Trends You Shoud Expect to See in 2021 

The appeal of VR lies in its ability to create a wholly immersive experience for users. With VR, you can lose yourself in an entirely new environment. You can find yourself sunbathing on a tropical beach one minute and then scoring the winning goal with the American women’s soccer team the next. Inside your VR headset lies all the wonders of this universe, as well as endless varieties of imaginary ones — all waiting for you to explore.

Virtual Reality enables the creation of full, digital environments that users can interact with through special head-mounted displays (HMDs) and other tech, like body-tracking sensors and controllers. 

The technology makes it possible to fully transport users from where they are — a bedroom or home office — to somewhere completely different, like a fantasy world, major event or meeting with friends. Now, businesses are finding new ways to apply VR technology — bringing offline events online and transforming how office workers collaborate.

These VR trends are likely to significantly impact the market and shape the future of VR as the world continues to deal with COVID-19 restrictions.


1. Continued Slow-but-Steady Consumer Adoption

While demand for VR grows, we’re not likely to see the meteoric market growth that some industry figures believe is within the next few years — at least, not just yet.

According to market research from IDC, the VR market is on track for growth in 2021 after a decline in 2020.

Some industry experts believe that, in the past, price may have been a barrier to more widespread consumer adoption of VR technology. Newer, more affordable VR headsets may help drive adoption over the next few years.

For example, one estimate from VR Pulse forecasts that Facebook’s Oculus will sell nearly twice as many headsets in 2021 compared to 2020 — likely in part due to the launch of the Oculus Quest 2, which retailed at prices $100 cheaper than the original Quest.

As hardware prices fall and the economy recovers, we may see more significant gains.

2. Swapping Video Conferences for Virtual Events

Since the early days of VR, event planners have toyed with the idea of VR-based events. Now, with the growing popularity of VR tech and increased demand for digital meetings, businesses and organizations are starting to take that possibility more seriously.

On the consumer side, you can see the popularity of this idea in technology like VRChat, a chat room platform where users can import custom avatars and take advantage of unique features — like expression-, body- and eye-tracking.

Together, these features allow for some significant levels of virtual self-expression, providing a digital analog for real-world expressions and body language.

Users on the platform have already staged some virtual events of their own — like a digital New Years’ Eve Celebration — that could demonstrate how the tech may be used for more complex events, like conferences.

We also hosted our own virtual holiday party using our VR and AR tech in 2020.

Now, businesses are starting to develop new tech and platforms specifically for virtual events that could make the idea much more practical.

The tech may also enable companies to create immersive VR marketing — making it possible for businesses to host VR launch events or stage marketing campaigns within interactive environments.

Soon, with the rise of these new event platforms, we could see more major corporate events held in VR. VR companies and related organizations have been some of the first businesses to experiment with the idea of using virtual reality for corporate events. Some companies are using it to recreate in-office events for remote teams.

3. The Dematerialized Office, the Rise of Virtual Workspaces

VR could have a major impact on how we gather for work.

Companies are also developing tools to make remote meetings easier and more personable — like Foretell Reality, which offers a VR platform that can support virtual meetings and conferences. The platform allows businesses to stage meetings in virtual environments and provides users with tools that let them add presentations and documents to the virtual meeting spaces.

The cost of hardware may be a limitation for widespread adoption of virtual workspace and meeting technology. However, platforms like those offered by Foretell are seeing major upticks in use. This may signal that the technology could be a valuable alternative to other remote meeting options, like Zoom, in the near future.

 Other businesses want to go even further and completely recreate the in-person office experience for remote workers and other employees who can’t come into a physical workspace. 

For example, tech business Ericsson has long-term plans to enable what the company calls the dematerialized office. This fully remote workspace provides all the senses and experiences you’d get working in person. 

The company hopes to develop tools and hardware that will create an “Internet of Senses,” tech that can communicate sensations like smell and touch in addition to sight and sound.

Smell tech is likely a ways off and may not be desirable in every office. However, hardware companies have already made major progress on haptic feedback technology for VR, which could provide realistic sensations of texture and pressure for users.

4. VR Training and Safety Technology

Businesses are also experimenting with the use of VR headsets to train employees on safety procedures. VR can provide a virtual learning environment that combines the best aspects of classroom education and in-the-field training. Digital threats can show you the dangers of a job site or certain task without needing workers to be anywhere close to an actual threat.

Virtual visualizations and overlays can also help provide a valuable visual component for learners that may not want written or verbal instructions.

In some cases, businesses may also be able to take advantage of other investments — like virtual workspace tech — to more quickly design and deploy VR training tools.

How the VR Market Will Change in 2021

These new trends are set to shape the future of VR through 2021. Growing consumer demand may drive individual innovation — leading to more virtual events and unique social platforms. At the same time, corporate research into VR is producing a wide range of new applications.

 In the near future, virtual office settings, classrooms and event halls may provide a valuable, digital alternative to in-person collaboration.

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.

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