Affluenza and Design
As our success increases, our ability to make contextually informed choices decreases. What are we overlooking?
This week’s announcements from Meta (née Facebook) and their vision of a VR-supercharged workplace have once again forced VR-as-productivity into the collective consciousness. In the fallout, the witty Joe Sondow made this observation on Twitter:
“I love how every few years of my lifetime some rich guy starts jumping up and down excitedly about this awesome new technology that’s gonna fundamentally change the world really soon and it’s called virtual reality and like six people buy it” — Joe Sondow on Twitter
He’s not wrong. This has been going on a LONG time. I’m dating myself, but in college, one of my senior projects was an interactive virtual reality world based on the X-Men where you played as Wolverine — this was in 2002! Nearly twenty years ago. And we are STILL running this hamster wheel. Gaming has picked up a bit of steam, but it’s still largely a niche for the well-to-do. The conversation that followed Joe’s Tweet covered some wide ground. For example:
Accessibility: Current VR helmets as a long-term workplace requirement aren’t accessible to those susceptible to headaches or migraines like myself and Joe. Another common complaint I’ve seen on TikTok is that the implied time spent standing and moving or manipulating controllers would be difficult for those facing a physical disability. And how accessible are these virtual reality worlds to those with visual impairments after all the years spent getting traditional interfaces up to snuff in that regard? Note that the Meta keynote DOES NOT feature participants wearing headsets prominently — a sign that Meta KNOWS the headsets are an encumbrance and a deterrent.
Living conditions: Many of the VR worlds described assume some level of movement in space, which assumes access to a large, uncluttered space — but many people live in smaller, cramped apartments. For those working from home, it’s even unlikely that there’s dedicated office space: only 5 in 10 men and only 3 in 10…