From the Metaverse to Virtual Reality, You Guessed Which Tech Will Shape Our Lives

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“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, quipped, referencing Twitter’s maximum character count, which has since increased.

Technology has advanced — just not quite in the way many of us thought it would.

We recently asked readers of our Thomas Industry Update newsletter what technology they predicated would be popular in the next five years, and how it would shape industry. Readers responded sharing how it’s also shaping our home lives, interior lives, and virtual lives.

Virtual Reality

Perhaps the most popular use for virtual reality (VR) has been with such video games as Half-Life: Alyx, Beat Saberand Superhot VR, but the technology isn’t just for entertainment these days. We’ve already entered an era in which the military is using VR for immersive training for manufacturing jobs post-service, museums are using VR to transport visitors through history, and public schools are implementing VR to build experience in the emerging technology.

David, who works in engineering, doesn’t think VR is just a fad but that it will be popular five years from now. He urges manufacturers to “try to make headsets in the USA.”

He’s certainly not alone in this call for US-made technology — and it’s not simply finances motivating a push for reshoring VR headsets. It’s also a matter of national security. The US Air Force wants to use VR technology for its Pilot Training Next program.

The Metaverse

Lynne, a Thomas Industry Update subscriber, says the metaverse will be popular in five years.

The metaverse is an immersive 3D space in which individuals can interact with each other thanks to augmented reality and virtual reality. It doesn’t quite exist yet so its characteristics and uses are still being defined, but it’s considered an evolution of the internet.

Vic, who works in engineering and technical services, echoed this prediction, saying, “It will change the way we interact. It will revolutionize sales and collaborative efforts.”

Imagine if instead of a Zoom meeting that looks like the opening sequence of The Brady Bunch, you were able to take a factory tour with your colleagues, and then you can begin to understand how the metaverse can enhance remote work and save on office expenses and business travel. The metaverse can also be used to improve manufacturing operations through digital twins. It can even be used to enhance online shopping so it’s more of a fun and interactive experience.

Smart Home

Some of us may remember the days before remote controls when you had to get up from the couch to change the TV station and get out of the car to open the garage door. Today, we can control appliances throughout our homes via apps on our smartphones.

Jennifer, who works in the government, predicts that “AI, IoT, and smart homes” will continue to grow in the next five years.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are being integrated in homes across the world to increase comfort and safety while reducing costs. They can learn homeowners’ routines and preferences to automatically turn off the lights or adjust the temperature, for example.

Mental Health Sensing Apps

As mental health has suffered during the pandemic, more employers are working to better support staff wellbeing. There are a variety of ways that companies are committing to employee mental health: Microsoft reimburses up to $1,200 of staff wellness-related expenses, Nike enforced a week of leave last year to allow staff time to destress, and PwC is allowing its staff to be fully remote within the US

Mental health apps have become popular as well. They’re being used to manage depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and PTSD.

“Mental health sensing apps for trauma survivors” will increase in popularity in five years’ time, says Mike, a Thomas Industry Update subscriber who works in healthcare. He says these apps can connect individuals to traumatic coaches and that they are “cheap, effective, and available today,” but that the mental health industry has not yet made them fully available.

Thomas has put together a guide for how to talk to your employer if you’re struggling with mental health. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support at any time at 800-273-8255.

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Reader submissions have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Image Credit: Andrey_Popov /

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