The third generation of virtual reality is imminent with early-2016 consumer product launches of both Rift and Vive. This generation's stack of tech (rendering, optics, display, tracking) is about to hit a sweet spot between affordability and immersion, helping our brain blur the boundary between simulation and reality.
Some of the next big technologies will be toward virtual embodiment and presence. Social, collaborative virtual reality is a clear next step, but future platforms will need to support full-body tracking and better controller design and haptics. Everything needs to be much cheaper, too.
And then: HMD personalization. After all, head mounted displays are wearable & intimately personal devices. While demo subjects blissfully don grungy headsets at public events, human factors including comfort and hygiene need to become central points of optimization.
Human anatomy has too much variation in head geometry including size, eye location, and ear shape to make a one-size-fits-all model viable. Current headsets do an OK job, but still there are many features requiring fundamental customization.
Imagine a future where you schedule an appointment with a Virtual Reality Metrologist. At their office, they scan you with sub-millimeter accuracy and use a 3D reconstruction to custom fit the primary face-device assembly. By downloading a prescription from a recent visit to an ophthalmologist, an automated optics printer manufactures perfect micro-lenses for the varifocal assembly. Using high-resolution ear and head data from the scan, a compute cluster crunches a personalized HRTF for enhanced spatial audio.
Two hours later, the HMD is assembled from a variety of modules with personalized features and custom material and design choices.
Two weeks later, the new HMD is so comfortable and natural that you only eat virtual sushi for three days in a row and nearly starve to death. It was a great idea to upgrade the AI module of your assistant, since they noted this experience and automatically tasked a shopping drone to deliver a Chipotle burrito bowl at least once a day.