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VR Trends that We Are Likely to See in 2023

I know that I don’t have to tell you how many days it is until Christmas, because you are no doubt counting them down yourselves, nor point out that just a week afterwards, it will be a new year, because you will know that too. But the fact is the new year is likely to be the time when technologies such as VR really start to take off, and become as ground-breaking as we know VR can be.

This year has seen greater user adoption, following the introduction of relatively low-cost equipment from Meta, along with improvements in graphics and sheer usability. The range of developer applications has grown and they have become easier for even the novice to use and, of course, the rise of the Metaverse. That’s all pretty big stuff, so what could the next year possibly bring that will make VR even better? Strap in; here are our (fairly well informed) predictions for what will be big in 2023.

Rise of VR Apps. This particular technology advance is going to be very popular over the next few years as people try to do more than just gaming with their headsets. The dependence of virtual reality on physical hardware is one of the most significant challenges facing the industry. A virtual reality headset is still prohibitively pricey for the average consumer. On the other hand, engineers are attempting to incorporate virtual reality capability into mobile apps by utilising the sophisticated hardware of smart devices. Developers will continue to integrate it into apps in order to provide end users with a mixed-reality experiences, even it will be some time before designers are able to produce an exceptional user interface design that makes the most effective use of VR technology. This will extend the usability of VR hardware, and make it more appealing to current non-VR users.

Easier Developer Tools. The process of developing VR solutions in a commercial setting has become more straightforward, and it is anticipated that this trend will continue into the new year. One reason for this is that the number of development businesses is growing at an exponential rate. In addition, developers themselves are able to work more quickly and effectively thanks to the leading tools they employ, such as the Unity and Unreal engines, that release important new features for virtual reality and expanding the medium’s capabilities more often than in the previous years. For example, Unreal Engine 5 has released support for OpenXR, which is a standard for simultaneously developing applications for different virtual reality devices. In the meantime, Unity is working to further expand its own VR capabilities. Therefore, a business that wants to include virtual reality into its online presence will have the ability to use a variety of headsets with the same software solution.

Increased VR in Retail Environments. Virtual reality is becoming more integrated into the training programmes of a rising number of companies. Virtual reality (VR) technology enables employees in the retail industry, for example, to immerse themselves in a virtual world where they are required to manage long lines of customers or shoppers who have crowded into the store. Because of this, there is no longer a requirement to disrupt the regular operations of the firm in order to train the entire staff. This strategy was utilised by Walmart in the United States to better prepare their personnel to serve Black Friday customers. The company has formed a partnership with the virtual reality software developer Stivr, which has also assisted in the training of NFL players using VR technology. An extensive employee-training exercise at Walmart included role-playing various real-life situations, delivered via VR. In this, the employees were presented with a series of scenes that had been created using computer-generated vision and asked to make decisions based on what they observed in those scenes. 

Leading grocery stores in the United Kingdom, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and Co-op, are currently employing VR to test possible environmental label systems in an effort to assist the food and grocery industry in moving toward a standardised system. During the course of the summer (2022), a test run of the new label forms was conducted, and going forward, customers of each participating retailer were asked to make purchases in a simulated store before providing their feedback. The technology was used to evaluate the level of environmental awareness among consumers as well as the readability of environmental labels. They also investigated the many ways in which information is conveyed at the point of sale. Following the success of Walmart, many UK grocers are likely to take up similar training programs – and don’t forget, Asda is a part of the Walmart group.

Cross-Developer Cooperation. The Metaverse Standards Forum was established in 2022 with the intention of providing guidance to worldwide standards agencies regarding the process of standardisation development to support an open metaverse. The names of its members read like a who’s who of the extended reality business. They also include significant internet, telecom, and professional service firms. It is likely that the first application of conclusions from the group in the process of developing this emerging space will almost surely take place in the year 2023. The tentative partnership between Meta and Microsoft, which will bring the productivity capabilities of the latter company to the table, is the aspect of the unveiling of the Quest Pro that stands out the most. According to the company, on the one hand, this constitutes another data point among many others that have been gathered this year, which suggests that Microsoft is re-evaluating the HoloLens augmented reality gadget programme. On the other hand, it is an early datapoint that suggests a growing trend in collaboration between major VR players and it speaks to the actual “unite or die” dilemma of developing an interoperable Metaverse.  

Although Apple is conspicuously absent from the list of Forum members, the fact that ByteDance does not also appear to be a member is potentially more interesting. In August 2021, the company that would later become known as the driving force behind the major social media disruptor TikTok purchased the VR headset manufacturer Pico, and it has now begun to market its Pico 4 headgear to consumers in Europe. With a growing number of hardware manufacturers now choosing to collaborate out in the open, the notion of a well-structured Metaverse is growing, and is likely to gel into a much more cohesive structure over the next year.  

While we are still in the early stages of the development of the Metaverse, the technology is now well tested, and the next step is likely to be mass uptake and integration of VR technology in everyday environments. This, together with a growing ease in the development of VR Apps and content make for exciting times. The real Metaverse starts in 2023.