Virtual Reality — Your Guide to the Future:
Ok, VR, people talk about it but what’s the deal?
Potential to impact us?
It has been widely speculated that VR will transform industries such as; Healthcare, education, entertainment & media. I can believe it and I can see it happening. A mid range VR headset is currently the same price as a smartphone, soon the conversation will be around whether you want experiences (through your VR headset) or whether you merely want information (through your rectangular smartphone screen), a no brainer right?
So what needs to happen for us to get to the point where we can live in a VR dominant world? The commercial world needs to catch up with technology. An example of this would be trying to use your iphone 7 with slow internet, so many of the apps and functions of the phone would be rendered useless, how can you appreciate the screen resolution without being able to stream video on youtube?
(they have 5G now in Korea allowing you to download a film in 1 second)
Similarly there is now a 1Terabite MicroSD card enabling RED 8K cameras to capture hours of footage, breakthrough camera technology would be useless without the periphery industries also evolving to support improved function.
In VR its the same deal, there needs to be peripheral technological advancements to support and enable VR to thrive, and there are a plethora of areas which are necessary to evolve in order to support VR
- Creating processors powerful enough to create a believable virtual environment in a lightweight headset.
- The onboarding of developers away from app onto VR software developing
- Improving haptic technology as sensory supplements to VR visuals
- Proof of commercial viability of VR to support and add value to businesses.
- Improved clarity on the role VR will play in our everyday lives and a demonstration to the public of its impending importance
- Promotion of ‘app’ creation which will develop core VR away from ‘checking calenders’, ‘watching videos’ & ‘taking photos’ (internal apps) towards a creative/innovative app store where creativity can flourish and the true use of VR will become clear. What would a smartphone be without Social media apps like facebook & flappy bird? Would it have the same usership as it does today without these ubiquitous apps? No.
Many sources express concern for the release of under optimised VR experiences, tarnishing the industry, instilling prejudices about the technology and its potential. This is the equivalent of handing someone a colour screen Moto Razr, telling them it‘s’ a smart phone and asking them to consequently evaluate the ‘Smartphone’ industries potential to change the world.
Direct implications of VR and how it will manifest in our commercial world
We will inevitably move towards a scenario where less and less people in the western world choose to spend their time in the real world and instead opt for pristine VR environments. Is this hard to believe? How many hours a day do you spend on your smartphone currently? 2 hours, 3 hours? now imagine your smartphone was x10 more engaging, how long would you spend on it then?
Media & Commercialisation
A ‘Pepsi’ VR channel where you can exist in a Pepsi VR world and enjoy your time there where any great experiences are directly associated to no brand other than pepsi. Brands that can pay to create the most compelling entertaining worlds will have the unbridled attention of more and more ‘users’ or ‘customers’ who then in the real world would value the brand higher (assuming they ever return to the ‘real’ world). This then leads to the topic of whether companies want to operate in the real world at all if customers are spending more and more time in VR, perhaps luxury RW products like pepsi will experience reduced demand and real consumer demand will come in the form of thirst for new increasingly engaging VR content, the future of VR software companies, who can be the CNN (or netflix)of VR?
How can we make people ‘comfortable’ in the real world whilst they enjoy VR? Sensory deprivation tanks. Rather than going to leisure centres to use a gym or a swimming pool pay for membership to VR centres where you can plug in to VR.
A massive increase in demand for software developers and VR creators, with handsome pay packages — assuming RW money is the way developers will be compensated for not spending all their time in VR.
With the proliferation of a virtual interconnected world where people spend more time in VR what would the currency be? ‘in game’ transactions will surely use bit coins more and more as traditional national currencies become redundant and unnecessary in favour of a currency which can freely be traded between millions of VR users from hundreds of countries
In a AR world where we see virtual overlays over real life why would brands print physical labels on products when your AR headset can instead project the information, allowing moving images and instantaneously updating products. This would lead to a bland real world with no need for colour or vibrancy as it can all be usurped by virtual content. The lack of enagagin visuals in the RW would again fuel the exodus to spending time in VR.
Zuckereberg’s £2bn investment in Oculus paints a very clear picture of the inevitability VR has to go social. Criticism of VR has been a feeling of isolation and that it needs to be more social, experiencing something on your own is good but with your friends is great, this is what facebook want to tap into, the first step is the best ever conference call experience and next is a seperate world where we interaction with friends via avatars in a facebook built/controlled space.
A caveat to VR requiring a social element is the advancement of AI — when AI can interact intelligently with us in VR would we need to be social with other people?
Assuming some people still spend time in the ‘real’ world VR can influence how we choose and try on products to then wear in the RW. There will of course be a virtual ecommerce industry for how your avatar appears or your avatar’s house appears, would ASOS go on to conquer VR retail?
More people using VR means more people becoming inactive - how can we preserve their health and reduce muscle depletion while they are in ‘plugged in’. Reviews of VR point towards a loss of the concept of time — would it be possible to make a VR experience which feels like it lasts for years but actually lasts minutes? Could this be the fountain of youth?
Politics & Environmental Issues & Third World
People living an insulated & isolated VR life will have less effect on real world issues. Environmental, political and humanitarian apathy would be the rife, perhaps this could alleviate short term environmental issues but in terms of societies, communities, justice, democracy and collective action, having less engaged people in the RW can only be a bad thing… Who would have power in this new world? The software producers who will have to power to shape the VR experiences the rest of us will revel in.
Accessibility of VR
The VR price point is so low already that as soon as the truly immersive VR experiences are developed 90% of the UK population will be able to afford to use VR. The quality of the experience will completely justify the price point, how could paying £20,000 for a new BMW compare to a £5,000 VR set up where you can drive any car you like. Except the VR car can fly. And the car is also a horse. And its also your best friend.
Things will change very quickly over the next 10 years, let alone the next 30 years — embrace change, as ever businesses which serve to support VR stand to make a lot of money, the VR market is currently very cloudy and noisy with prominent companies still very unsure of which direction/manifestation it will take, the businesses opportunities for companies keeping their thumb on the VR pulse are massive. Think of the success of early adopters of the internet, this will be the same for VR.
For those of you who are still unsure and see VR as a far fetched sci fi dream imagine trying to live your life now without a smartphone? Now know that first iphone was released only 9 years ago.
Also know that investment in VR has topped £10bn in the last few years with MIcrosoft, Facebook, HTC and Sony all major players, based on their massive investments it is not a question of whether VR will take of but when.