If this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is any indication, 2016 will be the year that virtual reality (VR) finally makes its way into the mainstream. The show, which took place last week in Las Vegas, featured numerous VR products: Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR and Sony’s PlayStation VR, to name a few. While these stand-alone products wow audiences and propel the technology forward, the most practical and financially rewarding applications for VR deployment are likely to be those developed for smartphones.
Why smartphones? Thanks to the ubiquitous installation of 4G LTE chipsets within smartphones today, they have enough power to run VR applications. Furthermore, due to the fact that two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, a majority of consumers have already made the biggest investment necessary for deploying VR themselves.
Comparatively fewer consumers will have access to the emerging stand-alone VR products, due to their cost. Price tags will prove to be the differentiator for budget-conscious consumers. While emerging VR products that will be hitting the market this year range in price from $100 to $600, consumers can purchase Google’s smartphone-friendly cardboard glasses, compatible with thousands of VR apps, for just $20.
These simple cardboard glasses, equipped with 3-D lenses and compatible with both iOS and Android, platforms and are quick and easy to assemble. Furthermore, due to their relative affordability and the transformative power of LTE chipsets, smartphones are already disrupting the VR market across many verticals. In a recent story, doctors utilized Google Cardboard to map out a difficult heart operation in 3-D to save a baby’s life.
Google is also empowering younger generations by combining LTE-enabled smartphones with VR technology. Take, for instance, Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program. This landmark VR platform, built for classrooms, enables students to take virtual tours designed to supplement their curriculum. From deep space to deep sea adventures, students with smartphones and high-quality Internet connectivity can gain an unprecedented experience – and understanding – of different environments. Without LTE, to ensure continuous connectivity, the program itself wouldn’t work.
There are clearly countless opportunities across numerous verticals to empower LTE-enabled smartphones with VR applications. Serious gamers have the potential to immerse themselves more fully in interactive games, wherever they may be. Businesses have the opportunity to give more detailed product demonstrations to prospective clients. Looking further down the road, it may even be possible to combine VR applications with live-streaming technologies, such as Facetime or Skype. This could open the door for any smartphone owner to virtually see through the eyes of any movie star, astronaut or athlete.
While tremendous technologies were unveiled at this year’s CES trade show in the virtual reality market, the fact is that the most readily available access to this technology will be seen in the smartphone market. Keep in mind that beyond applications, cardboard and glass, the true prerequisite for VR deployment is LTE technology, as anyone with a smartphone will learn sooner rather than later.