The rise of virtual reality

Video games, entertainment and education to see biggest impact from VR over the next 12 months, new research finds

Virtual reality will have a wide and lasting impact on our work, education and home lives but not all of it will be positive, according to new research.

The survey – commissioned by Invest Bristol & Bath (IBB) – is published together with a White Paper on virtual reality entitled ‘Work, Rest and Play: How Will Virtual Reality Impact Everyday Lives?’ 

The report finds that three quarters of people think VR will have a positive impact on their lives, with men being more enthusiastic supporters than women (82% vs 69%). More women (47%) than men (39%) are worried about the impact it will have on family and mental health. 

According to the survey, VR is expected to have the most impact on the gaming sector (60%) although the entertainment industry (45%) and education sector (23%) are also expected to see a significant impact. Travel (13%), defence (10%) and property/construction (9%) are also expected to see VR-related changes. 

A third of respondents have actually tried a VR headset and 70% of people would consider buying one in the near future, with Samsung Gear (33%) and PlayStation VR (28%) leading the pack. 

Price will play a role here. 81% of people surveyed would pay up to £300 but enthusiasm quickly diminishes once this price point is reached. Only three per cent of people are willing to pay more than £500 – a finding that could limit the market for more expensive systems such as Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive. 

The use of VR in fixed rather than mobile environments, where you’re not reliant on carrying a VR headset around with you, present exciting opportunities – from enhanced learning and training experiences through to informed buying decisions and immersive entertainment

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The emergence of commercial VR technologies such as Samsung Gear and Oculus Rift has led to an increase in innovation, with a wide range of businesses developing VR games and industry-specific applications. 

Liz Falconer, Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the West of England in Bristol, who wrote the foreword for the report, says that while there are undoubtedly some negatives surrounding VR, there are plenty of positives too.  ‘The opportunities to learn safely from simulations in virtual environments before trying things out in the physical world; opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in activities and social events that would be restricted in the physical world; opportunities for people from different countries, religions and cultures to meet regularly and share experiences and understanding without having to travel to do so – all this, and more, makes me confident and excited about the future of VR.’ 

Rick Chapman, high tech sector specialist at Invest Bristol and Bath – the inward investment agency for the region which commissioned the report, said: ‘Without doubt, some of the more intriguing and leading edge applications of VR are to be found in industry. Training simulations in particular will drive interest across business sectors. The use of VR in fixed rather than mobile environments, where you’re not reliant on carrying a VR headset around with you, present exciting opportunities – from enhanced learning and training experiences through to informed buying decisions and immersive entertainment.  

‘Bristol and Bath is emerging as a one of the UK’s major centres for VR development with our mix of skills in programming, engineering, education, design, art, television, animation. Throw in the leading-edge work being done in the Bristol and Bath universities and it’s easy to see why there is a pool of talent here.  

‘This is a big opportunity for the UK and our region, which has all the right talent, facilities and people to make a real difference in this fast developing industry.’ 

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