2016 was unquestionably an important year for virtual reality – hardware (and more hardware), technical lessons learned, the emergence of VR storytelling – but where do we go from here?
We polled our Journey to VR contributors on their thoughts for the medium's logical next steps and what they hope the next 12 months will hold.
Philipp Maas, SONAR creator and Oculus Story Studio 3D Layout Artist
"VR will continue its hype in 2017, but slower. Now that all the devices are on the market, it’s not only about innovation but about standardization, customer service and honoring early adopters and ensuring backward compatibility. The focus will be on software and content even more than it is now. VR has to prove itself useful.
The most interesting things will come from AR applications and how they can also translate to VR. 2017 will be more about useful applications and maybe we will see interesting approaches for narrative augmented reality entertainment."
Andy Rowan-Robinson, Creative Director & Head of CG, Integrated Advertising, Framestore NY
"I think we’ll see the gaps get filled in. Making content in VR and using VR to do things is going to be the logical next step. We’re going to see some really good experiences and we’re going to see some very cool, cinematic stories. 2017 will be the year that people get blown away by VR."
Read > VR is fantastic and you should make it: Framestore's Andy Rowan-Robinson on the rewards of thinking big and pushing boundaries in virtual reality
Sol Rogers, Founder/CEO at Rewind and BAFTA VR Executive
"VR in 2017 will start to mature. We will see more craft and considered development with focus falling on the content of games and experiences, leading to a better and stronger industry. We will definitely see emerging technologies like eye tracking come to the forefront helping push the boundaries of hardware and emotional intelligence.
Mixed reality will become prevalent with new devices coming onto the market. I believe that MR is the biggest tech advancement since humans discovered fire... it could be used to truly augment human intelligence."
Christian Bach, Head of 3D, Psyop
"I have one major hope for the next year and its that the cost of hardware comes down significantly. It's still too expensive to break out of its niche. Beyond that, I think we'll start to see a shift more towards AR, but that's going to take a few more years to really come into its own."
Watch > Friday Favorite: VR Advice
Rob Moggach, Director and Creative Technologist, Tendril
"In 2017, the digital and gaming communities will gain a better understanding of the difference between what is marketed as VR (360 stereoscopic films) and what is actual Virtual Reality (room or world scale fully immersive environments). This will happen with greater adoption at the consumer level, thanks to platforms like PlayStation VR being great catalysts for the distinction between VR and what is essentially a cardboard or plastic View-Master.
2017 will see a growing understanding of, and demand for, Virtual Reality instead of the current, 'Cool Interactive Experience in a VR Headset.' This means higher fidelity, photo-real environments that are indistinguishable from the real thing. Graphics Engines and new software technology will push this forward and this will push the hardware forward."
Ben Stirling, Developer, Tendril
"As user control systems and movement tracking improve, I expect a greater emphasis on users being active participants in an experience, as opposed to passive viewers. I'm excited about conversations going from, 'I saw this cool thing in VR' to 'I did this amazing thing in VR.'"
Kirk Shintani, Head of 3D, a52
"Shifting focus will put AR/MR front and center, and while there's been a lot of articles talking about VR adoption rates being flat, the medium will keep evolving. We should see big hitters in Film and TV really push VR for new and existing IP through tie-ins and exclusive content, and maturing technology should allow VR to offer more for mainstream mobile users beyond 360 videos."
Read > We were first-timers, too: VR advice from pros who've been there
Lucien Harriot, Executive Producer, Mechanism Digital
"The division between graphics companies and editorial companies will become wider. 360 VR content creators will start working in 8K and 10K video to give 360 video projects longer shelf life. We’ll see motion capture for feet and other body parts to act more like motion capture setups for full body immersion. More tools will be developed to do post in VR (meaning 3D tracking doesn’t currently exist but needs to soon).
More people will use social environments to hang together in VR. Platforms like Second Life will make a comeback. We’ll see more people on buses and subways wearing headsets, and also, new laws will outlaw driving with them.
Headsets (and the computers required to run them) will get much cheaper and have better resolution per eye. They'll become wireless or have computers built in so they don’t need to be tethered. All headsets will have a camera on the outside to enable AR abilities. They'll include Leap Motion/Kinect scanning type capabilities for gesture control, and room capture for AR and object avoidance. Standards will help ensure all headsets play well together so developers don’t have to create different versions for each. Computers necessary to run the high-quality headsets will become much less expensive.
Most VFX-heavy movies will have a VR experience released as marketing material, and Steam will probably become the hub for most VR content."
Jon Tojek, Robot Programmer and Journey to VR’s photogrammetry guy
"Since I work in robotics, the most exciting application for VR coming in the near future is widespread acceptance of RoboCoaster rides with VR. We have been programming with Robot Animator these KUKA Robocoasters for various production houses who then make VR experiences that go with the movement."
Vangelis Lympourdis, Ph.D. and Founder, ENOSIS VR
"Leaving 2016, we can be certain that VR is here to stay and that the industry can achieve goals and deliver great products with very limited time. At the opposite side, academia is facing a serious brain drain as more and more experts move to the private sector. We are now at a point where educating people on how to best design and produce exceptional and highly engaging VR becomes critical. Therefore, the biggest challenge for 2017 will be to educate young students, graduates, and peers on VR best practices, to prove that we can really inspire and grow large audiences.
Moving forward, we need to be studious and collaborative, forming alliances and delivering unique experiences that can entertain, educate and inspire others to join forces in our quest for delivering extraordinary immersive experiences to large audiences in the years to come."
We couldn't take this Journey to VR without our contributors so virtual high fives to everyone who's participated thus far! We predict more Journey to VR in 2017 thanks to your early support!