In 2017, Someone Will Spend a Month in Virtual Reality

Right now, virtual reality is limited to short experiments and quick games, but HTC Vive’s China regional president thinks that’s all about to change.

Speaking this week at the Unity Vision Summit in Beijing, Alvin Wang Graylin outlined 20 VR predictions for the next two years. The most startling is a bold claim that, at some point in 2017, someone will spend 30 days inside virtual reality without any breaks.

Graylin is the latest to predict extended periods of VR immersion. In October, Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash predicted something similar, claiming that “augmented VR” would lead to new workspaces where people could create virtual desktops inside their room.

Unlike augmented reality, where natural light passes through a lens, augmented VR would use a camera to provide a view of the real world, allowing easier use in everyday life while enhancing the immersion sometimes broken with A.R. technology.

Graylin and Abrash are talking about radically different timeframes, though. Abrash thinks that these advancements are around five years away, while Graylin believes that by 2018 employers will start to offer “work from home” virtual reality programs.

Graylin's 2017 predictions for VR and AR.

Graylin's 2018 predictions for VR and AR.

There are plenty of roadblocks that need to be overcome first. Graylin points to better displays, faster networks, and a more natural user interface as some of the roadblocks that need resolving if VR is to reach the mainstream. On the interface front, Microsoft has been making great strides to build a universal virtual interface, through the Windows Holographic shell. Initially limited to the HoloLens, Microsoft has big plans to expand out and get the system running on a number of third party headsets.

The first person to spend a month in VR might do it more as a cool stunt than for any practical applications, but it’ll still be interesting to see how they adjust to the real world afterward. Will it be like when astronauts go to space and they re-adjust to Earth life when they return? Or more like a marathon gaming session where your eyes feel a bit funny for a while afterward?