The concept of virtual reality has been around for decades. In 1938, William Gruber and Harold Graves invented the View-Master, which was a stereoscope that became a popular toy in the decades that followed and is still manufactured today by the Mattel toy company. The View-Master may have been the first actual example of virtual reality app development. It allowed you to insert round photographic disks into the device which rendered in 3D when you looked through the lens.

Flash forward to the 1980s, when VPL Research founder Jaron Lanier coined the term “virtual reality.” Lanier had been working at Atari when he left to form VPL (Virtual Programming Languages) along with Thomas Zimmerman, the inventor of the data glove. VPR was one of the first virtual reality development companies and was eventually bought out by Sun Microsystems in 1999.

VR was thrust into the limelight again when Facebook acquired Oculus back in 2014. That launched a wave of startups developing new apps featuring virtual reality. Now virtual reality is becoming a part of our everyday lives. New VR games and mobile apps are being introduced on a daily basis. Retail stores are incorporating VR in both their brick-and-mortar stores as well as online.  

Today’s generation of consumers expects a company to not only have a website, but a mobile app as well. Now they’re expecting that mobile app to include a virtual reality feature.

Why get Into VR programming?

In addition to virtual reality game development, virtual reality programming has become much more common as several media and retail companies are incorporating the technology into their apps.

The New York Times added a virtual reality option to its mobile app in August of last year. The Times is utilizing VR to enhance its written context, branding the addition “stories without limits.”

In 2016, IKEA launched a virtual reality “kitchen experience” that allows the user to walk around a virtual kitchen by using a headset. While this was a pilot program at the time, the IKEA virtual experience has grown into the “IKEA Place” app, which now allows users to see any of the company’s products in their home using their mobile device.

VR development is also growing in demand for fashion and retail stores, automotive, and healthcare and education industries. As the popularity continues to increase, virtual reality will become a common feature for new mobile apps. Users will expect it and programmers and developers will be expected to deliver it.

How to get into VR

The best way to learn more about virtual reality is to attend one of the many trade shows throughout the year devoted to this type of technology. VRLA recently took place in Los Angeles and the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) features a track dedicated specifically to virtual and augmented reality.

Another way to immerse yourself in VR is to buy a good headset and download as many virtual reality games and apps as you can. There are several headsets to choose from, including Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, and Microsoft HoloLens.

There are numerous relevant books on the topic of virtual reality, including Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping the New Realityby Helen Papagiannis. You can also access a library of VR classes on Skillshareand other online learning websites.

Virtual reality is only going to continue its rise in popularity. It will become as common in our everyday lives as all of the smart devices were currently depend upon.

It’s important to start to think of virtual reality as the new mobile phones. Decades ago, we could not have possibly imagined a world in which we do everything we do today on our mobile devices.

Soon, we’ll be thinking the same way about VR.

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