Virtual reality has been under fire for its performance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Oculus was absent from the show, the rumored HTC Vive 2 wasn’t unveiled, and many journalists expressed disappointment that they were seeing “more of the same.” While some may think this showing reveals VR’s doom in 2017, the rest of us predict and forecast that this is part of virtual reality’s slow, steady growth — a great foundation for a booming future in 2017. For example, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, during his VR-focused keynote address at CES, spoke highly of VR’s future and potential, saying it would bring huge changes to live event viewing, travel and even vital applications like search-and-rescue operations.
It’s important to recognize that there is still much more work ahead, and it’s going to take more than a year to get the necessary developments in virtual reality applications and technology in place. With big names like Google, Facebook and HTC backing eager developers, those in the virtual reality field are headed toward success in the long haul.
I recently sat down with two of Silicon Valley-based Cogswell College’s virtual reality development experts, Christian Sasso and Tim Duncan, to discuss industry predictions and forecast where the virtual reality market is heading in the near future. Christian has developed mixed VR and AR experiences for mobile platforms for the past three years, with prior stints at Cisco Systems and Nest Labs. Tim has his finger on the pulse of the industry as director of Cogswell’s VR certificate program.
What’s your prediction on where the virtual reality market stands at the start of 2017?
Christian: Some people new to VR were expecting virtual reality games and virtual reality apps to explode onto the scene in the near future of 2017, and that may have been hoping for too much, too soon. That’s not to say that VR development is dead in the water, though. What I’ve said before is that virtual reality will have a more uniform, gradual growth. Think of it as increasing adoption, but not an explosion. My prediction is that VR glasses and other technology will have a 20 to 30 percent growth in the market for the next 10 to 15 years — not an 80 percent boom like some were hoping for.
Tim: In my talks with VR professionals, they say a lot of what they’re figuring out is best practices and general standards for the industry and virtual reality jobs. Everything’s so new, they haven’t determined those standards yet. Remember, the virtual reality industry is still in its infancy. The biggest issue for someone just coming into VR development is to realize that these technologies like VR glasses or virtual reality games are in transition and don’t have all the kinks worked out. I know that can be frustrating to hear for young people growing up with the internet and mobile and in that mode of expecting new, near-perfect experiences immediately. But we’re making progress in the use of sound in VR, and we’re ironing out how to do quick motion changes in a VR headset without making the participant nauseous.
What do you forecast as some of the biggest challenges virtual reality is facing in 2017?
Christian: VR is always going to face challenges while a VR headset is involved: when you tell people they have to wear something on their head, they don’t like it. You’ll ultimately want VR glasses, or a small enough device that could fit in a pocket. We’re not at that point yet, so you’re going to see developments toward a wireless VR headset in the high-end VR space. We’ve already seen prototypes of this, and I think you’ll see further progress in balancing a VR headset to offset the weight of a battery pack, as well as developments toward removing some of the pressure off a user’s face while using a VR headset.
Tim: I think the biggest virtual reality challenge in 2017 really has to do with the adoption of standards — the VR community is getting close to that. 90-frames-a-second seems to be a minimum frame rate in virtual reality video to avoid motion sickness. I predict that standard for virtual reality video will end up closer to 100- or 120-frames-a-second. The adoption of standards like this throughout the industry will be the next big marker of progress. We’re pretty close to getting standardized toolsets for production work in virtual reality applications.
Last year’s hype about VR may have cooled in the press, but when you talk to industry veterans on the ground floor of virtual reality, you can start to see that the innovation in this industry is still red hot.