When virtual reality (VR) first appeared 30 years ago, its capabilities fell vastly short of its 1990s sci-fi movie promise. VR was an outstanding idea that needed to lie dormant until the world was truly ready for it. In 2017, the technology has finally caught up to the concept and VR is beginning to take shape.
Software developers are turning their attention to augmented reality (AR) applications, 3D development platforms, Google Daydream, and Facebook (as a result of its purchase of Oculus). Students pursuing a Masters Degree in Software Development are positioned to become extremely valuable commodities in the province of virtual reality.
Where VR Is Headed
Thanks largely to the unexpected success of the augmented reality game Pokémon Go in 2016 and the rising popularity of smartphone headsets, VR and AR are now the biggest up-and-comers in the tech world.
Yariv Levski, CEO of the VR development company AppReal, offers a brief synopsis of major VR advancements expected in the next year or two in his blog post “15 Virtual Reality Trends We’re Predicting For 2017”:
- Headsets – VR headsets will continue to increase in popularity as more players enter the market. Facebook/Oculus, Google, and Samsung are already competing and Intel, Apple, and Amazon are poised to enter the market soon.
- Haptic Feedback – Until recently, VR technology focused on our visual and auditory senses. Haptic feedback systems will simulate the sense of touch through gloves or other wearable devices.
- 3D Engines – Unity and Unreal will expand their capabilities as more software developers turn to 3D engines. CryEngine and Coppertube will also continue to grow, and the major VR players may decide to develop their own proprietary 3D engines.
- Social Activities – Social networking activities will see more inclusion of VR technology soon. Videos with 360-degree capability are now fully VR-ready on both Facebook and YouTube.
- Entertainment – While it may be a while before Hollywood makes a full transition to VR glasses in lieu of the silver screen, this year saw the first virtual reality theater open in Amsterdam.
- Wireless – A major issue with VR has been battery life. “Apple is partnering with a company called Energous on a breakthrough wireless charging solution that will allow the next generation of iPhones to charge from across a room,” claims AR expert Joe Bardi in his blog post, “5 Top Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Technology Trends For 2017,” on Marxentlabs.com. “The tech exists, and if Apple really does roll out what Energous has developed, it would instantly create a new product ecosystem around wireless charging.”
And VR won’t just limit itself to smartphones, video games, and entertainment. Advanced VR training programs are springing up everywhere, especially in those industries where VR can duplicate expensive or dangerous training scenarios.
Even the sports industry will benefit from VR technology, as can already be seen in professional drone racing.
Developers Be Prepared
As the VR industry grows, so will its need for qualified developers. These vacancies will need to be filled with competent developers with a working knowledge VR and AR.
“Gaining the knowledge you need to do work in VR and then demonstrating your skills with small self-driven projects is the best way to show a potential employer what you’re capable of doing,” explains VR developer Adrienne Hunter in the article, “How To Get A Job In VR” on VirtualRealityPop.com. “There’s no need to work for anyone else for free – you can tailor your own learning experiences to the projects you want to work on.
“Hands-on experience building VR prototypes on your own (or with a group of people) might be the most time-consuming approach, but right now it is also the fastest way for anyone in any discipline to get hired.”
Hunter also points out that students and working developers wishing to make themselves more marketable in the VR industry should:
- Spend extra time working with Unity and Unreal 3D engines. A background in C++ and C#, along with experience working with spatial environments, even in two dimensions, would also be advantageous.
- Learn about topics such ad embodied recognition, spatial processing, cognitive load, proprioception, human factors, and ergonomics.
- Get as much experience as possible using 3D animation tools, including Blender or 3DS Max, and practice importing 3D assets into a 3D engine.
- Spend time learning about 3D audio spatialization and the physics of sound since most virtual reality includes an audio element.
Other skills that might be of interest to VR employers are storytelling and narrative design, web VR, and experience using VR equipment from the perspective of a consumer. In other words, buy some VR stuff and get used to using it.
The Jobs Are Out There
The applications for VR technology are limited only by imagination and a shortage of qualified developers. VR and AR can be used for everything from urban and environmental planning to mass casualty training, therapy, and, of course, gaming.
Oculus is pushing for a VR/AR social platform “providing a sense of individual presence. Being able to see, hear, and interact with other people provides an unlimited source of enjoyment and memorable experiences,” according to developer Mike Howard’s Oculus blog post, “Social Platform Series: Avatars And Sharing For Mobile Apps.”
The skills that developers need to achieve this goal include making apps easy to discover, connect to, and share. The experience itself also has to be engaging enough to bring people back for more.
Several companies are already offering large-scale, professional VR services to individual and corporate clients.
ExxonMobil has contracted EON Reality, Inc. to develop a 3D immersive training program to improve its field training. Cubicle Ninjas offers VR services such as virtual product tours and presentations, tourism applications, healthcare tools, and educational events and trade shows.
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15 Virtual Reality Trends We’re Predicting For 2017 – https://appreal-vr.com/blog/15-virtual-reality-trends-2017/
5 Top Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Technology Trends For 2017 – http://www.marxentlabs.com/5-top-virtual-reality-augmented-reality-technology-trends-2017/
How To Get A Job In VR – https://virtualrealitypop.com/how-to-get-a-job-in-vr-fff5c9d56a13
Social Platform Series: Avatars And Sharing For Mobile Apps – https://developer.oculus.com/blog/social-platform-series-avatars-and-sharing-for-mobile-apps/
ExxonMobil Immersive 3D Training Environment – https://www.eonreality.com/portfolio-items/immersive-3d-training-environment/?portfolioCats=157%2C333%2C327%2C609%2C726%2C621
VR For Business – https://cubicleninjas.com/virtualrealityapplicationdevelopment/