This holiday, HTC and Valve are releasing the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. In early 2016, Sony will release its Project Morpheus VR headset for the PlayStation 4, and Oculus VR will release its Rift headset for PCs.
Despite those impending headsets, one analyst firm is putting virtual reality’s mainstream adoption — when the average person will get involved with VR — at five to 10 years out.
The report is from Gartner, a technology research firm. The group puts out an annual report on emerging tech called the Gartner Hype Cycle, and this year’s report puts VR on the upswing toward mainstream adoption. Tech Insider was given access to the full report.
See virtual reality below, sliding up the “Slope of Enlightenment” between “Autonomous Field Vehicles” and “Gesture Control?” Don’t let the analyst firm’s term for where VR is at on the Hype Cycle throw you off — it’s just Gartner’s way of measuring where emerging technologies are in the zeitgeist.
In plain English, that means VR is close to the point where it’s widely understood by the general public. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a mainstream technology.
Virtual reality first entered Gartner’s annual hype cycle chart in 2013, one year after Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and CTO John Carmack showed off a duct-taped set of ski goggles to a small group of journalists at the game industry’s annual trade event, E3. And given the rapid iteration of VR headsets, from a duct-taped mess to consumer product in just three years, it didn’t have time to languish in other parts of the chart for very long.
We’d argue that VR was at peak hype in 2014, based solely on our experiential evidence. There was still no release date in sight for a consumer headset, and most demonstrations given were of technical demos instead of full movies or games.
In the near-term, VR will be mostly about gaming, but there’s a lot of potential beyond that. Facebook bought Oculus VR because it believes VR will be the next major computing platform, touching everything from social networking to online entertainment.
Perhaps more importantly, the report points out that augmented reality stands to make a bigger impact on mainstream consumers than virtual reality. Augmented reality (AR) means placing virtual images on top of what you see in the real world. It’s different from virtual reality, which replaces everything you see with a synthetic environment.
And that’s a crucial point: great AR can double as a VR headset, and enables a far richer, more life-enhancing experience than the closed off “immersion” of VR. If nothing else, being able to supplement real life with computer vision and processing is potentially world-changing. Even more world-changing than being able to virtually travel around the world in a VR headset, which, again, you could also do in a great AR headset.
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