Bets on things VR/AR/MR that will change, for better and for worse

Hamish Peter Todd
Mar 15 · 4 min read

I’m getting into betting as a way of expressing my beliefs clearly. I’ve also spent the last three and a half years of my life in VR R&D. So the following is a list of things I believe, all of which I would be willing to make small (£50 or so) bets on. If you want to take me up, message me so we can clarify the terms (or so that one of us can change the other’s mind!)

They are predictions for the next 25–30 years I guess. I expect around 20% of them will turn out to be wrong.

I use the buzzwordy “XR” to mean “virtual reality, augmented reality, and/or mixed reality head mounted displays”, maybe also “Dynamicland-esque social projection”.

I bet that XR will…

  1. not change how our lives are impacted by art and entertainment. Art and entertainment already have a big impact on our lives, and there is no reason to believe that XR-enabled entertainment media will occupy a different role in our lives than what we already have.
  2. …make people spend less resources producing “purely visual adornments” such as clothing, makeup, paintings, wallpaper, interior design, because anyone will be able to see any visual adornment they like, no matter how extravagant, at any time. I can’t find the original article that convinced me of this but this one looks as good as any.
  3. …lead to an increase in environmentally conscious shopping and veganism, because of apps one can download that will show one videos of suffering animals and children when one reaches out one’s hand to buy an unethical product. Additionally, looking at a shelf or counter and “searching” for vegan food will be easier. (EDIT: lots of people find this really weird. I’ll just say that when I was going veggie/vegan, I would have downloaded this! Willpower alone is hard folks!)
  4. …make people a little more tolerant of dirt on streets and in their homes, because they won’t necessarily be able to see it.
  5. …lead to a renaissance in home cooking, crafts, and repair/DIY, because each next step that one has to take with one’s hands will be represented directly on top of the material one is working with.
  6. …make people value privacy less, because, as usual, our lives will be made more convenient and happier by technology that is necessarily intrusive
  7. …lead to an increased use of interactive simulations in classroom education, because it will be easier to set up a connected virtual environment. Education systems will be slow to adapt but all kids will be given basic HMDs for use in schools eventually.
  8. …have a bigger improvement to the school as an environment; every wall could be covered in animated visual learning material.
  9. …have an impact on economic class division about the same as that of smart phones. Eg: it will increase division, but that divide will get smaller as the technology becomes cheaper (and after that it may decrease division because education will be easier, see (7,8) )
  10. …make communication on the internet more pleasurable, and similar to being in a “pub”. Eg the heads of selected people will surround you constantly and you can turn to them and talk whenever you like. This will make us more sociable in the old fashioned sense of spending lots of time time looking at people’s faces and talking to them
  11. …decrease housing prices, urban population, and resources spent on commuting, because of (10).
  12. not lead to increased indoctrination as predicted by that braindead episode of Black Mirror, because people will still be sensitive to the difference between real things and virtual things, just like they are with other kinds of media
  13. not have any significant impact on structural biology and pharmacology that it won’t have on the other industries and scientific fields (see my PhD thesis, sigh)
  14. …make nontrivial and sometimes-positive changes to conversations about politics, because of the realtime fact checking streams as pioneered by eg fullfact. I look forward to never hearing anyone hippiesplain the terminator gene to me again!

I do not know what will happen with advertizing. It could be everywhere. This is my biggest worry, and is the best criticism of XR-based optimism. Advertizing-induced misery may be avoided by, for example, advances in ad-blockers, or maturation of software to allow opting out of advertizing, or the government doing its job. But it may be that none of these happen.

It’s also worth giving Prediction 0: XR devices will be ubiquitous, replacing smartphones for the most part within the next 20 years.

EDIT: I have been criticised for these being vague. They are vague; I have tried to be concise, so that it’s easier to get through all of them. When I have gone through the task of clarifying them with people, it triples their length. Additionally the same point might lead to two different bets offered by two different people.