The digital revolution in second half of 20th century is sometimes referred to as the third industrial revolution. This new age of computers and internet and smartphones transformed the way we communicate, learn and interact. However, these 2D visual display systems missed one key component of audio-visual stimuli: depth perception and heightened spatial awareness. This is where VR technology excels; it provides the full human experience through virtual 3D immersion and interaction. Largely limited to gaming and entertainment at present, 3D audio-visual stimuli using VR head-mounted displays (HMD) have the potential for plethora of applications, ranging from treatment of PTSD and anxiety to interactive corporate training and education. Studies show that immersive presence increases cognizance including memory recall and retention. A more pragmatic version of VR is XR (mixed/extended reality) where a virtual environment integrates real world physical modules for a more realistic immersive experience. Technologies like AI and 5G along with AR/VR holds the key to creating what is dubbed as the ‘Metaverse’.
In order to understand our path forward, we need to first take a look at how we have arrived thus far.
Mainstream tech giants enter the race for creating more advanced commercial VR HMD systems. In 2010, Google introduces 3D stereoscopic version of ‘Street View’ and Palmer Luckey creates a computer aided VR HMD Oculus Rift which gets acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $2bn. Same year, Google and Samsung launches low-cost smartphone-based ‘Cardboard’ and ‘Gear VR’ respectively. Project Morpheus VR headset that was announced in 2014 by Sony for PS4 console, later in 2016 introduces Playstation VR (PSVR). That year, HTC releases VIVE SteamVR headset with first commercially available sensor-based tracking system for seamless VR movements. In 2017, Facebook releases untethered Oculus Go headset and later on in 2018, a more advanced Oculus Quest headset with camera and tracking system. Since 2019, they have been working on a varifocal system ‘Half Dome’ with wide field-of-vision.