2020 Vision: Experts Predict the Future of Virtual Reality


The inaugural Unity Vision VR/AR Summit just wrapped up, where 1,400 Unity developers converged on Hollywood to learn from some of the legends of virtual reality. During the event, six of these VR veterans took the stage to share their predictions for the state of virtual reality in the year 2020.

1. VR will be the new internet.

This from Mike Capps, former President of Epic Games and current advisor for the Vision Summit. He earned a PHD in virtual reality before Keanu Reeves’ performance as Johnny Mnemonic ruined VR’s early chances of survival, creating unmanageable expectations, and breaking his tender heart.

Johnny Mnemonic VR

But now he’s back, arguing that VR is going away once again. But not the tech. Not the content. He argues that ‘virtual reality’ isn’t even the phrase we’ll use to describe the medium in 2020 because it will be so much bigger than that.

2. You will spend your flights in virtual reality.

Instead of passing out cheap ear buds, Capps believes that by 2020, airlines will provide virtual in-flight entertainment systems for all passengers.

3. AR will beat VR.

Capps likened VR to the home theater. It’s really cool, but not where most people will spend their time. AR, he argued, will be as ubiquitous as the smart phone, always there when you need it.

Mike Capps Vision VR Predictions

4. There will be no MMO.

While he believes a massively multiplayer online simulation is coming eventually, Capps doesn’t think we’ll get a sniff it in the next few years.

5. Virtual reality will change the film industry.

George Bloom, an executive producer at CBS Digital, explained how he believes filmmaking will be radically changed by VR, from cutting crew costs, to fabricating sets and locations, and even AI actors. His presentation closely mirrored his TEDx talk from last year, including a hilarious interaction between two AI chatbots.

George Bloom VR Predictions

6. Parallax technology won’t be able to support augmented reality.

A conflicting prediction by Lytro’s CTO, Kurt Akely. He explained that three types of parallax are crucial for augmented reality: motion parallax, binocular parallax, and focus parallax. Akely believes we’ll have the first two solved, but that focus parallax will remain incomplete. You can learn more about how Lytro is tackling these problems on their blog.

Kurt Akeley VR Predictions

7. The space we’ll explore won’t be in the sky.

Phillip Rosedale, founder of Second Life and High Fidelity, explained why VR’s combination of a natural interface, unprecedented social interaction and freedom to move will leave us more interested in building, communicating, and exploring in virtual reality than we ever will in outer space.

Philip Rosedale VR Predictions

8. We will see a MMO game with a million subscribers.

In direct contradiction to Mike Capps, Jesse Schell predicted that we would, in fact have a massively multiplayer online game by 2020 with more that a million people playing it. He then asked any investors who wanted to fund it to line up next to the stage. I caught up with Schell afterward where he added that he was only kind of kidding. Schell Games wants to raise money for a VR MMO is the next one to two years.

9. The Divine Comedy will provide a model for successful VR storytelling.

Because virtual reality forces us to make decisions, storytelling becomes a really difficult thing. One way Schell believes it can be done is through a virtual companion guide. Just like Dante needed Virgil to take him to Hell, we’ll need guides to lead us through stories in ways that don’t break our sense of presence. He said “Having a guide with you through a film is going to be one of the key mechanisms directors use to blend the realms of VR and storytelling.” If that still doesn’t make sense, he suggests you go watch Russian Ark.

Jesse Schell VR Predictions

10. Robots will touch you in VR and you’ll like it.

They aren’t just going to be doing silly things for you in your home. You’ll have a crazy VR rig that includes a friendly touch robot to hand you your weapons.

11. Journalism will be forever transformed.

Nonny De La Pena, known by many as the Godmother of VR, spoke about how much journalism will change by 2020. That change will come as people like her continue to connect us to our virtual selves and others, and increase our ability to move around and impact virtual environments.

nonny de la pena vr predictions

About the Scout

Eric Chevalier

Eric Chevalier co-founded VRScout after a decade of content marketing in sports, entertainment and gaming. When he isn't sandy, Eric is scouring the streets of Los Angeles in pursuit of the best new storytellers from Hollywood to Silicon Beach.

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