Mark Curtis, chief client officer of design consultancy Fjord tell us why 2016 is the year of the VR breakthrough.

Virtual Reality (VR) has long been the stuff of science fiction, but we’ve reached a tipping point where VR has moved from bulky and expensive to affordable and easy to ship. The tech giants are the first to get in on VR the action. Sony, Oculus and Samsung are just a few of the companies set to release consumer VR products in the first half of 2016.

Before VR came augmented reality. The Blippar app, which brings objects to life with an augmented layer, continues to grow and is used by 1000+ brands. Another predecessor to VR was QR which has been largely successful in Asia. We may well see both AR and QR blended with VR to create new experiences.

What’s next for VR?

Companies are in the process of mobilising for VR to ensure market growth. As well as making accessories available, tech giants are creating platforms for VR experimentation. Perhaps the best known platform released to date is Google Cardboard, a low-cost solution cardboard headset that acts as a personal VR system.  At the other end of the spectrum, the Nokia OZO is a VR camera designed specifically for professional content creators.

There is no doubt that VR will eventually revolutionise gaming, but at Fjord, we are most excited by the disruptive potential VR could bring to education, tourism or business in the next few years. Google has already recognised the appeal of VR to school children, with its Expeditions Pioneer Programme, where teachers can take their classes on immersive virtual journeys to bring their lessons to life. The business applications will be vast too.

VR conference calls could ultimately see travel reduced and other applications could allow staff to work on site while being out of the office.

So how should you begin to embrace this emerging technology? First, try it out. It doesn’t matter whether you use Oculus, Sony, or Samsung Gear, you just need to understand how it works. The New York Times took a step into VR by experimenting with the Google Cardboard. The NYT free phone app is used along with headphones to simulate richly immersive scenes from across the globe.

However, once you’ve tested the VR waters, resist the urge to form a specialist in-house VR unit. Look back at how setting up tablet/mobile departments didn’t work. Instead aim for a unified, device-agnostic team that understands VR and its potential – it is after all still a novel technology.

I have no doubt this technology will eventually be embraced across multiple sectors, but key to making the most of VR is identifying how it can enhance your business. For now though, organisations spearheading this trend will be those that come up with the most unexpected VR applications. So buckle your seatbelt and prepare for the ride - this staple of science fiction is set to start on its course towards the mainstream.