“Yo fella! Wanna take an exciting trip to Africa while sitting right here on this folding chair? We can Teleport you anywhere in the world within seconds…”
I was wandering through the mall and this cat — sort of like an old school barker from a circus mid-way — approached me and said “for ten dollah you can go on a virtual vacation…for 5 minutes. Get out da hub bub of the mall and go scuba diving, take a safari, visit Rome or Venice”. Wow — this looks cool I thought. Full disclosure — I am a long-time fan of virtual worlds and augmented realty. I had an office on a sky pod in Second Life in 2006 back when I worked at IBM. So I gave the guy my card, donned the head set and off I went.
Pretty cool actually. The footage was shot from both a hot air balloon and a helicopter flying over various grasslands and rivers in what I assume was Africa. Various exotic animals wandered through my field of vision — lions, antelope, rhinos. A bit low res — certainly not 4K. Production values were way below the James Cameron levels we all now expect — but still interesting, engaging and yes — immersive.
What really struck me was the fact that this technology had so quickly arrived at the consumer level and was being exploited with a simple albeit inexpensive use case.
Don’t get me wrong — I am delighted that Facebook paid $2B (with a B) in March of 2014 to acquire what Mark Zuckerberg swooningly described as “the most social platform ever”– Oculus Rift. But they are still months away from releasing an actual usable, wireless, robust headset to support real world applications on a global level. Current projected launch date is Q1 2016. It will get there for sure. And I am very excited at the prospect.
But the fascinating thing was that some entrepreneur decided to leap ahead and buy a bunch of Samsung Oculus VR headsets and put together a makeshift stand in a mall on a Sunday afternoon in comparatively small city in upstate Connecticut. And sell Virtual Vacations to random passersby.
The really compelling insight from this experience for me was the idea that emergent technologies could be now adopted at both the high end, long term strategic level (read: Enterprise) while also be explored with a more mundane, tactical, near term, “make a quick thousand bucks at the mall on a Sunday” mentality. Something very exciting about this.
There was no way that in 1876 someone could have taken Alexander Graham Bell’s technology and created something quickly that could be exploited to the masses. The same could be said of Philo Farnsworth’s image dissector camera tube (read: TV) in 1927. To be fair, the level of value creation is like comparing apples to oranges but that said — it is very exciting that today’s technologies and social media penetration are able to foster an array of new and exciting ideas for value creation across such a wide spectrum.
From the top and the bottom — a new technology is being explored and shaped. Business models being investigated. Both Facebook in Silicon Valley and VJ Communications in the Bronx realize there is in fact “a pony in there” and are exploring ways to get to it.
Oculus Rift will be too expensive for this kind of low rent staycation use case but I really hope there is some cross pollination going on to inform the next iterations of both these solutions.
Hey, where’s my $2,000 Tesla? :-/