Given Mark Meeker barely mentioned VR in her annual 2016 Internet Trends report this won’t be the year that virtual reality goes mainstream. It will however be the year VR takes its biggest step forward and you’re sure to hear more about the technology than ever before with big product launches from Oculus/Facebook, HTC/Valve and Sony.

The following article is curated from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/virtual-reality-in-2016-the-10-biggest-trends-to-watch/ and written by Erin Carson.

1. 2016 will be a learning year

First and foremost, 2016 will be an important year for broader audiences learning what virtual reality is in the first place. Some may not have ever heard of it. Some, may have only experienced it briefly, or in the form of Google Cardboard.

To this point, people have only imagined the value of VR in the consumer market. Whether VR will find a killer app or a most-popular use case remains to be seen, but there will be a developing sense of what people prefer to do with VR devices.

2. Mobile-driven VR will introduce many more to VR

2015 saw the beginning of the distribution of low-end virtual reality to the masses. The New York Times, Outside Magazine, and others delivered free Google Cardboard headsets to subscribers—who simply insert their smartphones to turn Cardboard into a head-mounted display. The New York Times alone mailed out 1.2 million Cardboard units. This will likely continue into 2016 in various forms, like the recent Lucasfilm/Verizon/Google partnership in which Star War-themed Cardboard headsets were available for free at Verizon stores.

 

Sitting above Cardboard is the Samsung Gear VR. The display is still a Samsung phone or phablet, but it does include sensors in the headset. As one of the first consumer HMDs to hit the market, it comes in at the relatively friendly price point of $99.

3. Get ready for bigger-budget content

Don’t expect VR movies just yet. But slowly more money is being thrown at VR content.

Already major motion pictures like Insurgent, Jurassic World, The Martian, andStar Wars have created VR experiences to supplement their marketing efforts.

DigiCapital estimates that the VR market will be about $30 billion by 2020.

4. There will be more hype

The role of the media can ultimately make or break a new technology.

If the media embraces it as positively it will have a halo effect.

At present tech influencer reviews are great, but only a limited number of people have them because of the price.

But, that won’t stop lots of companies and organizations feeling as though they have to jump on the bandwagon.

5. There will also be backlash

Backlash is just the way of the world. People who weren’t familiar with VR a month ago and now they are, will expect to be able to integrate all their devices and favourite content streams.

And if not a full-on backlash, then at least something of a calming, as the hype dies down and people remain somewhat satisfied with their usual YouTube viewing.

6. Interactivity will be increasingly important

Right now, 360 video largely gets billed as virtual reality. Eventually, though, audiences will learn to not only distinguish, but expect not to be passive observers of the medium as they are in television or movies. They’ll want to move around (literally, too, as seated experiences could fall in popularity) and interact with their surroundings.

Also relating to interactivity is the issue of controllers. When Oculus ships, it will ship with the Xbox One controller. The HTC Vive, on the other hand, will have hand controllers natively built for VR.

7. Diversity will improve, but will continue to be an issue

The video game industry has a rocky relationship with diversity. Because, by nature, virtual reality has an overlap with the video game industry, it will have to contend with some of the same problems, including how to figure how to attract more women and minorities, not only as consumers but content creators.

There is a conversation happening. Industry publications like VRScout and Upload VR have addressed the gender gap. At the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality conference this year, an audience member asked a panel including Oculus founder Palmer Luckey about efforts to get more minorities interested in creating VR, if only for the ability to produce better content, appealing to a broader swath of people. Luckey reiterated that most talent will come from the gaming industry. Yes, they’re mostly white males, and that’s just the way it is, he said.

 

8. Units will sell out, BUT…

When the Gear VR came out in November, the big story was that it sold out, even from Amazon. That’s a great headline to have after a product launch, but what’s unknown still, is how many units Samsung produced.

9. Adoption will still be dominated by early adopters

It is unlikely to expect a mass market response just yet. Rather, expect purchases from those interested and willing to spend their money on a technology that’s not necessarily a sure thing. They may have already tried VR, they may even have devices. They’re curious and they don’t mind experimenting. That extends to businesses, too, whether it’s big brands or not. Regardless, it’ll be companies with divisions—such as PR, marketing, and product development—that don’t mind being early adopters.

10. Don’t expect anything from Apple or Nintendo

Just don’t.

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