The blush is fading off the apple, and critics are starting to ask if virtual reality is dead in the water. Yet at the same time, virtual reality is growing strong in industries like medicine, education, and military.
The buzz is fading away, but what it’s leaving in its place is actual technology with a strong backing and real market potential.
We all remember the halcyon days — when virtual reality was going to change the world. We put on headsets and stared into new horizons, and we knew this wasn’t going away. We’re the evangelists, after all. Anyone still eagerly chugging down every bit of immersive news doesn’t need to be convinced. We fell into waters, walked through the stars, and knew there was nothing like this in the universe. Trying it meant bringing it into your heart, and explaining it with words alone never quite did it justice.
We wanted to walk through our memories. We wanted to explore universes from our living rooms. We wanted everyone to try it and love it as much as we did, for it to take over media and replace it, for it to become the new gold standard.
We might have reached a little high. But we were excited, okay?
The truth is, new technology almost never replaces what came before. We’re creatures of habit, and just like video couldn’t quite kill the radio star, we shouldn’t have expected virtual reality to sweep every other medium off the table. The sign of VR’s success isn’t the death of video games, movies, and cell phones.
Its success is just people continuing to use it. And they are.
It may not have dominating gaming the way evangelists said it would. We may not all be living in Ready Player One. But headsets are still being bought and sold. Developers are creating new titles every day, and advances are still common. Wireless capability is bound to make headsets more popular, and comfort levels are always on the rise. Small and steady use has kept film cameras on shelves. It does the same for virtual reality, and who cares if it isn’t a billion dollar industry? It’s here to stay.
The medical industry is one where it is dominating, and continues to grow more popular. Every day there’s an article about a new hospital using VR for the first time, whether to treat patient pain, make surgery safer, or train doctors in new procedures. Medical VR is exciting enough that it should be on the front page of every medical journal, and naysayers who claim VR isn’t hitting its potential clearly aren’t paying attention.
Ah, schools. Underfunded, constantly reaching for a new fix, and always just a few steps behind. VR has incredible potential for education, but it’s likely that our underfunded schools will be waiting awhile before they can take advantage of this tech. But outside of elementary and high school, training is getting a big boost from VR (and AR too). We’ll likely continue to see big strides here as people realize how much dang cheaper it is to train in simulations.
So is it knocking our socks off and transforming everything? Okay, no, not really. But is it insanely cool and continuing every day to live up to the love and passion we’ve poured into it? It really is. It’s moving past the hype machine and turning into something real. A foundational technology that we’ll all interact with, and something that will grow at a steady, reasonable pace.
Give it try to grow into itself. It’ll be pretty amazing what we find.
Written by Wren Handman for www.hammerandtusk.com.