VR is a completely 3D environment created from a combination of software and compatible hardware. This completely immerses the user into the 3D environment, giving them the ability to interact with the virtual world in a seemingly real way.
A few different steps are required to create an ideal VR user experience. The virtual world is created by software developers and then rendered in a way that users can interact with the objects created by developers. Headsets help provide users the illusion of being completely immersed in the 3D environment. These 3D objects tend to respond to changes in the user’s movement, and the interactions mimic those in the real world. Certain additional hardware components, such as gloves or other accessories around the room, can also simulate additional senses, such as touch.
As VR has become more mainstream, businesses are realizing its value in the workplace. This technology can provide varying benefits to users in myriad fields.
Virtually test out a product — For businesses that sell a product, VR has the potential to be revolutionary, as this technology allows users to visualize what owning a product would be like. Consumers can take a product for a "virtual test drive" before they commit to a purchase.
Expand education — VR can take hands-on learning to the next level. Instead of observing a teacher perform a task, a student or trainee can visualize themselves performing it.
Go one step past 3D modeling — Some VR tools allow users to develop, sculpt, model, paint, and create tangible objects in a VR environment. Users can interact with 3D models from any angle with tools like these.
Virtual reality is increasingly proving its value in a number of different fields. The following are just a few examples.
Game developers — VR is becoming a massively popular medium within game development. Developers can use VR tools to create a completely immersive user experience for gamers. Those playing the game can fully interact with the created characters as if they are part of the universe. Users can typically access these games through headsets or mobile devices.
Architects and engineers — 3D design is becoming more common within architecture and engineering, as this type of design enables users to manipulate the objects they are designing from every angle. By designing in VR, users can be completely immersed in the environment as they create. These tools have expanded on the 3D capabilities offered by CAD software, allowing users to design, manipulate, and collaborate on projects in a virtual environment.
Virtual reality is still a young technology, so the different subcategories of the technology are still emerging. The following are some subcategories that are prominent in the space.
VR visualization — This type of software allows users to experience aggregated data in a virtual environment. These tools enable users to see analytics in a way for them to fully understand what the data are communicating.
VR content management systems — Businesses can use these tools to collect, store, and analyze all VR content in a centralized location.
VR SDK — Virtual reality software development kits (SDK) provide the necessary base to design, build, and test VR experiences. VR SDKs act as the building blocks to create basically any VR experience.
VR game engine — This software provides developers with the essential for creating a VR video game experience.
VR social platforms — Users can collaborate in VR from remote locations using these tools.
VR training simulator — These tools can be used in almost any industry to train employees in a completely immersive environment.
VR software comes equipped with myriad features so users may create a fully fledged VR experience. The following features are commonly found in these types of solutions, but are not always guaranteed to be included.
Content management — Many tools allow users to upload either raw 3D content, which will later be edited into a VR experience, or existing VR content directly onto the platform. Users can manage and store content on these platforms and sometimes publish right from them.
Editing content — The vast majority of VR solutions have editing capabilities. Users can edit raw 3D content or existing VR experiences. Some editing features have drag-and-drop capabilities, which means that users can edit their VR content with little to no coding experience.
Hardware integration — Any VR solution must integrate with a piece of hardware that supports VR experiences. These devices are typically headsets, but can also include mobile phones.
Collaboration — VR tools allow multiple users to access the solution remotely at once so they can collaborate in real time. While collaborating, users should be able to interact on the same things simultaneously, along with watching games or events together.
Analytics — Some VR solutions will provide users with analytics capabilities. It will allow businesses to better understand the behavior of audiences accessing the VR content.
360-degree video — These are videos where a certain view is shown from every perspective, which deliver a completely immersive VR experience. Studies have shown that user engagement with 360-degree videos is quickly growing, proving that there will be an increased adoption of 360-degree videos on a larger scale.
Increased availability — Large names in VR, such as Oculus and HTC, have been publicly working to decrease the price of their headsets. As prices are made more affordable, we will likely see a larger mass adoption of VR tools.
More jobs in the VR field — VR is still growing as a technology, and the technology needs skilled developers to help bring VR to its full potential. As the software and integrating hardware becomes more in demand by the general public, there will be a greater need for more VR developers. Expect to see more posting in the VR space on job boards in the next few years.
While we can expect VR software and headsets to become more affordable in the near future, pricing is currently this technology’s biggest hurdle. With VR software and devices still costing a great deal of money, consumers have had very limited interactions with VR. Because of that, they are unable to see use cases applicable to their careers and daily lives.
VR often goes hand in hand with augmented reality (AR). AR software takes a 3D-generated object and seamlessly stitches it into the real world. VR and AR have begun to converge in another type of technology referred to as mixed reality (MR), which lets users see virtual objects in real-world environments, while anchoring the objects to a point in real space.