Back in 1992 – I won't let you know how old I was, but let's just say I was young enough to be playing video games at a bowling alley – I had my first experience of virtual reality. It was a Harrier Jump-jet simulator, and it was terrible. The headset had flickering screens that made my eyes ache, and the graphics were so abysmal it would have been more accurate to have been named Nothing-at-all-like Reality. Back then, Virtual Reality (VR) was promised as being the 'next big thing' in consumer tech. It wasn't. Computers just didn't have enough power to fuel a truly 'virtual' reality experience; the average PC had a fraction of the capabilities now available on the cheapest laptops; and mobile phones were overweight, expensive and they were, well, just phones. These days we still have mobile phones, but they're 'smart' and are more like hand-held computers than phones, and we use them as such. 

Now, Virtual Reality is back, and this time (I promise) it looks like it might actually have some real impact on our tech-immersed lives...or our life-immersed tech. There's a host of new devices and software on the brink of being available to the mass market, designed to sync with our smartphones. Effectively, VR-smartphone tech has the potential to sync up with our own lives, embedded as smartphones are in the everyday human experience. Perhaps the most compelling (or concerning) aspect of VR's second coming is how much money is being poured into it from web giants like Facebook and Google – who are as ubiquitous as the aforementioned smartphones themselves. Google has already made 360˚ VR video available on Youtube, opening it up to a gigantic global audience. They have also released Google Cardboard, a cheap way to have a relatively good VR experience and although the uptake is slow, it's likely to spawn ever more advanced iterations. Perhaps, in a few years, we will be speaking to holographic projections of our Facebook friends in a virtual cafe, whilst taking a break from browsing a virtual superstore. 

In the shorter term, VR coupled with smartphones and augmented/virtual reality hybrids like Microsoft's Hololens will be another way to experience our digital landscape. Be it through gaming, retail experiences, corporate training videos, or 360˚ video, VR will be an exciting new world to explore.

Find out a more about VR technology and how it might influence the world we live by clicking the link below.