating virtual meetings that have a higher engagement rate. In 2021, Facebook officially changed the company name to “Meta”. The name changes means that Mark Zuckerberg wants to take the social media platform into the virtual world.
But Facebook is not the only company that is interested in the metaverse. Microsoft announced it will release its new meeting software—Mesh, so users can have a better experience in the virtual environment. We can expect more and more tech giants entering the metaverse in the next decades.
Education and Training
Some companies want to cut down on the training cost for their employees since rent for a physical location is getting more and more expensive. One way to fix this problem is to move all the company training into a virtual environment.
Walmart has over a million employees worldwide. It can be challenging to train everyone on new services, products, and customer services. Also, it is a cost a huge amount of resources to train all the employees simultaneously.
That’s why a virtual environment works well for them. The cost is lower and they do not need to worry about the location capacity.
What’s the problem?
Although we expect VR is getting more and more popular in the next decades, one thing we need to admit is that VR technology is not mature yet. There are still many issues that need to be fixed before it becomes mainstream.
For example for long-time gameplay of videogames, most users report they can get VR motion sickness. And the sickness is stronger if you play frantic flying and high-speed movement games. In addition, one recent study finds that VR can induce mild symptoms of depersonalization. These evidences suggest that VR gear might not be ready for long-hours of gameplay.
Despite some of these challenges in using VR we believe wide mainstream appeal will be just a matter of time. Combined with faster internet speeds we might be able to wonder into virtual worlds as expansive as Avatar or the shire while interacting with other people from all over the world in more meaningful ways.
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