VR — I’m swiping right.
So, here’s the thing about me and technology — I’ve had a love affair with tech for over 20 years and this includes the budding love, the fights, the break-up, the getting back together… all of it. And as with any other kind of love affair, once you get passed the initial attraction and crazy love, then you can settle down into the deeper more fulfilling kind of love. And so it goes with me and tech.
I broke up with tech when it seemed that everything was about MarTech and to me, that was just a shallow relationship (except for the very few who were true blue brands in love with their MarTech platforms). Shallow in the kind of “Mr. Right Now” kind of relationship. You don’t like him that much but he’s ok — if you had a better choice right now, you’d swipe this guy left. Today I am announcing that we’re getting back together. I’ve been inside of a virtual reality experience and it made my heart beat faster…. Ooh la la! I’ve found my new love — which looks a lot like my old flame and I’ll tell you why.
When I got into tech (during the tech 1 dot oh period) I did so because tech supercharged the vision of the future of community and togetherness inside of work because I found the old hierarchal structure of big companies too hard to endure. Tech was a meritocracy and a tech organization measured you on the value you provided to your team and the outcome that you were producing. Tech upended the way that lots of old school systems worked: where you went to school and who your parents were. Tech looked to the individual and what you brought to the table. That seemed to me an embodiment of the American Dream and I loved that you could imagine ideas like entitlement and birthright erased and just get down to work.
Working in an organization that was flat where you were working together to make something collaborative and life-changing was the Kool-Aid. It didn’t matter if you were 25 years old or 125 years old. We were making it together to bring something beautifully disruptive to the world. My thought about the tech sector’s purpose was to disrupt all the things that didn’t work with the world and then making them human-centric with an egalitarian bent to it. Well, as all good dreams go, we have the exuberance of the promise of technology and the peak of inflated expectations and then there’s the inevitable fall into the trough of disillusionment …and I hit the bottom hard. (Thank you, Gartner, for your Hype Cycle work https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle).
I’ve been putting my toes in the tech 2 dot oh water for a while now and looking to find that special sauce of consciousness thinking, strategy, tech platform, and people who’ve got the earnestness and dedication to changing the world by the way we see things and ultimately sowing another digital revolution where we change how we’re doing things.
So, I looked. I’ve toyed with 3D printing and the automation of making things. I’ve played with the tech of the “Smart Home,” I’ve looked at the digital organization and teaching the mindset of digitization. And I’m still not in love with MarTech. All of these are great technologies, don’t get me wrong, I can see why they’re the heartbeat for so many people…but love is love and you can’t fake it. I didn’t run to embrace automated marketing, not because it doesn’t work (because it works well) but because it doesn’t make my heart skip a beat.
VR is something else entirely and entirely exciting. Yes, I’m warning myself of my own Hype Cycle but at the risk of seeming half-cocked and fool hearted, I remind myself that the New York Times has fully embraced VR storytelling with their VR app. So, they seem level-headed (#notfakenews) and the kind of people who do their homework so I’m thinking that there’s a good case for me to put on my wetsuit and really get into the water (because it’s still an early market and the water is still cold — wetsuit is needed).
VR is the gamechanger that I’ve been dreaming of. I’ve been asking what will replace the browser since 2000 and now that the technology is more developed, the answer to that is VR. I love Augmented Reality too because it shows the blending of what’s real now with a digital reality (who is to say which is more real? But this conundrum is for another day). The freedom that both of these technologies shows is the unburdening of the self from the viewpoint of technology as a tool (efficiencies) and moves us toward technology as access to our own creativity and imagination. This unburdening is the promise of technology — whether it powers the undercutting of the organization’s infantilization of the individual through Dilbert processes or short circuiting our desire to bring our brains to work with us — technology’s promise is removing the shackles of the industrial age and freeing our minds and bodies to create in a free zone that is wide open to the depths of the imagination’s possibilities.
Ah, I love the early love stage — it’s where your boyfriend can do no wrong and every time your phone vibrates that you’ve gotten a text you hope it’s from him. Me and VR — we’re having that fresh love now.
*Thank you, Michael Ferraro, Exec Dir of FIT’s Information Design and Technology Lab for putting together an amazing VR Day, Frank Botdorf, EON Reality, Ben C Solomon of the NY Times, and Justin Bolognino of Meta.is for sharing your viewpoints, wisdom and work with conference goers and thank you FIT’s IT Dept for setting up the VR Lab for experimentation. It was amazing to use the technology and find myself inside of a world that I can create. #mindblown