Extended reality trends are key to understanding where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are heading. As the metaverse and extended reality (XR) mature, our learning will occur both in the real world and the digital one. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse is “an embodied Internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at.” Let’s review some extended reality trends that help us identify the possible future that lies ahead.
Extended Reality Trends, No. 1: Continued Strive for Full Immersion Through Hardware Development
When it comes to virtual reality, one term you constantly hear is “immersion.” Once you enter a VR space, you find yourself inside of a new world – with some limitations. Some examples include your space, lack of hand versatility, and dissociated bodies.
Full immersion is the point when we feel completely inside the virtual world we visit. The film The Matrix presents an extreme version of this in which we don’t realize the world is a simulation. That is not the goal but we may reach a period of full immersion where we remain in full control.
How do we create this fully immersive world, you might ask? It all comes down to the equipment we use when entering the metaverse. Manufacturers today are developing products at a fast pace to give you a fully immersive experience.
Headsets and Other Visual Components
Headset Design Improvements
Today’s leading VR headsets are lighter and less obtrusive than those of the 80s and 90s when virtual reality gaming and training was first attempted. Extended reality trends show VR headset fit and weight will continue to improve.
Oculus Quest 2
The Oculus Quest 2 is lighter compared to early VR headsets but it can still leave a lasting impression. Writer Ben Klemens – who now writes in VR – explains this in an article for Wired.
“One day about three months after I started working from VR, my podcast cohost came by, so I had to jack out after several hours with this headset strapped to my face. My forehead was numb. She said, ‘You look like you’ve been punched in the face.'”– Ben Klemens
The slim headsets we see in Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation of Ready Player One make the Oculus feel like a full-size helmet. Even though it’s a work of fiction, the headsets in the film are not impossible. Panasonic, in cooperation with Shiftall, announced the MeganeX VR headset. The headset weighs only eight ounces and is roughly the size of a pair of sunglasses.
Sony Playstation VR2
Another company pushing extended reality trends is Sony. Thanks to Sony’s CES announcement, the Playstation VR2 is quickly becoming one of the most anticipated products of 2022. Sony’s Senior VP of Platform Experience, Hideaki Nishino promises “players will feel a heightened range of sensations unlike any other – thanks to the creativity of the game worlds being built by our world-class developers, and the latest technology incorporated into the hardware.”
This hardware includes a 110-degree view and inside-out tracking with cameras built into the headset to track player movement. In addition, advanced eye-tracking will detect the motion of players’ eyes while in gameplay. Other features include headset feedback and 3D audio.
Mojo Vision could very well be on the verge of taking us to a whole new world. The San Francisco start-up is currently developing contact lenses equipped with AR technology. Think back to the early days of Google Glass, when one of the loudest criticisms was having to wear glasses all day to get an augmented reality experience. You could say the Mojo Lens is a product of that very critique.
Improving or Completely Replacing the Controller
Controllers, like headsets, are also constantly improved. But if the goal is full immersion, don’t we already have the perfect controller in our hands? Oculus Quest controllers include sensors to simulate your hands while the buttons and triggers provide additional responsiveness and control.
Ditching the controller altogether, or combining it with improved hand-tracking will make VR and AR better for non-gaming applications like education and workplace training.
Tactglove by bHaptics offers touch feedback for a more realistic multi-sensory experience. The gloves give users the sense of touch through its ten Linear Resonant Actuators. This same dexterity and responsiveness can help in training for industries like health care and others requiring precision handling.
Convince Your Feet They Are No Longer in Your Living Room
One of the biggest obstacles to full immersion is the area in which you stand. Even if your eyes and hands take you into the metaverse, your feet can only roam so much before you trip over your dog or knock over a lamp.
Perhaps the one solution to this problem is a treadmill that allows a full 360-degree rotation. Experienced gamers have no doubt seen one of these. Once strapped in, you can fully immerse yourself inside the game or event of your choosing. The trouble with VR treadmills is the space they take up.
Another company taking on this challenge is EktoVR. The company’s mission is to offer a more realistic training environment. Their approach is to attach a special set of boots to your feet.
The Ekto One Simulator boots give your feet sensations to match the virtual environment. Equally, your movement in the virtual space matches your steps in the real world. You’ll feel like you’re moving even though the boots keep you in place.
Bring the Body Into the Metaverse
Thanks to advancements in haptic technology, we will soon physically feel what occurs to us inside the metaverse. The Teslasuit is designed to provide sensations from virtual reality spaces onto your own body. Think of punches to the body in a fighting game or feeling squeezed when you get a virtual hug. Currently, one of these suits costs $20,000 but it wasn’t that long ago that virtual reality headsets were out of the reach of the average consumer.
