According to a recent report by Digi-Capital, virtual reality may constitute a $30 billion market by 2020, even though the first consumer models of VR hardware won’t hit until late 2015. But there’s a lot that forecast doesn’t tell us, such as who will use VR beyond the early adopters — and why.
In the process of spending a day in the life of some of those early VR adopters, VR developers and VR enthusiasts, I assembled a not-exactly-unbiased panel to answer these questions. I asked the people on our bus to Virtual Reality Los Angeles to make a prediction: Where will VR be in five years?
Here’s what they said.
Five years? Well, I hope the Oculus Rift is out by then. [laughs] They keep delaying it. It’ll be in the hands of hardcore gamers. I don’t think it’ll go super-mainstream in five years. People will know about it, but the shift to VR, I kind of compare it to the shift in the ’90s when 3-D accelerators [GPUs] were starting to get popular. What VR really needs is an application that’s outside of gaming, but kind of a killer app for normal, everyday people. Every PC today comes with a 3-D accelerator because they’re used for things other than games. You can do video acceleration, and even normal applications use 3-D stuff. VR will have that, but it will take several years.
In five years, I think you’re going to have some kind of a VR station in every public place. In shopping malls — if there are shopping malls, still. I imagine there will be, ’cause we all want to interact in real-time, with humans. We’re gonna want to sit around and have those experiences in close proximity to other human beings. Maybe at a popular restaurant chain, you can drop in and log in to your VR world. You may have a whole separate communication experience. … You can’t necessarily do it while you’re driving, until you have a self-driving vehicle. And then you could possibly be in your VR center the whole time.
In three to five years, it’s going to be a VR world. There’s still going to be the 2-D experiences, but the 3-D experiences are going to be so much more compelling. People are going to prefer them. Every time technology has improved where people can have higher resolution or a bigger screen or a faster response time, they go toward it. Once you give it to them, they’ll want, they’ll demand it, and it’ll be the new standard.
A hundred and twenty years ago, there was a movie projection from Auguste and Louis Lumière. There’s a famous story that they showed a train going into a train station, and people were so afraid of the train coming at their faces that they went to the back of the room. Their brain wasn’t aware that this could be possible, and I believe that we are at the same state today with VR. “Wow, it can’t be possible, it’s too weird.” We need to train our brains, and then in two to three years, when you buy a smartphone there will be an accessory that converts the smartphone into a virtual reality headset. Every smartphone will have this accessory for free, or for $10, and then everybody will have a VR headset at home.
Student, Technical University Munich
I’m very optimistic. I think in five years’ time, we’ll have the major consumer breakthrough that we all hope [for]. I was listening to this talk by David Holz from Leap Motion, and he said by the third generation [of VR headset hardware], it may be almost as small as my glasses, and every generation has the potential to come within one year of the generation that came before. I think we’ll see a massive spark of innovation as soon as VR is an industry on its own. It’s still living off the scraps of the industries that surround it.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.