Just ten years ago, augmented or virtual reality seemed like science fiction to most people. Fast-forward to 2017 and products like the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard or Daydream, and Playstation VR,  are bringing virtual reality to the masses. While the technology is still in its infancy and the hardware is still a bit pricey, VR has been making great strides in recent years and is poised to completely revolutionize all forms of entertainment from video games to movies and even social media.

The entertainment industry isn’t the only one jumping on the VR bandwagon. Marketers in all industries are starting to plan for a future that’s heavily integrated with VR. As the technology comes down in price and becomes a mainstream tool, it will offer an incredible new distraction-free advertising venue.

One of the most important uses of VR that should continue to gain traction this year isn’t for entertainment purposes at all. Virtual reality technology offers astounding new teaching opportunities, especially in medicine. For more on that, and what else to expect from VR in the years to come, let’s examine 5 trends facing virtual reality in 2017.

A headset for everyone

Unless you’re an avid gamer or tech enthusiast, the Oculus Rift and Playstation VR are still a bit pricey. However, the Google Daydream is quite affordable as long as your phone is compatible. As time goes on and more phones are released “Daydream Compatible” the VR user base is going to explode. By the end of the year, the total number of VR users is expected to reach 90 million.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Those 90 million VR users we mentioned in the last paragraph, well, by 2018 that number will have nearly doubled, and by 2020 the virtual reality industry is expected to be worth upwards of $30 billion. Simply put, that’s a lot of VR hardware and content that’s going to need to be created. If you feel like your job is going nowhere, now may be the time to start learning about VR.

VR cinema now showing

Earlier this year, the world’s first VR cinema opened in Amsterdam. Patrons sit in retro bubble chairs that rotate 360°, and the entertainment is provided by a Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Gear VR, and a pair of Skullcandy noise canceling headphones. Admission costs €12.50($13.75) and each show lasts for roughly 30 minutes. As time goes on you can expect more of those cinemas to begin popping up across the globe.

Augmented healthcare

As I mentioned earlier, one of the more serious applications for VR technology is in medicine. Augmented reality tech can be used both in developing new treatment methods and training the next generation of doctors and nurses. Doctors have been working with video game developers to create games that teach you the fine motor skills necessary to perform surgery, but, without feeling like work at all. They’re also creating ultra-realistic models of the human body that give students the opportunity to explore our biology without the need for a cadaver. As developing these tools becomes less expensive, you can expect them to trickle into lower levels of education as well.

Facebook Spaces

Facebook has been a major supporter of VR tech for years now. They purchased Oculus in 2014 for $3 billion and launched Facebook Spaces last month. Facebook Spaces is Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of what all social media will be like in the future. However, the recent closing of the Oculus VR content studio tells us that future might be a bit further away still than he’d hoped.

 

Virtual or augmented reality technology is no longer reserved to the realm of sci-fi. It’s here, and as time goes on you can expect it to creep into more and more areas of our everyday lives. As we get better at blending our virtual environments with the real world and our headsets get smaller, it seems that VR will become an everyday necessity like the wrist watch used to be or our smartphones have become. While we may not know exactly what the future of VR has in store, one thing is certain, it’s an amazing time in the world to be a nerd.