2016 and the Birth of Virtual Reality

© ITU/ M. Jacobson - Gonzalez

There is no doubt: Virtual Reality (VR) has finally arrived. Although there has been a renewed interest in recent years, 2016 saw the birth of commercial VR with Oculus finally releasing its first consumer Rift model, CV1, and HTC/Valve directly competing with the HTC Vive. Later in 2016 we saw Sony jumping into the VR arena with the PlayStation VR, hoping to pull in more consumers and console gamers versus the enthusiast crowd who would likely adopt the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

VR for the masses went mainstream with the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard, which allowed anyone to turn their smartphone into a VR headset. This completely broke down the high cost barrier associated with the technology. Anyone with a recent Samsung phone could plug into a Gear VR and experience a level of virtual reality that was previously unavailable without being tethered to a computer. Google Cardboard made it even more affordable, allowing almost any mobile phone to provide a basic VR or 360 degree video experience.

The Birth

Virtual Reality itself has been around as a concept since the 1950s where it was born as the sensorama. In the 70’s and 80’s, MIT and NASA would toy with the technology. The first great push for VR into the commercial world was in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Although the hype and the excitement were there, the technology just wasn’t.

Today a new push for VR exploded into the public in 2016 with major thanks to Palmer Luckey. Although industry professionals such as John Carmack and companies like Valve were always looking into the feasibility of the technology, it was a young tinker named Palmer Luckey that ignited renewed public interest in VR through a Kickstarter campaign, and in 2016 showed investors that there was huge consumer interest.

Current Usage

Virtual Reality is currently being adopted in a wide range of industries. The “VR Sphere” (all possible uses of the technology) is easily as large as the web and mobile applications industry, with a use or potential use in almost every field imaginable.

In one commercial use, architects can use existing technology to walk a client through a home or workplace design, and allow them to alter it in real-time. For example, the technology allows the client to change the flooring, wallpaper, or cabinetry live and in person, prior to construction, saving both the architect and client time and money.

There are other current uses available as well. Events can be streamed live with 360 degree video, putting viewers in the middle of a band at a concert or on the sidelines with their favorite sports team. Museums can augment exhibits with renders of 3D models and movies, allowing for a more interactive and educational experience. Video games can transport a user to the stars, deep underground, or back in time – into realities that game studios mold and create in ways that were never as immersive as today.

Where we see the technology?

We at Origin Development are excited to get in on the ground floor of this new technology. We see the potential for our clients to use virtual reality beyond the gimmicks. Our focus is on finding ways for VR technology to drive potential streams of revenue to our clients, an addition to the core user experience to help drive sales. We focus on helping our clients understand and realize what this technology could mean for them in the immediate future.

We think the potential for VR technology to take off cannot be understated. As the end of the year approaches, we have news of a multitude of incoming headsets from ASUS, Nvidia, Microsoft, and more on the horizon. Virtual reality is not a fad. It is here, and here to stay.