Fourth Industrial Revolution

4 ways virtual reality will change our lives

Participants at the Forum's Annual Meeting Image: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/ Monika Flueckiger

Andrea Stroppa
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Fourth Industrial Revolution is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Fourth Industrial Revolution

Most probably 2016 will not be “the year” of virtual reality (VR), but it will surely be a critical year to figure out how this technology will impact our future at many levels.

Even if nobody expects to see VR become a technology used by everyone any time soon, major high-tech companies are working hard on a variety of headsets and other gear, many of them scheduled to hit the market later this year.

VR is bound to affect many fields of everyday life, not just as a form of entertainment and pastime, but also as a tool to produce information, increase our knowledge, explore new places for both pleasure and business, and greatly improve consumer experience.

But some researchers are more cautious, preferring to adopt a sort of “let’s wait and see” approach. That is the case with researchers at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, whose director, Jeremy Bailenson, said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal: “I’ve basically been studying one central question: Does a VR experience change the way you think and behave? My answer typically is yes.”

In any case, according to many estimates, millions of VR devices will be sold in 2016 and this trend will continue, with up to 30 millions devices sold by 2020. Here are four things the technology could change over the next few years.

Source: OpticsGamer

1. An exciting new world for videogames

VR technology will certainly have an extensive effect on the videogame industry. Several leading companies are developing VR-only games and tools aimed at an eclectic fan base. Among those, Virtuix has created a platform (called Virtuix Omni) where you put on a headset and use a joystick to explore a “parallel world”. It will surely be great fun to play in a full VR environment.


According to SuperData, the VR gaming market will be worth $5.1 billion at the end of 2016.

2. New tools for creative newsrooms

The information industry is also a very promising sector for VR applications, and the New York Times has been the first major US daily to release its own VR app for mobile devices. Already available for Android and iOS, this app requires a Google cardboard device. After installing the app, you select a newspaper storyin which you can quickly find yourself fully immersed. The resulting experience can be described as a journey alongside the reporter who wrote the story, and the user can experience images in 3D while turning their head to decide exactly what to explore next.

Source: Google

According to the New York Times, users will experience “a new kind of video that gives you a sense of depth in every direction so you feel like you’re actually there”.


3. Travelling comfortably from your home

Speaking at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference last March, Mark Zuckerberg introduced his own VR project. In a video running on a large screen, a drone equipped with several video cameras allowed people to see Venice from above and to choose a complete 360° view of its monuments.


This is just one example of the many possible applications that tourism and travel industries are developing right now.

4. A completely new shopping experience

One of the most important VR contributions will be tied to the shopping sector, especially for handicraft and one-of-a-kind products. Potential purchasers will able to have an immersive storytelling experience, following the production process from beginning to end.

This promises to be an incredible experience for consumers, allowing them to appreciate products in a deeper and more genuine way. This will in turn lead to marketing strategies based on VR application, as a natural extension of the images and videos currently used in this field.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How the Internet of Things (IoT) became a dark web target – and what to do about it

Antoinette Hodes

May 17, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum