Is now the time for VR to take centre stage?

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2018 was a pretty ordinary year for virtual reality (VR). It was having one of those troughs of despondency. Things, however, are changing.

According to new report from Juniper Research shipments of VR headsets will grow from 21 million this year to 54 million in 2023, growth of 160%.

We wondered a few weeks ago whether the time for VR to take off was about now and concluded that yes, it probably was, mainly because Marc Andreesen says so. In fact he said that VR would leave AR in the dust.

One obvious reason is that the headsets are no longer either cumbersome or – what’s that technical term, oh yes – not very good.

Sony Playstation will drive the rise in sales, although Google will remain the main player, according to Juniper. By 2023, fully 19% of console games will include VR. Presumably this rise in headset sales will also drive ‘AAA’ content and more and more content producers will see the benefit of the high investment levels required for VR content. This will, hopefully, create a virtuous circle for the technology to go mainstream.

At the same time, the enterprise sector will become an important element in VR’s overall growth. Ford, for example, is playing with the idea of designing their cars using VR. At the moment they design them in 2D and transfer them to 3D, which is costly and time consuming. Designing cars in 3D to begin with will allow designers to sit in them, drive them and rotate them to produce the optimum product.

Add to this the improvements in screen technology and the door really does seem to have opened. The curved and foldable screens that were being demonstrated at CES do point to a breakthrough in how people can use VR (as well as their smartphones). Lightweight headsets that are comfortable to use mean that people will use them out of choice, not because their ‘VR session is about to start’.

It may well be that the age of VR is about to truly begin, and the applications for it – in training, design, manufacture and of course games – are almost limitless.

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