In today's WSJ, there's a column by Christopher Mims on Virtual Reality: "Virtual Reality Isn't Just About Games". As the title implies, he makes the case that 3-D Immersive VR, while starting in games, will prove to be revolutionary in a number of areas beyond that: teaching, training, video conferencing, architecture, etc.
I'm a big believer in the potential of VR to transform a number of different aspects of life, but I also am wary of what is usually around the corner when the Hype Cycle takes over: The Trough of Despair.
There will, no doubt, be more and more applications as the tech improves. One of my "Sherpa" companies, Toronto-based PCP VR, is working on several fundamental technology improvements in the area that will allow the massive & complex computations necessary to generate the images of an immersive 3-D VR environment to be done on a smartphone, and the transmission of the large, steaming files to be sent over existing 4G LTE cell networks, so wireless headsets become possible, cheap and widespread.
But, it's also important to remember some built in limitations: (1) to experience VR, you will have to wear a headset that blocks out the "real" world, so one is unlikely to use it in environments that pose any risk to someone who cannot see what's happening around him. This would include most office spaces (where one's co-workers could (and probably would) play games to embarrass one sitting at one's cubicle) because you are "blind' to them. Or, any application that requires you to actually walk around the real world, experiencing the 3-D images but unable to see objects right in front of one in the real world that could pose a safety hazard.
VR is going to be big -- and big in unexpected ways -- as technology advances (like that being built by PCP VR), but, as the hoopla over immersive 3-D VR grows, it's also important to remember the Trough of Despair, which, when it arrives, doesn't help any of us trying to build the 3-D space.