Extended Reality Trends, No. 2: Stores Take AR Phone Apps In-Store
Full immersion may be some time away as hardware continues to improve but you can expect retail to lead extended reality trends in 2022. Manufacturers and resellers used augmented reality apps to demo their products in use before purchase. Furniture manufacturers also used the technology to place their couches right in your living room.
Expect clothing retailers to bring that technology out of the phone and into stores. For example, Ralph Lauren installed virtual mirrors in fitting rooms across their stores and claim the mirrors have a 90% engagement rate. The mirror provides information like available sizes, colors, complementary products, and store availability.
Extended Reality Trends, No. 3: Education Continues to Turn to VR for a Hands-On Experience
Human beings do not actually learn from memorizing facts and data but rather by putting concepts into practice. Here at Edstutia, we take a “learn by doing” approach to all our training modules. We also recognize one of this year’s key extended reality trends is that more organizations will look to train children and adults this way.
Home-Schooling Will Never Be the Same Again
Until 2020, the majority of people didn’t grasp the idea of their children attending school from home. Now that practically all parents have faced this ordeal, many are asking if there is a way to continue to protect their children’s health while keeping the social benefits that come from attending school with other people.
One school looking to move children into the metaverse is the Optima Classical Academy. The Florida charter school plans to provide 1,300 Oculus headsets for students to begin a VR curriculum in August 2022. This program will be tuition-free and will enable children to interact with each other and communicate as they would in a real classroom.
Time is one of the largest obstacles for ongoing adult education. You already have full-time jobs and commuting to a campus to take one course is too time-consuming. A virtual campus with hands-on instruction can make lifelong learning possible for many of us.
Extended Reality Trends, No. 4: On-The-Job Training Goes XR
Several companies and organizations now use virtual environments for personnel training.
Walmart employees receive training in VR to simulate the customer service experience. Heather Durtschi, Senior Director of Learning, Content Design, and Development at Walmart, explains it like this: “It’s about having the experience of putting myself in [someone else’s] shoes before it even happens.”
Walmart is not the only company using VR for training. Bank of America, BMW, and FedEx use virtual reality to train employees on opening accounts and customer service, design and prototyping, and package loading methods, respectively.
XR training doesn’t stop at consumer-facing companies. Law enforcement agencies have also entered the metaverse. VR simulations put officers in high-stress situations without risking serious injury.
FLAIM offers a fully immersive training system for firefighters. The system consists of a headset, a heat suit equipped with haptic tech and temperature control, a backpack and breathing apparatus to capture fatigue and breathing patterns, and a hose and nozzle that provide accurate resistance when used in the simulation. Together, this system is a marvel of extended reality that shows us the future that lies ahead.
Raytheon Technologies is a leader in manufacturing for the aviation, space, and defense industries. After using VR in training for years, Raytheon now offers a training system that enables “trainees to interact with items in their actual environment while still immersed in a virtual reality environment.”
Extended Reality Trends, No. 5: Hybrid Trade Shows Evolve from In-Person and Desktop Experiences
Each time we think trade shows are ready to return to in-person as they used to be, we’re hit with another variant that forces us to rethink trade shows altogether. Up to now, the COVID trade show experience has been split between in-person with safety guidelines (masks, testing, space between booths) and digital experiences from your laptop, desktop, or phone. These digital experiences include watching keynote speeches, presentations, and panels, plus accessing published data, PR, and other media manufacturers provide for the shows.
Enhanced In-Person Experience
Trade shows have the ability to go beyond the present hybrid show and move into XR. For in-person guests, manufacturers and show organizers can rely on AR displays for information on the show floor, enabling customers to view and analyze products without handling them. Visitors can also pull up information right on their phones by pointing to certain areas of each booth or event.
Immersive At-Home Experience
If you choose to catch the show from home, organizers can create a convention center in VR, enabling users to walk the show as they would if they were there. Users can see products, watch live presentations, and even speak to sales and marketing personnel. There’s no need for at-home users to feel deprived of the full trade show experience. Even an after-hours venue for drinks and networking is possible.
Extended Reality Trends Wrap-Up
Thanks to advances in hardware and software, 2022 is poised to become the year VR and AR create a new extended reality for a large segment of consumers. The metaverse will take shape as headsets slim down, our entire bodies gain access to virtual worlds, and developers create vital shared experiences. Before long, spending large portions of our days in XR will be the norm rather than a social experiment.
If you are interested in learning more about extended reality, Edstutia will offer a full-time track entitled, XR Application and Development. Additional options will include the Virtual Reality module and Intro to the Metaverse module. Contact Edstutia for more information on extended reality and other exciting in-demand modules offered on our fully virtual campus.