Why I Really, Really, Really Believe in VR
Virtual Reality is the flavor of the year. It kicked off 2016 strong at CES and Sundance and more recently had a decidedly mixed reception at E3. Yet still VR is rightly being hailed as not just the next big thing, but a sea change. The costs of the headsets need to come down, motion sickness needs to not be a factor, and the units (and controllers) simply need to ship- but VR is definitely still on.
Having been through wave after wave of digital innovation from CD-ROM (yes CD-ROM) through the dot.com boom and bust, web 2.0 (remember when flickr was great), the selfieplosion of social media and the current frontier of mobile first — I’ve seen the highs and lows of what modern technology can help us accomplish. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen technology enable someone to truly express themselves so freely, artistically and in such a user-friendly fashion. It was nothing short of spectacular! Spectacular, I tell you!!!
A colleague and I recently traveled to Facebook to demo some Virtual Reality titles and get more familiar with Oculus. Said colleague had never before had an opportunity to be inside a headset, let alone use the Oculus Touch controllers.
The kindly demo person set my colleague up in the Oculus Rift and gave a brief overview of how to work with the controllers when using Oculus Medium. Tap this button to choose thickness, select this button for color, press down on this button for thickness. As I pen this it reads as the proverbial next iteration of the witticism, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” That is to say blogging about VR is like… It is hard to detail in words a virtual experience but also necessary to chronicle just how impressive and transformative this platform is, how incredibly powerful it already is if only to also ponder where we and it can go.
The Interwebs have brought us Blogger, Twitter, this nifty thing called Medium. And we have Photoshop, Instagram, Snapchat — all of which are tools with which we create text and image and connect with each other. Not to mention YouTube! But Virtual Reality, and this instantiation of it, this is, well, different.
Somewhere between ninety seconds and three minutes, my colleague got religion. The brush strokes grew fatter, the swooping lines found a rhythm all their own and she became a free-form Oculus Medium improvisational artist. It was in every sense of the word jazz — the highest form of improvisation we as a species collectively know. It was active creation in a virtual space and it smacked of true artistry and inspiration.
This was a solo jam, but there’s no reason you can’t envision how it will be when you’re creating in a networked environment. Let’s say one person is really good at faces, while another at bodies and a third the inter-relation of all three. If a holy grail of digital is to foster creativity and to inspire than my god Watson this is it!
One of the not so secret secrets about VR is that it’s not that isolating. It’s enthralling to watch people play in VR even if you aren’t having the experience. To watch them bob and weave and shriek in their virtual environment as you are watching is equal parts comedy and awe-inspiring. And in this case it wasn’t just my colleague that caught the Virtual Reality bug- but by extension I did as well. Already an acolyte Oculus Medium and freeform jazz made me most definitely the converted.