It is well known that 2016 has been dubbed “The Year of Virtual Reality.”

But it isn’t. At least, not quite yet. This may seem like a bold statement, riding on the heels of Sony’s E3 announcements regarding their Playstation VR. The company announced they would be releasing the headset October 13, with 50 games ready for play.

Why, then, preemptively discredit the appellation only halfway through the year after some very promising developments have just been announced?

Many critics of VR have written it off as a technology that will have its spot in the limelight before fading away to the background due to any number of reasons. Earlier this year, technology correspondent for BBC News, Rory-Cellan Jones, stated, “I suspect that, just as Microsoft found with its Kinect motion sensor, many gamers will see VR as no more than a gimmick.” Jones goes on to discuss the potential merit of VR in other fields such as therapy and psychological research.

Larry Hodges, Professor of Human-Centered Computing at Clemson University wrote an article for the Huffington Post recently in which he remarked, “If I peer into the future, I predict that Virtual Reality will continue to be a niche technology with a few important and successful applications that require immersion environments. Commercially, VR is not going to be the next Internet or smartphone.”

Why they are both wrong:

Our reasons for believing this is not the year of VR are less cynical than those reasons given by critics who anticipate a relatively swift stagnation in the technology’s impact on consumers and society overall.

The year of VR may not be this year or next year, but it is forthcoming. Virtual reality will reach its pinnacle when the technology is not only utilized for immersive gaming (such as is being done now with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR), but also for immersive video experiences.

Right now, there is a lot of untapped potential in the realm of virtual reality video and storytelling. Gaming is undoubtedly driving the demand for VR headsets in the home right now, but as companies start to realize the potential impact of VR on everyday life and business, the landscape will begin to shift.

Unlike the Kinect and other game devices which had their fleeting days in the sun, VR technology has already proven its functionality outside of gaming. It is this adaptability to various avenues that will enable VR to to become a permanent fixture of society.

Facebook has championed virtual reality, buying out Oculus VR, investing large sums of money in the technology, and making 360 video software more accessible to developers thereby encouraging the creation of VR content.

Facebook’s goal of using VR to create a more connected community rejects the claim that VR is a niche technology.

Greenfish Labs has been working hard to explore the technology’s capability to create compassion and empathy in its users through immersive storytelling. We have been successful in this endeavor in our work with nonprofit organizations such as Tree 4 Hope and Hope International.

While 2016 isn’t the year of VR, it is the beginning of an age of exploration for VR content creators.

Catherine Tershak

ctershak@greenfishlabs.com

As Content Strategist, Cate is responsible for creating, delivering, and optimizing written content across Greenfish Labs’ digital channels. Her primary responsibilities are writing on the Greenfish blog and across our social media platforms. Her skills in research help to keep Greenfish Labs one of the top thought-leaders in virtual reality.

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