Even if your only interaction with a Virtual Reality (VR) headset so far has been to muck about with Google cardboard, you will know that we really are on the edge of yet another giant leap forward. VR headsets offer truly immersive experiences opening up whole new realms of interaction with the virtual world. And they are coming to you right now.
Early attempts at VR failed to set the world alight (mostly because they made people feel seasick) but this year is being touted as a game changer for this piece of tech.
Oculus Rift have already started taking pre-orders, Microsoft are set to ship their HoloLens in the first Quarter of 2016 and one of the guys here in our office has already paid for his Samsung Gear VR. All this shows that manufacturers and users are confident that 2016 will be the year that VR comes to stay.
The initial focus will inevitably be on gaming (and oh boy, its going to be good) but business uses for VR will not be far behind.
At first it will be used to extend already existing virtual 3D environments. Car designers, CAD workers and molecular chemists will all find VR a powerful tool for manipulating their creations. Medical students will be able to use it to practice surgical procedures. Pilot training, which already makes extensive use of simulators will really take off and space exploration will benefit from the combination of VR and remote robots. NASA have already worked on remote robot arms controlled using a combination of tech including a pre-production Oculus rift and an Xbox One Kinect sensor bar.
Special needs educators are exploring how the kit allows them to construct distraction-free environments that (according to initial experiments) help kids with attention deficit disorders to learn without the stress that a classroom environment can induce.
On the domestic scene, we will soon be walking through other people’s homes when buying houses without actually putting a single muddy footprint on their carpets. Not too soon afterwards I am sure we will find ourselves in virtual meetings where our colleagues from around the world all sit with us around the same virtual table. When it comes to holidays, Marriott Hotels have already played around with an Oculus-based ‘teleporter’ to show off their resorts in new and exciting ways
Imagine the benefits of networking breakfasts where you don’t even have to leave your bed.
I think a big and obvious change will be in the mundane task of filing. Ever since Apple Mac users first saw virtual wastepaper baskets in the early eighties, the ‘desktop’ metaphor has dominated Graphical User Interfaces. We will now be able to massively extend and alter the metaphor with VR headsets to give us an unlimited storage areas that are super quick to navigate.
Of course, the end of the computer screen on our real world desktops could have one immediate benefit. Your colleagues won’t be able to look over your shoulder and catch you sneaking in a cheeky five minutes of Solitaire at half past three.