Virtual reality (VR) is here, and it’s on the cusp of becoming the next true revolution in technology. Like the Apple II and smart phone before it, VR heralds the beginning of a new age – one of seamless communication through digital worlds, whole new experiences in entertainment and a revolution in the way many of us work.

The next decade will change what was once a gimmick limited to arcades and the most extravagant digital collections into a mainstream technology, different to anything we’ve ever experienced before.

Virtual reality is here, and it’s set to change the world.

Small beginnings

The start of the current virtual reality revolution can be found with the development of the Oculus Rift, the poster child for the resurgence of the technology. Created by Palmer Luckey, the device has gone through several design iterations and attracted some of the best talent in the industry to its offices, including legendary game developer John Carmack.

What started with an idea posted to a message board in 2011 soon grew to a record-setting Kickstarter campaign and unprecedented reaction from industry critics. What followed was the backing of social networking company Facebook and several competitors unveiling VR designs.

When looking back for the true spark that started the rise of consumer virtual reality, it’s almost certain to be focused on the Oculus Rift.

“This kid is about change gaming, movies, TV, music, design, medicine, sex, sports, art, travel, social networking, education – and reality,” said Wired writer Peter Rubin in 2014, of Palmer Luckey.

Education and real world applications

The true sign VR is set to become a staple of our society, a number of industries are seeing the potential of the technology. Everything from remote surgeries to virtual classrooms can be enhanced by VR – and will come following consumer releases of the technology.

For students unable to access classrooms in third world countries or remote communities, virtual reality can transport them directly into the classroom of any school or university in the world. Similarly, access to museums and sites of historical significance can be protected from damage while simultaneously playing host to millions of visitors.

It’s not just places in the real world people will be able to visit, VR will allow experiences never seen before. Whether visiting the the inhospitable surface of Mars, or flying through the storms of Jupiter, we’ll have access to places no human has ever travelled.

It’s likely the technology will give new generations an appreciation for the natural world and an unparalleled curiosity, all for the price of a virtual reality unit.

Similarly, the industrial applications of the tech will propel design and construction forward substantially. Architects will be able to walk around a completed building before it’s even constructed, and ensure what actually goes ahead is completely perfect.

A way to go

While certainly not far away, the technology and software platforms still require development before we can experience the true capabilities of VR. While the headsets can output the images, the machines required to render the environments are still relatively limited to enthusiast markets. Whereas a typical computer game is only required to output at around 30-40 frames per second for a fluid user experience, VR requires upwards of 70 frames per second consistently.

This is more a matter of simply continuing along standard technology development pathways, as computers have been becoming increasingly powerful since their inception decades ago. It’s simply a matter of the computers becoming more affordable.

VR is set to become the next leap forward in technology, and thanks to the Oculus Rift, it could be in your hands before the end of the year.

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