Is VR in 2017 What Facebook Was in 2007?
To clear the air, another “definitive Facebook year” could have been chosen. However, 2007 was the year when one of Silicon Valley’s most respected tech journalists, Kara Swisher, pronounced Facebook investors “delusional”.
Swisher’s denounced the “trendy social-networking start-up”, skeptical at the actual returns it could return to investors — even doubting the kind of users that would use the platform (only high school social pariahs, probably).
The problem with the future is its unpredictable. Virtual reality is going for the stars, with Facebook paving a huge chunk of the way in accelerating market adoption with its $2 billion purchase of Oculus. Zuckerberg foresees VR broadening the intersection of the tech and social paradigm. In his brief talk at the Mobile World Congress, he wanted us to imagine having the experience of sitting with friends around a campfire, watching a movie together, or hosting a meeting — with VR as the tech adhesive.
Zuckerberg is not the only with ambitious plans for VR. HTC, partnering with Vive, is taking pre-orders for its headset. The packaging of Alcatel’s new Idol 4S phone doubles as a Google Cardboard headset. LG is creating its own headset, compatible with its new G5 phone.
The rolodex of companies jumping on the VR bandwagon might make one wary. After all, companies make expensive bets all the time. Plenty of them fail. RIP: Orbitz soda. Barnes & Nobles’ Nook. Qwikster…But the endeavor in bringing virtual reality into our lives has been simmering for decades. It is not Cosmopolitan magazine deciding it wants to launch its own yogurt brand (true story). It has not gone away; it will not go away.
Most people agree they can envision VR taking hold within the gaming industry. Okay, great. Gamers possess the option to diversify their gaming experience. Now, we’ve nothing but time. Sweeping realizations about how and where it may exactly fit may not occur now, in 2 years, or even in 5 years. However, like all industries, it will evolve.
AR is something everyone can envision, or nearly everyone. Already there are AR applications, in the retail and sale space. I imagine AR will work in coordination with healthcare, particularly emergency medical attention. If you ever heard of “ambulance drones”, which will fly immediately to a scene as a first responder to bring basic equipment and medicine so the nearest people can give aid to the person in need. What may happen is this: Within a drone, a headset is enclosed. Perhaps the person is not sure where to place the defibrillator on a person’s chest. Perhaps they need to perform an immediate minor surgery.
During a Y Combinator Q&A session with Paul Graham, Zuckerberg explained on why and how he continued with Facebook in the early years. Graham’s summary of Zuckerberg’s scaling strategy echoes the same sentiment virtual reality holds.
“So, what you did was fundamental for a small market, and then you just expanded the market from beyond Harvard students to everyone” (see video above, 22:40)
VR will fundamentally alter the gaming industry. Gamers anticipate the next realm of immersive play, transforming a domain of entertainment. With a foothold in one market — perhaps, even with only a niche group of players initially— VR possesses the mobility to expand into other markets. Acknowledging “Moore’s Law”, VR application will happen faster than we expect.
With virtual reality, are we dismissing its possibilities on the grounds of it being too grandiose and therefore, too incomprehensible? As Swisher did Facebook, how Daymond John passed on investing in Uber, or how Time Magazine “futurists” dismissed online shopping?