Exactly 12 months ago, an article published by Forbes said that virtual reality was everywhere at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. By established CES standards, the news source said, people could expect VR to be a pervasive technology in the coming months.

Fast forward to CES 2018 and the general feeling from media reports was that VR was almost—but, not quite—ready to hit the next level.

VR Takes A Supporting Role

Yes, virtual reality device manufacturers were spread throughout the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. And, yes, there were a plethora of immersive experiences available for both the experienced VR user and those who were curious about its potential use cases. For the most part, however, VR vendors and exhibitors appeared content to remain on the sidelines as opposed to being the stars of the show.

CNET reported that the jaw-dropping moments in VR that came after Oculus Rift made its debut at CES in 2016 are becoming harder to achieve. Granted, there were innovations, design upgrades, and new hardware—HTC’s Vive Pro, for instance—but significant advances were hard to find, the news source said.

On the flip side, if you took the time to explore at CES 2018, then you would discover, all of the realities—virtual, augmented, mixed and hyper—had something to offer.

The Rise Of Out-of-Home VR Experiences

For instance, there was a consensus (especially among those of us that were only in town for virtual or augmented reality) that location-based VR experiences were going to play a significant role in both consumer and enterprise adoption.

Increased awareness has meant that the realities have been labeled as disruptive technology, but that diminishes the impact that they will have. The word “disruption” itself is overused and has become a cliché when you consider that the process of converging physical and digital interaction has been ongoing for some time.

If we take into account the scope of what a location-based virtual reality experience can encompass—VR Arcades, VR in cinemas, tourist venues, amusement parks or fitness centers, for instance—then it was clear that the VR space has evolved in the last 12 months. Ever keen to go beyond gaming (the one sector that the general public erroneously associate with the tech), the industry has realized that getting people into headsets is not easy.

In fact, Accenture released new research at CES that showed that consumers were more interested in practical applications of virtual (and by association, augmented) reality. According to the 2018 Accenture Digital Consumer Survey of over 21,000 online consumers, 67 percent of people want to learn new skills or techniques in one or more of the available realities.

Take HTC Vive, for example.

At its appointment-only suite in the Wynn Hotel, the company showcased a range of demos and experiences on its existing and forthcoming hardware that covered training simulations, healthcare applications, neuroscience and branded IP (Ready Player One, unsurprisingly). As you would expect, games also featured but they were an addition to the offered lineup and not the focus of attention.

Over the next few weeks, immersed.io will take a deeper dive into what we learned at CES 2018 and, importantly, what trends will emerge in the coming months. With that in mind, the out-of-home market is poised to play a large role in the ongoing development of the realities, a scenario that, conversely, may actually be the catalyst for mass adoption.

Virtual reality may not have been everywhere at this year’s CES, but it was not hiding in the shadows. Evolution, not revolution, is now the way forward.