Where Are We At With VR These Days?

Click The Arrow For The Table Of Contents
Man and woman playing game with virtual reality headset in dark room

In this insight, we look at where Virtual Reality (VR) is now, plus what predictions exist for its future. 

Potted History

Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated and fully immersive experience that obscures the natural world used for entertainment, education, and business. The first VR headset / head-mounted display (HMD) dates back to 1960, and General Electric produced the first computerised flight simulator in 1972. In the more modern Web era, 2014 saw Facebook buying Oculus technology for its VR technology and launching Google Cardboard, PSVR and the Samsung Gear VR. Things started to take off for VR from 2016/17 onwards, and the (augmented/virtual reality) AR/VR headset market was reported to have grown by 92.1 per cent year-on-year in 2021 compared to 2020, with half of the sales in the 4th quarter of 2021. This made 2021 the first year since 2016 where this level of growth was experienced. 

The prediction is that the global market size of AR and VR is forecast to smash the $30.7 billion market size of 2021 and rise to $296.9 billion by 2024 (Statista, 2021). 

Examples of VR Use

Some examples of the current and developing use of VR include: 

– Entertainment, such as VR headsets being used for gaming and virtual sports, games, and competitions. 

– Saving money for car manufacturers, e.g. BMW and Jaguar Land Rover, allows engineers to experiment with the look and build of a vehicle before commissioning expensive prototypes. 

– Healthcare professionals use VR to prepare and train for operations. 

– VR shopping experiences, e.g. The Metaverse Fashion Week (hosted by Decentraland on 24 March), where visitors could virtually experience fashion shows from global brands, attend virtual live music sessions at branded after-parties, and buy and wear digital clothing directly from catwalk avatars. Some see the future as using body-scanning technology and trying-on clothes in the virtual world to see what they’d look like before buying. 

– Estate agents offer 3D VR property viewings, and architects and interior designers use 3D models of buildings/houses, which can be viewed and experienced by customers wearing 3D headsets. 

– Platforms like Glue, Arthur and Meeting Room enable VR events, conferences and meetings.  

– Law enforcement agencies use VR to train police in handling different situations played out through simulated interactions with people. 

– VR is also being used in online gambling environments, attractions (visiting museums and galleries virtually), fitness (VR fitness apps and headsets), education, etc. 

Meta / Metaverse

VR is already used for social activities such as exploring and creating immersive content for each other in the ‘metaverse’/VR space, e.g. Meta’s Horizon Worlds, AltspaceVR and Horizon Worlds.  

In November 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was grouping its apps and technologies under the new company brand name ‘Meta’. As a result, users would soon be able to experience a unique, immersive VR metaverse. This had already begun with Horizon Worlds (launched via invite-only in beta in 2020), a free, virtual space app built with the Horizon creation tools. Users (over 18 and in the US and Canada) can create their avatar, explore, work with others, develop and play their games and activities, and play Meta’s base game. In addition, the user’s legless, floating avatar can fly around the virtual world and assemble a custom digital environment from building blocks and use pre-made code snippet scripts to set the rules for the games they create. 


Although VR seems to have started taking off in 2021, with substantial growth predictions for the future, some of the challenges include: 

– The relatively high cost of the hardwaresoftware, and development. 

– The need for education and training, e.g. for business use of VR. 

– Dealing with possible new legal and acceptable behaviour issues with VR. 

– Possible health and insurance implications of using VR, such as injuries (e.g. people walking into things whilst wearing a headset), motion sickness, accidents, and property damage. For example, in February, Insurer Aviva revealed figures showing that accidental damage caused by VR headset-wearing gamers caused a 31 per cent jump in home contents claims in 2021. 

– Ethical issues, e.g. VR immersion, can be isolating and could lead to problems readjusting to the real world. 

– The need to make VR experiences better and even more immersive. For example, a team at Carnegie Mellon University have added ultrasound waves to a VR headset to give users a sensation in their mouths. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The leisure and fitness use of VR received a big boost over the pandemic with people looking for entertainment and novel ways of exercising while at home. VR, however, has been proving its worth for businesses for several years now, e.g. in the automotive industry, architecture and design, virtual tours and virtual meetings. For many companies, VR solutions targeted to fix a specific business problem are affordable and don’t require too much training to use, which would make them more attractive. Predictions for the growth of VR and AR are very promising, and although there are challenges, this is very much a growth area that is still in its early stages. Facebook/Meta’s announcing its ‘metaverse’ has also gone some way to bringing the idea of VR and immersive digital experiences and their possibilities into the wider public consciousness. Therefore, VR experiences and business tools are likely to be ways to boost business strengths and develop opportunities in the future.