Top Virtual Reality Technology Trends to Watch in 2016

The most important thing about a technology is how it changes people.” 
― Jaron Lanier

The first time I became familiar with Jaron’s name was reading a SPIN magazine special issue on “The Future” as a teenager back in 1995. I remember reading wide eyed about the limitless potential that the digital revolution held for my generation, a future where virtual reality would be ubiquitous – an integral part of everyday life. The world wide web had just exploded into popular culture, with the infectious belief that anything was possible in this new globally connected, tech-driven world.

Back then, VR was only in the embryonic stages of what would eventually become one of the biggest tech trends of today. We’ve still got a long way to go before we get to that virtual utopia, but 2016 looks to be a major step forward in VR technology where it is expected to finally go mainstream. The VR market growth from 2015 – 2018 is anticipated to be 200% from $198M to $407M and adding 25 million users.

Here are 6 VR tech trends to watch in 2016:

1) Headsets go mainstream

VR hardware, specifically head-mounted devices, will hit the mainstream consumer market this year. There are options available at both ends of the price spectrum, from the very expensive Oculus Rift available for pre-order at a whopping $599.99, to the smartphone-based Samsung Gear VR at $99.99. Sony will also enter the market in 2016 with their PlayStation VR head-mounted display, designed to be fully functional with the PlayStation 4 video game system.

2) Ready player one

Virtual reality is expected to make a major impact on the gaming industry in 2016. The first round of titles and gamers will essentially be used as test subjects and platforms to further development of future applications and experiences. Consumers are expected to spend $5.1 billion on virtual reality gaming hardware, accessories and software in 2016, with game developers having a global audience of 55.8 million users and producing 38.9 million VR devices.

 3) Mobile-driven VR will pick up speed

2015 saw the early distribution of low-end virtual reality to the masses. Google Cardboard headsets were released, which enables users to insert their smartphones to turn Cardboard into an immersive hand-held display. In 2016, expect to see an increase in mobile device-based VR experiences. Products like the Samsung Gear VR are providing low cost, low barriers of entry for novice users and first time buyers.

4) 360° video

One of the breakout technologies of virtual reality has been the emergence of 360° video. This has shown great potential for uses in the tourism, real estate, and training industries. 360° video has massively strengthened the capabilities and immersive experiences for virtual tours, walkthroughs, and simulations. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed at the 2016 Mobile World Congress that more than 20,000 360° video videos have been uploaded to the social media platform.

5) VR sends a friend request

Facebook has already integrated Oculus technology into its own 360 video feature. These videos allow users to experience scenes from multiple angles (up, down, side to side, etc.), on both desktop and mobile devices, creating a unique, immersive experience on the platform. Users can expect to see more of these videos this year as publishers will be rapidly creating new content as they catch up with trends and developments in the technology. Facebook has already rolled out a dedicated Social VR team to explore the application of VR headsets sharing virtual content.

6) Exhibitions and events will be a virtual playground

VR will be heavily leveraged for product demos, simulations, and proof of concept applications at exhibitions and events while minimizing the costs and logistics usually required to send the physical products to a show. Attendees can expect a wide range of VR experiences as vendors also utilize games and Augmented Reality tools to further drive attendee engagement. This will also extend to event planning and design, as well as providing virtual walkthroughs of booth designs, event spaces, and site inspections.

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