One of the hottest topics in the world of technology is, of course, virtual reality, with lots of work being done particularly in gaming, with Oculus and Play Station leading the way.
The development of VR is undeniably exciting and fun, but exactly what kind of impact is it set to have upon product development?
First, let’s briefly explain the technology behind VR.
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality is technology which replicates an environment and places the user inside it, allowing them to interact with the environment for a full sensory experience.
It’s certainly not a new development but seems to have found its niche within the gaming community, where Google and Samsung have both begun producing their own VR gaming goggles.
The more advanced Oculus Rift enhances the experiences even further with handheld controllers, integrated VR audio and 110˚ field of vision.
While the Google technology uses a smartphone, the Oculus Rift instead is based off a PC engine.
Of course, this technology all comes at a price, although VR is quickly becoming more affordable and it seems like the industry is growing, with over 200 million headsets expected to be sold by 2020.
But what exactly does all of this mean for product design?
The impact on product development
Because of the very high development costs, we’ve yet to see VR implement in many ways within business.
However, this is always the case with new technology, as it goes through ‘high cost, low adoption’ curve.
But we have seen some early examples. For example, Ford have been testing their vehicles using Oculus Rift to show them things from the driver’s point of view, while NASA have been allowing scientists to create detailed maps of the surface of Mars allowing them to assist with operations planning and collecting data.
In medicine, VR technology is being used in a range of ways, including allowing to effectively see inside a patient’s body to make a diagnosis.
It is also being used in exposure therapy for those with phobias and PTSD, allowing patients to experience things within a controlled environment.
VR could also even be used in the tourism sector, to allow holidaymakers to see and experience potential destinations before going.
This could definitely be adopted within product prototyping, allowing designers and clients to literally see inside the product they’re designing, and really test every nook and cranny of the design during the prototyping phase.
We spoke to Cambridge Design Technology who told us: “We’re really excited to see the evolution of VR, in particular in product design and development.
“There are endless ways in which VR could be applied and we’re keen to see how VR could integrate into the design cycle in the future. It’s entirely possible that virtually anything could be a reality.