With tech giants and small startups alike investing more time and money in cranking out immersive experiences, technology is set to allow us to interact with computers through gestures, emotions, gazes and through consoles producing alternative reality.
According to a report by market intelligence firm IDC, spending on products and services related to augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR) will soar from $9.1 billion in 2017 to nearly $160 billion in 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 113.2%.
With HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR and Pokémon GO taking the world by storm, we already know the power these technologies can wield. And these technologies look set to improve further in 2018, riding on these trends:
1) Incorporating more senses into VR
As of now, VR takes over vision and hearing only to deliver immersive experiences. Experts predict that 2018 will see more senses being incorporated into VR. For instance, Tokyo-based Vaqso designed an odour-emitting attachment for VR headsets.
Also, experts believe 2018 will expand the number of tools in VR to help people create as well as publish content without much effort, Facebook Spaces being one example.
2) An efficient way to render graphics in VR
According to e27, a tech media platform, foveated rendering is going to change the way graphics are rendered in VR by focusing on whatever the player is actually seeing, and moving the rest into the background.
3) Shopping and advertising in VR
We have all got used to shopping online, but imagine a 3D digital representation of yourself called 'avatar shopping' and trying out new clothes at a virtual mall – game-changing, right?
Widespread application of VR in commerce is expected this year as immersive 3D experiences get better at grabbing your attention.
In November 2016, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd had introduced VR shopping to its customers across China, attracting more than 30,000 shoppers in two days and eight million users in a week.
Since most people will spend time in VR, marketers would like to grab the opportunity for placing advertisements.
Moreover, VR advertising could take the easy road of integrating or using the user's social media profile for targeted advertisements.
4) Augmented reality will go mainstream
Since augmented reality (AR), unlike virtual reality (VR), doesn't need very expensive and complicated hardware, experts believe the technology can go mainstream via phones and tablets.
Apple has already taken the first step towards this, by introducing ARCore and ARKit to encourage development of AR apps for its devices.
In recent months, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA launched its flagship AR app to help potential buyers engage with furniture in an new way.
The IKEA Place app allows consumers to fix 3D furniture objects within their homes using the camera of a smartphone or a tablet.
Ixigo, a company in the travel space, has also integrated AR capabilities into its app.