The dawn of a new era is upon us — one of full immersion into the digital world. It’s an era that will be founded upon the technological revolution that’s been silently brewing for more than a decade. Our once-dreamed-up reality of wedding the digital world with the physical world is no longer the stuff of fabled fairytales; it’s happening, right here, right now.
Charging forward towards a world laced with virtual reality and augmented reality, there’s little in the way that can stop the technological machine. But what most people don’t realize is that we’re on the cusp of a new age where surfing the web will no longer involve the click of a mouse, or even the pressing of keys.
No, the world of the future is filled with tactile interactions with objects in the digital world much like we’ve experienced in the real world. And not just visual and audio-based interactions. This is that Matrix-esque future where you’ll be able to see, feel, hear, smell, taste and manipulate the digital world.
But before we get there, the next digital frontier in the future is now upon us. As virtual reality moves into the mainstream, not only will our interaction with the digital realm improve, but it will become far more immersive. This includes walking through digital worlds on a Playstation VR set and actually hearing a dragon swoop down in an attempt to kill you.
It also includes virtually touring through homes and apartments that we’re looking to buy or rent from halfway around the world, just as if we were right there. We can strut out onto the patio and listen to the sounds of the waves crashing ashore at a beachfront mansion or watch a sunset unfolding from a glitzy penthouse in the sky all without every leaving our homes.
And that’s just the scratching the surface of what the digital frontier has in store for us. And with each passing year, our science-fiction fantasies of yesterday will become fast-moving realities, unfolding right before our very eyes. We’ll be able to call upon digital personal assistants to scour the web, understand naturally-spoken foreign languages in real-time, and summon our vehicle to come pick us up and drive us to our next destinations.
Yes, the future is very much here.
The Rise of Virtual Reality
As headlines in the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) space call upon our attention more and more, we’re bearing witness to a revolution that’s unfolding before our very eyes. Those that take a foothold early on in this VR-AR race, will become very much the leaders of industry tomorrow much like companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google are leading the charge today.
However, as this technology transpires and reaches the mainstream markets, there are three particular industries that are set to be transformed at the outset. From real estate, to travel and gaming, we’re about to experience a digital revolution that will change the way we live, work and play, much like the internet did for us in the early 2000’s.
#1 — Real Estate
One of the biggest industries set to transform thanks to the power of virtual reality is real estate. Everyone knows that the biggest thing that holds them back from buying the perfect home is the difficulty in seeing enough of them firsthand. And with so many obligations and battling between time schedules for showings, it’s no wonder why.
Even when we’re presented with nice photos and video walkthroughs, it just isn’t the same thing as physically moving through the space yourself. You get the chance to peer around the corner, step outside and survey the neighborhood, and get a gut feeling for what it’s like to live in that home.
But imagine putting on a VR headset and doing just that. Even from halfway around the world. Maybe you want to buy a vacation home in Ibiza or an apartment in Paris. And you can tour those homes from the comfort of your very own home in New York City or Miami or Los Angeles. And you would get a true sense for it, as if you were physically present.
Today, one company that’s championing this technology is called Matterport. The company makes it easy to capture real-world spaces in 3D, while making them easily portable to virtual reality with an app. They provide a virtual scanning machine that’s reduced the cost of doing this type of three-dimensional construction by ten-fold.
Prior to Matterport, those looking to reconstruct a space in 3D had to spend upwards of $50,000 on laser-scanning equipment, and also had to endure excessively long scan times, extensive manual post-production work, and it needed to be viewed using specialized desktop software. Not anymore. Today, you can expect to pay less than 10% of that amount for a unit from Matterport and even tour the space from your mobile device or VR headset.
The company had a vision in 2011 to bring three-dimensional scans to the masses through affordable technology. What they didn’t realize was that they would be at the forefront of VR’s digital revolution occurring today. That vision, which started in 2011 by Matt Bell and Dave Gausebeck, both of whom studied computer vision at Stanford and later worked on a research team at Google, didn’t bear fruit until 2014.
However, it’s because of that vision and a recent Series C financing round of $30 million led by Qualcomm Ventures, that this vision is slowly becoming a reality. And it’s because of Matterport’s earth-shattering technology that VR is going to become commonplace in the real estate industry, giving realtors a cutting-edge over their competition and helping to deliver true value to the masses who might not have the time or opportunity to see every property in accordance with their schedules or geographic locations.
#2 — Gaming
Another industry set for a radical transformation is gaming. Gaming has become the beloved crown jewel of entertainment, with companies like Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation leading the charge. But, as real as games have gotten in recent years, they’re about to get far more real.
For quite some time, virtual reality games have existed. But the underlying technology hasn’t been up to par with what consumers have demanded and the price barrier was enough to make most potential consumers scoff. However, with Playstation’s PS4 VR slated for release on October 13, and a whole catalog of VR games set to hit the marketplace, thing are about change drastically.
According to Sony, there are 40 million PS4-capable consoles in homes in North America. Meanwhile, some of the largest franchises in the gaming industry have been busy creating games exclusively for the PS4 VR platform, and it’s clear that they’ll be both visually stunning and fully-immersive experiences.
While the military has used the VR application to train its troops for some time now, this is the first real foray into virtual reality for the masses. While platforms like Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, Gear VR and Oculus have made a small dent in the marketplace, it’s PS4’s soon-to-be-released VR headset that’s going to completely revolutionize this industry forcing competitors to play catchup.
#3 — Travel
One of the qualms people have about travel is that they never really know what they’re going to get before they arrive. Sure, they can rely on reviews through trusted sources, but that doesn’t always paint the full picture, especially when we’re not just talking about hotel rooms here.
With the rise of sites like VRBO, AirBnB and HomeAway, vacation rentals (or holiday lettings as they’re called abroad) have really taken off. However, while much of these companies act as general listing sites, they aren’t in control of the quality or able to personally vet their listings for the most part.
We’ve all heard the nasty story about vacation and villa rentals gone wrong. However, that’s all about to change with the introduction of virtual reality into the travel segment. When prospective tenants can tour, not only the interior spaces, but also the exteriors, in full virtual reality, little is left to chance.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every reservation will go off without a hitch. But it’s companies like eliteLYFE, a global leader in luxury villa rentals, that’s taking the charge here for bringing its VR platform to the marketplace. According to the company’s director of marketing, Justin Anderson, not only are they looking to revolutionize the luxury villa rental business, but also the superyacht and private jet business, two other primary channels the company operates in.
“We see a big transformation occurring today with the well-to-do jet-setters that make up our primary demographic. They want to really know the place that they ‘re getting. High-resolution photos and video, even walkthroughs and panos, don’t cut it anymore. People want to really get a feel for the place. And we found VR to be the perfect solution for this,” says Anderson.
But it’s clear that this company won’t be the first or only one to delve into VR in the travel space. But the applications are simply endless for what you can do with VR and just how much of an immersive experience you can convey to the client who might not be wholly convinced to plop down six or seven figures on a vacation, or any other product or service for that matter.