Virtual and augmented realities are becoming more of, well, a reality. There’s a lot of hype around new technologies being developed by companies such as Oculus, which seek to create immersive experiences for users, either supplementing reality or creating a “virtual” world users can participate in.
Of course, as with any new technology, there are exciting developments and a long way to go.
It’s Already Happening
Augmented reality really hit it big in 2016, although it had been kicking around for a while: Niantic, the company behind the Pokémon Go app, had released an earlier game using the same technology. Popular social media app Snapchat had been including lenses since its initial release in 2011. Google was an early entrant in the realm of augmented reality with its Google Glass technology, which allows people to scan their surroundings and use an internet connection to perform various functions.
Virtual reality has also been around for a while; it exists on standalone devices and is being incorporated into mobile devices and apps. Oculus and other players, including Sony and HTC, are developing ever-more sophisticated technologies to create immersive virtual realities for users.
A Shortage of Talent
One reason VR and AR haven’t worked their way into the mainstream yet is a lack of talent in the field. Currently, there are more jobs than individuals working in VR and AR, which makes it difficult for companies to truly leverage the technology.
Since VR and AR are still new and somewhat experimental arenas of development, there’s only a few talented individuals working in this area. As interest and technological capabilities continue to expand, more individuals will find employment in the realm of VR and AR development.
Another huge hurdle at this time is cost. As with all new technologies, the price of VR and AR is currently sky-high. As the technology improves, the price will begin to fall. The talent shortage is currently keeping prices for development inflated as well; as more people move into the field, it will become more affordable.
The Proving Grounds
Another barrier for VR and AR is that they haven’t yet proven their commercial viability or usefulness. Once companies are convinced these technologies can be useful for their operations or sold as commercially viable products, they’ll flock to them.
Until then, VR and AR will likely remain largely experimental. Right now, most applications of VR and AR have focused on entertainment value: Sony introduced VR technology as part of its PlayStation gaming system, and Samsung partnered with US theme park chain Six Flags to bring VR to popular rides in various Six Flags properties. Apps like Snapchat are largely vehicles for entertainment.
However, VR and AR have uses beyond entertainment, and those arenas may be where commercial viability first happens for VR and AR technologies. For example, retail and marketing firms are currently experimenting with the technologies in their campaigns.
Another huge issue for VR and AR has been that the technology makes you look kind of goofy. The Oculus Rift system requires users to wear huge headsets, as do most other VR systems. And people playing games with AR technology have repeatedly been told they look pretty silly chasing around imaginary things only they can see.
There’s also huge concerns about the impacts of VR and AR technologies. People worry about virtual realities distracting human beings from real life—allowing people to retreat into “imaginary” worlds.
All objections aside, however, VR and AR technology are already here, and widespread adoption is coming. The field will continue to grow—right now is the time for innovation. Will you be ready to work with it?