Founder of Epic says virtual reality will be used by ‘billions of people’ in ten years time

Epic: Oculus Rift is VR’s iPhone moment

Tim Sweeney has described Oculus Rift as virtual reality’s ‘iPhone moment’, and believes the technology is just about to hit the big time.

The creator of Unreal Engine and founder of Epic Games told Develop that VR technology is poised to reach well beyond the realm of hardcore gaming.

“I think it’s a trend that’s going to take over the world slowly. I would compare today’s Oculus with the iPhone 1,” Sweeney said.

“It’s a really cool product that’s going to appeal to an audience of maybe ten million people, and every new version of it as it becomes more and more polished and mainstream is going to appeal to exponentially more people. You might look at it today and think it’s appealing to hardcore gamers, but that’s just the start of the revolution.”

When Apple launched its original iPhone in 2007, smartphones and mobile apps were still untapped territory, and few could see the potential that they would be capable of. In just a few short years, the smartphones have become almost inseparable from their users, and the worldwide total for smartphone usage is predicted to reach 1.75 billion in 2014.

Recently, virtual reality has gained major support with Sony unveiling its own headset, currently known as Project Morpheus, and Facebook’s shock acquisition of the Oculus Rift maker. But publishers themselves are being cautious. Ubisoft has claimed that it won’t invest in VR until the technology truly hits the mainstream.

However, Sweeney is confident that VR’s time has come.

He added: “In ten years, I think there will be VR hardware being worn by billions of people. It’s bold to say that now but if you look at smartphones, it’s been less than a decade since the first iPhone arrived and look how it’s shaped the world.

“On every continent, you see these devices taking root and putting a huge amount of power in people’s hands. We’ll get there. I wouldn’t be quick to judge it. It’s a fundamental improvement in display technology that is on an asymptotic path to reach reality, and that will change humanity. Imagine what it’ll be like for kids growing up in a time where virtual reality is so realistic you can’t distinguish it from physical reality.”

Sweeney was among a number of developers and fellow arbiters of VR that Develop spoke to for this month’s cover feature on the technology and the stakeholders.

Read full feature here.

Want to get involved in our VR special all this week? Have something to say about virtual reality and what it means for developers? Email to find out how you can take part.

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