Alumni engagement and philanthropy



Man wearing VR headset and holding two controllers

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Is this the year we start living in the metaverse? Futurologist, Dr. Ian Pearson (Applied Mathematics and Physics, 1981), makes predictions for a living, and says that aside from all the obvious impacts of the pandemic on technology, there are plenty of surprising ones, too.

All the tech about to be launched in 2022 has been around for years. But it’s exciting to see these ideas – some of which are more than 20 years old – finally becoming reality and, perhaps, reaching a tipping point. 

Take virtual reality, for example. I’ve made predictions about VR picking up before, but it has never taken off. But I think it’s now reached critical mass, and this could be the year it finally takes off. The price of a decent headset has now fallen to under £400. I’ve lectured about VR headsets for the last 30 years – this year I finally bought one. 

Admittedly, it still feels as clumsy as the first one I ever wore, back in 1991. But it works a lot better: you don’t have to plug it into a computer anymore, there are a lot more games available, many of them free, and the quality is actually quite good. Adapters for virtual environments which have been up and running for years, such as Second Life, are starting to be made. Everything you need to enter a ready-made metaverse is there. 

The pandemic has got many people thinking more about their homes. It makes me wonder whether 2022 could be the year of digital decor. Samsung has just brought out a new projector which sits on your coffee table and projects a very large image – from paintings or photos of a beach on the Caribbean, to a medieval banqueting hall or even your grandchildren – onto a suitable surface.

Cruise ships have used this kind of tech to create virtual windows in the past, but it was expensive and involved a lot of flatscreens on walls. With tech like this, the only limit is your imagination. If the price comes down a bit – it’s currently about £700 – I can see this becoming very popular.

People also have a real need for companionship and stress release, so the timing is perfect for cute robots to go mainstream. If you’re not allowed to have a real pet in your home, a robot pet might be the solution. They’re not quite clever enough to have full-blown conversations but the AI is getting there. In terms of doing cute things and running around on the carpet, they’re great. 

We’ll continue to see slow progress with electric cars in terms of charging infrastructure, battery life, and other technologies, such as inductive pads on motorways for charging. That means you could one day buy a car which will go any distance you like, or just use a public pod. That’s when you’ll see the tipping point. A lot of things need to happen before then, but once we get to that point, change will be rapid.

Another area that’s been around for years but which could go big this year is meat substitutes. Both plant-based vegan substitutes and ‘vegetarian’ meat – lab-grown meat that has never been alive – could really take off this year. It’s on the shelves now, finally, and the price point is coming down to around the same as a chicken fillet.

Then, of course, there’s the pandemic itself – and while I’m not going to make any predictions there, it’s probably safe to say that working from home tech will evolve. Perhaps we’ll see a next-generation Zoom, with people using virtual reality headsets, standing in front of you as if they were in the room. Or perhaps we’ll all get bored sick of video calling – and go back to using phones.



For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Natasha Sharma, Alumni Relations Manager, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast.


Back to Main News

Top of Page