Insights From The Blog

The Biggest AR and VR Predictions of 2022

From the point of view of XR – the conglomeration of all virtual reality forms and devices – 2022 looks to be firmly focused on the metaverse, and how it will impact us all. Undeniably, this is going to be a big issue, but it isn’t going to be the only one, and while there will be much talk of the metaverse, there’s plenty of other stuff going on too, like:

The normalisation of VR. It’s still pretty much true that VR and its derivatives are still fairly niche, and only of use to technically-oriented sections of the community. But many industry pundits are pointing towards a greater spread of VR use amongst people who wouldn’t be seen at its natural users. Up until now, VR has been seen mainly as a gaming device, and by that measure, appeals to only the gaming sector of technology users, but never one to miss a trick, the huge international commerce industry understood the potential with the growing use of VR.

The Obsess AR experience, in which customers can browse and purchase from a series of stores in a virtual mall, is going mainstream, and already capturing the imagination of shoppers. Currently seen as a mobile phone AR experience, it isn’t going to be long before XR headsets take this a logical step further and make the notion more immersive. And once that happens, others will quickly follow suit. XR shopping is going to grow this year, and even non-niche users are likely to want to experience it, and pick up a headset to do so.

Social interactions. The different VR headsets are littered with social features where people can hook up and hang out, and they are becoming increasingly immersive. The really big plus point about these though is that, unlike physical hangouts, they are not localised, and allow people in different continents to meet up. Facebook experienced such enormous growth because it promised (and delivered) the potential for people to connect and reconnect with friends, family and even strangers from anywhere in the world. VR does the same thing, but with the added element of being in increasingly realist virtual environments where people can interact with avatars. Once the graphics has got a hold of the 3D modelling, social interactions in this way are going to skyrocket. Like shopping, this too will attract more non-natural users to VR.

Training. Be it corporate or school/college-based, the relative low-cost of VR equipment makes it an increasingly viable means of delivering training and educational content. It’s easy to construct content which can be delivered across borders and time zones, and allows users to pick it up at a time that is convenient to them. The way that we lead our lives is changing – even more so over the last two years with COVID – and we are having to adapt to how we approach different aspects of our lives. VR is a refreshing way to be with other people in training scenarios, but without actually being there. During the first stages of COVID, everyone was all about Zoom; this year, we are likely to see the start of XR devices taking its place.

Enhanced design functions. With freely available Apps like Gravity Sketch, Tilt Brush, and SculptVR, product and game design has become a serious topic in virtual environments, so much so that a growing number of serious design houses routinely use these tools. Strong visualisation, flexibility, and ease of use makes these tools perfect for everything from concept design to fully detailed products, ready for manufacture. The main advantages of these tools are the inherent visualisation that they bring right from the start. No need to continually render to see the results of your work, this is real-time design that can be shared with any number of other people as it is being created. By the end of this year, it’s likely that any serious design team not incorporating these tools is likely to be falling behind.

Travel experience for the masses. With travel disruptions and restrictions in place, global travel is, well, a bit more difficult, and that can have a profound effect on the mental wellbeing of many. Little wonder then, that many people are seeking out virtual experiences as a stop-gap alternative to actually being able to the real places. Having a virtual tour of New York or Hong Kong plainly isn’t the same as going there – yet – but it’s still early days and as VR systems mature, these immersive experiences will become more convincing and engaging, and are likely to completely replace paper brochures. Furthermore, these kinds of excursions will become the standard way to get to know an area before visiting it. Travel needs a big boost and VR systems are just the thing to do that.

Remote working. With many workers reluctant to get back to the office, VR is the major tool that can fill the gap in working from home while connecting. Most headsets have been uncomfortable to wear for longer periods of time. The original head strap that shipped with the Quest 2 was torturous after much more than 30 minutes, but as third-party designers have looked at the issue, much more comfortable alternatives are available. Similarly with the face pad; the original foam rubber job was a bit nasty and prone to making a person sweat, but newer silicon rubber ones are comfortable and sweat free. The Quest 2, like other headsets are comfortable and can be used for extended periods, so using them to connect with work colleagues is not only possible, but with the right apps, is actually a joy to use.

Up until now, VR – and increasingly AR – systems have been something for the fan-boys, but now, in 2022, their potential is expanding out of all proportion, and as it grows, more developers will try to integrate them. We’re not entirely sure how the year will pan out, but we know that it will be exciting!!