VR: Upcoming Possibilities and Future Trends
With the developments happening in VR technology as of today, we can sort of make a good speculation if not an educated guess on where VR will be heading and what the future might bring in terms of application and use of the technology/
The potential of VR no doubt is huge but for it to be widely used as a mainstream appliance or device like the TV and Cell Phone, VR as a technology is still very much in it’s childhood if not infancy. There are certain trends however that look to the immediate future especially in the application of VR to our daily lives.
VR today seems to be trending in one direction (no, not the singing group), VR tech may be doing this on several fronts but never the less all heading towards making the experience as natural as possible in it’s integration to everyday life. To do this both the applications (the software technology) and the devices or hardware to run them must be able to deliver said integration. Let us first take a look at the applications developers are targeting for the technology.
Aside from the gaming industry, VR technology is currently being used and developed to explore it’s application to the fields of Medicine, Education, Industry and Engineering, Science, Business, News Media, Retail, Entertainment and Sports.
Application in Sports alone is a huge potential. VR can be used to place the viewer at a sports event happening at a distant location with a 360deg viewpoint. Likewise, the news can be brought live via VR with the viewer in the middle of the disaster and experiencing it for oneself. Likewise, this can be used to educate students like re=enacting historical events and placing them right smack in the middle of it for a much better first hand understanding. The list goes on and watching movies may never be the same as you can see above, down, left, right, front and back. Both VR and AR will undoubtedly change the way we perceive and do things.
To accomplish this in a natural and practical fashion, one cannot walk around doing ones daily things with a block box strapped to ones face. Things have to be tailored down to the right fit. As of now, developers are relying on existing devices which are kind of bulky to use. Aside from the brick boxes which have to be strapped to your face, you have the VR platforms which you have to be strapped into, the haptic suits, vests and gloves that look more like body armor which when combined with the platform will make you look like the Lawnmower Man. While scented masks add to the realism of the VR experience, not many would be delighted to inhale the smell of burning rubber.
That said, the trend would be to make all of the above as compact, mobile and natural to use as possible. Movile VR miniaturization is the key to
the future of VR devices.
Current smart phone mobile platforms are still very limited due to hardware restrictions and VR capabilities. Both the phones and the current slot oriented HMD's have limited capacity for heat dissipation and when temperatures reach certain high levels, the phone’s performance start to deteriorate. These causes video lag and frame rate drops which can cause nausea and vertigo to the user. Also, short of connecting the phone to a charger while using in VR (which is highly improbable and downright dangerous) a smart phone’s battery may be able to provide around 30 minutes of uninterrupted VR time as compared to tethered HMD's that can last for hours without any dropage in performance.
Augmented Reality lenses on the other hand are more versatile in this respect as they are not tethered and do not have the current limitations that the smart phones have. Microsoft HoloLens has made great strides in AR video gaming as other integrated AR lens devices are following suite. This leads to a mixed AR/VR and communications technology that would be the most ideal future HMD device to speculate on.
An integrated SmartGlasses/lens that uses miniaturized power cells capable to power the device for long periods of time and can be recharged like a phone or MP3 player may already be probably in the works. A visor that can switch between Augmented and Virtual Realities and use the same or similar technology used by HoloLens to store and use application software. The idea of Wi-Fi cloud based data storage and internet connection can be put into use.
As the SmartLens will also be a communications device, the user would be able to call up someone with a phone or carrying or using a SmartLens. They can call by audio and/or video with an external camera that extends out from the frame of the glasses or visor to take a selfie of the user in real time.
MMO gaming while sitting down on a park or riding a bus would be a connection away. VR apps would probably need a visor version of the SmartLens with a lens that snaps down to use VR and springs up to view reality or AR when needed. As a fashion statement, the visor would make the user as good looking as the leader of the X-men.
AR and VR technology will continue to develop to where at some point the two technologies and the smart phone will collide to bring us the ultimate VR head mounted device. Haptic suits may become strap on gear or something that would be light weight. compact and comfortable that could be worn underneath like thermal clothing. As for those who insist on using face masks to smell the reality or feel the cold or heat on their cheeks, the masks will still probably be around.
AR/VR devices are now heading towards that direction as can be seen in devices like the ODG SmartGlasses the Meta 2 Headset and the Google Glass. You could say that these devices are running HoloLens for the money.
Finally, there is no complete VR experience short of being plugged into the matrix and maybe in the not so distant future, people will be used as batteries and spend their entire lives in VR or be digitized and thrown into the Grid. Of course that only happens in the movies ... does it?