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Virtual reality (VR) may not have reached anything like its full potential but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry. In 2017 alone, Greenlight Insights valued the industry at $7 billion but also suggested that it will be worth a staggering $74.8 billion by 2021. A quick survey of the industry shows that innovations are coming thick and fast. From hardware such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Leap 3D controllers to gaming and advertising software, the market is already thriving. However, for the industry to achieve 10X growth over the next three years, the underlying technology needs to improve and evolve.
More Realism, More Interaction
For industry insiders, VR’s growth will take time but the signs of the directions it might be heading are already there. Gaming was and likely will remain the hub for VR and its future innovations. Over the last decade, we’ve seen game developers push for greater realism. The obvious example is live dealer table games in the casino sector. Moving beyond the virtual layouts that helped the industry grow into a $51 billion empire, software companies have created live-action casino games. As demonstrated by Betfair Live Blackjack, the games feature a combination of HD webcams, RFID chips and digital overlays. When working in unison, the features allow players to enjoy real-time action and, more importantly, interaction.
This dynamic is clearly one that jives with the VR world and suggests that engagement, particularly on a human level, is something the consumer wants. When Mark Zuckerberg played table tennis against the president of Indonesia, he followed it with a note saying that it feels like you’re there with a friend who’s halfway around the world. Although somewhat rudimentary, Facebook’s Toybox is a progression of the interactive dynamics that have reshaped the online casino industry in recent years. In fact, VR expert Peter Rubin believes the true potential of the medium is connectivity. Comparing VR to mobile handsets, Rubin explains that the moment we create a multiuser experience, the technology changes and, in turn, has a purpose.
Socialisation Will Underpin VR’s Growth
“L1000888-Edit-2” (CC BY 2.0) by Guido van Nispen
For him, mobiles serve a purpose and the process of downloading content is great in a vacuum. However, there’s always a feeling of missing out on something because no one else is around. Indeed, why download a game and rack a huge score if you can’t share it with anyone. However, by introducing share buttons, social media and messaging apps, mobiles soon become more social. According to Rubin, the same thing will happen in the VR space. In answering the criticism that VR will make us all loners, the tech expert told The Verge that the opposite will be true.
“I can almost guarantee you that a cocktail party in VR is invariably more fun and more rewarding than a cocktail party in real life, and maybe that would be my answer: let’s go do this in VR,” explained Rubin.
While there are many ways VR could manifest itself in reality over the coming years, one thing is clear: interaction will be at the heart of any innovations. As trends already present in the gaming industry have shown, consumers want to feel a real connection with the games they’re playing. Add to this the rise of social media and the way almost every aspect of our online lives is angled towards interaction and it’s obvious where VR is heading. As more people connect and find new ways to socialise through VR innovations, demand will increase and that should help it become a $75 billion industry within the next five years.