When does Virtual Reality Stop Being 'The Next Big Thing' And Become A 'Big Thing'?

8 Apr 2016

For the last few years we’ve watched with anticipation as Virtual Reality (VR) has started its progress into the mainstream.  For years VR has been the mainstay of the academics and the super nerds of the gaming community.  However now there are many beyond this select group who see a bright VR future coming.  And many of those see that future starting to take shape in 2016.

We are frequently asked what we think the next big thing is going to be.  Everyone always wants to know what is round the corner in the digital world.  However when we say ‘Virtual Reality’ at the moment, we are greeted with a degree of scepticism.  A typical response is, ‘How could virtual reality really effect my business?’. Unfortunately, at the moment, we (and pretty much everyone else) don’t have a whole lot of answers.

But before you put your feet back up with a ‘wake me when I need to worry about this’, it’s worth considering that we were in a very similar position nearly 10 years ago when the first smart phones appeared.

With the advent of hand held touch screen devices the way people used the internet and the web changed rapidly.  In 2007 when the iPhone was released those in the know were saying ‘this is going to be huge, but we are not sure how’.  However plenty of people were saying ‘I can’t see how this thing is going to effect my business, wake me when I need to worry about it’.  

In between these two positions is probably where most businesses should have been when it came to touch screen devices and this is where they should probably be when it comes to VR.

As with touch screen devices when it comes to VR those businesses that are paying attention have the greatest chance of capitalising on the opportunities that emerge.  This does not mean being at the leading edge of a technology.  It means paying attention and being ready.

Once again we are looking at a situation where hardware and users experience through it has the possibility to massively change how we use the web and the internet, just like in 2007 with smart phones.  Just like in 2007 we’ve got companies spending huge amounts on the technology and investing heavily.  Facebook bought Oculus for over $2 billion.  Samsung, Sony, HTC (and Oculus) have all also invested massively and are all releasing their headsets to the public in 2016.  This year the world is going to move from there being no VR headsets out there, to there being millions.  CCS insights predicts 2.5 million headsets will be sold in 2016.  This is due to rise to 24 million headsets in 2018

And, just like with smart phones (which you bought for making phone calls, sending text messages and occasionally looking at the web, in an emergency - remember?) once they are out there in people's hands, they’ll end up getting used for the things people don’t currently expect.

There are plenty of articles out there hypothesising about what things people will use VR for above the obvious uses for computer games.  For the moment we are not going to add to the multitude of theories that are out there.  But we will say ‘be ready’ and that in our opinion it’s impossible that VR doesn’t have an impact on how we use the internet and the web.

How long before you have a VR version of your website?  How long before Skype calls take place in VR?  How long before your office doesn’t have desks with computers and you just have a keyboard and a headset?  Who really knows?  The answer is no one.  But we still think it’s going to be massive!

What are we doing about it at Reflow?  Right now we are exploring the edges of web virtual reality that we are able to and when we can exhibit what we are working on, we will.  Watch this space...



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