Are we ready to be player one?


I’m a child of the 80's. Growing up I remember watching movies like The Lawnmower Man, the birth and timely death of the Nintendo PowerGlove, and the carrot dangled in front of us that was virtual reality (VR).

In reality, virtual reality has been a pipedream that seemed to go in and out of fashion for the better part of the last 30 years.

Enter 2014. March of 2014 to be exact. Mark Zuckerberg posts about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR to his own social network. Suddenly, VR is sexy again.

The Seeds of Innovation.

At the time of the Oculus announcement, Twitter was abuzz with technologists heralding the move as Facebook’s first step towards building OASIS, a free-to-use and massively multiplayer online virtual reality simulation that easily consumes much of human attention and investment.

The only catch? OASIS is vaporware. It’s a fabrication of Ernest Cline in his work of science fiction titled “Ready Player One”.

The snarky geeks all said the same thing, “Zuck is using Ready Player One as a blueprint for his next move towards world domination.” They might not be half wrong. But really, who knows?

I had to read the book. I downloaded it and started reading it on my iPad. I finished it within a week and was spellbound throughout the whole process.

It’s a masterful work of art. In my opinion, Ready Player One is to this generation what Snow Crash and Neuromancer were to the last generation — a seed for innovation.

The Future is Cloudy.

I’m not sure if it was the billion dollar acqusition of Oculus VR, or if there was another reason, but VR entered into our public psyche. Personally, I was more intuned to people sharing specs for cardboard VR goggles that affixed to the iPhone, and little side projects devoted to the subject.

Suddenly, it seemed as though the future was coming into focus. Or was is?

There are a variety of takes on virtual reality and it’s popularity in mainstream culture. Most people, and I tend to agree with them, think that wearing goggles is stupid.

To make VR work you need an amazing amount of technology to make the experience feel realer than real. You need haptic gloves, actuated chairs, and a fat internet pipe to make it all appen.

Technologists are VR believers, but is the mass population? I think the answer is a tepid, yes. Our kids are being prepped for something like OASIS, just by their use and the proliferation of massive multiplayers like Minecraft.

You can’t walk through Target without running into a kid wearing a Minecraft shirt, playing Minecraft on their mobile device while their moms look at clothes, or actually see Minecraft toys in the toy section.

Is Facebook going to win this one? Or is Microsoft, who bought Mojang, the producers of Minecraft, this year. Or maybe it’s Google, who is at the very early stages of creating a Physical Web, were you can “walk up and use anything”.

We’re Not Ready to be Player One.

It’s too early to tell who is going to win the virtual reality space, because the rules keep changing. We as people don’t even know if we want VR or robots.

As a culture, we’re not 100% ready to be player one in the virtual context, but our kids probably are. Whether it was the PC, video games, or mobile technology — our kids have been the major drivers who push adoption.

On the flip side, I am ready to find all of the easter eggs that Zuck decides to leave behind while my personal robot fetches me a cold Heady Topper from the fridge.

Side note: that’s total wishful thinking. It’s hard enough to find Heady Topper, let a lone a personal robot who I could trust enough to fetch from the fridge without running over our dog.

Is 2015 the Year of the Robot?

People are predicting 2015 to be the year of the personal robot. Maybe that trediness displaces VR in the headlines, but I think some semblance of VR will continue to grow and thrive.

I’m not 100% convinced that Oculus and Facebook will win with their headset, but I do think they have a jumpstart at building something like OASIS to scale. Afterall, Facebook has already met and exceed the challenge of scalling to over a billion users.

I’m also not sure that virtual reality will stay virtual. 2015 will bring us the first iteration of the Apple Watch. Apple Pay is poised to have a big year. But that’s not VR — that’s the physical web.

The only issue with the physical web is that it needs connective fabric between the physical object and our device. Hopefully an alternative to QR codes arises. We can put somet stock into beacons, but who knows if it will be easy enough to manage. Afterall, QR codes would have taken off if Apple and other phone makers put the technology directly into their camera app.

My money is on the physical web hitting scale before VR. It has huge implications for businesses, advertisers, and above all — individuals.

The future is bright, the seeds are planted, we just need to watch it all grow and come into focus.


The sweet futuristic art was created by deviantart user liammacd


Justin Brodeur is the CEO of Pidalia, a digital agency based in Boston, MA.