Our focus areas: Virtual Reality

(Post 2 of 6 introducing our focus areas at KPCB Edge)

Distances govern our lives. Video conferencing, screen casting, social network feeds, bigger displays — these are the hacks which help us overcome a range of different kinds of distances in our lives: spatial, temporal, social, and visual.

Short of teleporting, VR offers us the chance to overcome these distances with presence. It is the logical evolution in a series of human-computer interface landmarks that include two-way radio, television, browsers, and smartphones. Each allowed us to ultimately connect with people and experiences irrespective of where, when, and with whom we are, each time in better, faster, and more immersive ways with the help of machines. This is the promise of VR we’re excited about — eliminating distances digitally.

This notion however isn’t new. Visions of the future have presented compelling sketches of Virtual Reality for decades. Whether you grew up reading about Express Ports in Snow Crash, geeking out over the headjacks in the Matrix, or visualizing your own OASIS avatars from Ready Player One, concepts of systems that would allow us to interact with digital realities have existed in different shapes and forms for years.

What has changed, however, is the minimum viable entry point to VR — now a smartphone you likely already have in your pocket, and a headset for as little as $10. While we’re still a long way away from uniformly high quality VR, we finally have versions of untethered, portable virtual realities in our hands, at little marginal cost.

This wasn’t true as recently as 36 months ago, when average smartphone screen sizes were far below where they are today, and low-persistence mobile displays were mostly concept specifications. Equally important is the recent availability of dedicated VR SDKs, allowing developers to implement fundamental functions like stereoscopic splitting, head tracking, and virtual GUIs quickly. The final technical piece has been the increasing willingness of third party manufacturers to adopt and modify mobile HMDs at scale, offering consumers a range of inexpensive mobile headsets where there were none before.

We’re in the midst of an unprecedented convergence of hardware, software, and the result is, for the first time in history, accessible VR. To be clear, we are still a ways away from the standalone mobile VR devices that will likely become commonplace in the coming decade. However, the distances between imagination and reality are already shortening as a generation of creative developers discover the possibilities of low cost VR.

Above all though, tying together all the great technical advancements in the space, is an unwavering community of die-hard enthusiasts. These are the engineers, designers, founders, writers, and builders making it all happen. For those of us who’ve been tinkering on the margins as hobbyists and believers, the last three years have been a long-awaited renaissance in VR, and it’s hard to understand the rapid progress the community makes with every passing week without actually putting on a headset, attending a meetup, or building your own VR project. If you’re already in on the secret, and excited about the same things, let’s chat.