RS Components, a UK-based electronics company, has recently compiled an infographic of predictions for VR technology by 2050.
I’m not going to unpack all of it in this article but take a look at the whole infographic below. It’s all interesting but there are a couple of things in particular that caught my eye.
AR Technology and VR Technology Will Merge
By 2021, according to the infographic, VR technology and AR technology will merge. This will create a “new user experience … where any element could be virtual or real without the user really knowing.”
The infographic sites an article by Wareable that recounts some of Michael Abrash’s visions for the future. Abrash, formerly of Valve and now with Oculus, predicts “augmented VR will be an integral part of virtual reality and that it will transform VR.”
AR technology and VR technology share some similarities but the experiences that they offer are very different. If you had AR glasses that you could wear all the time, a hyper-realistic and accurately scaled digital rendering may be able to throw you off. However, you wouldn’t be able to navigate the real world in virtual reality because virtual reality environments are entirely virtual. As a result, you know that nothing that you see in virtual reality is real.
Amash doesn’t really explain in the article how “augmented VR” is different from hyper-realistic AR. Not that that doesn’t sound exciting.
Another fact getting in the way is that to explore virtual reality you need to put on a virtual reality headset. This, in some ways, interrupts your ability to be fooled by virtual reality experiences. You can look at it as similar to visiting a haunted house. The things that you see may surprise you but you know all along that nothing that you see is real.
If augmented VR really is just hyper-realistic AR, that might not be a problem considering AR glasses feel more natural than VR headsets. However, another prediction on the infographic may bridge that gap.
VR Headsets Will Look Like Sunglasses
The authors’ hopes for a merge of AR and VR technology may be further explained by a more distant prediction.
By 2026, according to the infographic, VR headsets will look like sunglasses. This prediction is actually taken from a The Next Web article relaying the words of Mark Zuckerberg.
We all want smaller, more comfortable, less-noticeable VR headsets. Similarly, as AR headsets become smaller and more comfortable, a future like that described above becomes more believable. The article even says that Zuckerberg’s glasses would be able to handle AR and VR at the same time. Again, I’m not entirely sure what that would even look like but it sounds a lot like Abrash’s Augmented VR.
However, as with the prediction above, there is room to ask some questions about this one.
As display technology for lightweight and compact AR is being developed, it becomes easy to imagine VR headsets may shrink as well. But, could they ever be as small as sunglasses?
One of the things that makes VR immersive is that the VR display takes up a user’s entire field of view. Anywhere you look, wherever you move your eyes, all that you see is the virtual environment. That’s part of why VR headsets are so large. It’s also part of what makes VR so much more immersive than AR.
Maybe there are some crazy eye-wear designs that I’m not aware of but I’ve never worn a pair of sunglasses – or prescription glasses for that matter – that took up my entire field of view. People get headaches when VR skips frames or moves more slowly than we do. Can you imagine how weird it would be to be in VR and be able to look under, over, or around the VR experience? Not only would it be the worst kind of discombobulating, it wouldn’t be very immersive.
Of course, who knows what regular glasses will look like in seven years, let alone VR headsets.
What Is the Future of VR Technology?
The RS infographic gives us some pretty interesting things to think about when it comes to the future of VR technology. However, it also leaves us with a lot of questions. I suppose that’s in the nature of speculation.