Barely a decade since the first prototype in 2010, virtual reality (VR), has struck a chord that has reverberated throughout the entire visual entertainment industry. The emergence of several competing VR brands and applications in recent years have ushered virtual reality into the digital spotlight as a potentially revolutionary technology. However, the question is, has VR penetrated deep enough to become a game changer?

A look at the competition and challenges

Although no other technology is quite like VR, other visual tech devices like smart TVs and Augmented Reality (AR) have taken great innovative strides; smart displays with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered, High-dynamic-range (HDR), UHD imaging has flooded the market in the last couple of years. Intelligent 3D TVs are probably the closest VR competition, the primary reason being their ease of use for nearly the same experience.

The problem with VR is that it’s way too complicated for mainstream consumers. We already have dozens of VR products all running on different platforms and requiring different apps and infrastructure. A VR headset is not exactly a plug-and-play gadget. VR is really struggling to break into the mainstream market even after years of innovation; many still see it as a tech novelty.

The future of VR

Currently, VR is mostly used in gaming. Console and game developers have focused a lot of attention to delivering VR content and experience to their gamers. Many entertainment tech innovations are deeply rooted or driven by the gaming industry. Judging from the success of past technologies made for gaming; this was probably the right launch pad for VR before spreading to other entertainment media like film and music. Although even in gaming there is barely enough VR content to go around, game developers are tirelessly working to deliver quality VR gameplay across all major consoles and the PC, including remastering old triple-A titles for smart picture and VR compatibility.

VR has also found its way into the education space. Several contemporary art galleries, museums and showrooms are beginning to adopt VR to showcase exhibitions in great detail. Some learning institutions have also taken a liking to VR as a teaching tool. This trend shows a lot of promise in VR being more than just an entertainment accessory.

Although VR gaming is still a big deal, to grow VR into a mainstream, technology developers need to push for applications beyond games and entertainment. Progress is unexpectedly slow in the VR industry, but improvements in hardware, software, compatibility and ease of use are gradually giving it the public exposure it desperately needs. We will just have to wait and see how that goes, but at the current pace, virtual reality has a long way to go before taking over the screen age.

Photo: Virtual Reality Demonstrations by UTKnightCenter licensed under Creative Commons 4.0