VR is a Fast-growing Toddler

For the first time in my life, I am fully and extremely aware of all the fast technological changes happening in this century. For someone who once experienced cassette tapes and floppy disks, the future has never been clearer.

The other day, our office took a little field trip to the Google pop-up store in Soho by Spring and Broadway. From the moment we entered, we were guided on a journey of the latest Google technology. From visual identification of image subject (Google can group your photos according to their content, without the need to label them) to a whole experience in Virtual Reality, the journey was quite pleasant. However, maybe it was that I have been watching too much of the show, Black Mirror, or that these products remind me of the cassette in the sense that there is more evolution to go, but everything felt oddly infantile.

Yes, the technology was something I had never experienced before. The Google smart home system, for example, was of course smarter than my home. You could say “Ok, Google…” and tell it to change the hue of your lights from blue to orange. Or you could ask it to connect to your wifi speakers and play Spotify. You could ask for recipes, and it would find what you’re looking for. To me, it felt like the most basic plan downgrade from Samantha, the virtual assistant in the movie, Her. I went into the “smart home” expecting to at least turn on the stove just by saying “Stove, on” or hoping the fridge would tell me “tomatoes rotting soon. Use today!”

This is not a stab at Google. I strongly suggest you visit the store as it is beautifully designed and lets you experience these, while young in their creation, future technologies. Take Virtual Reality. Already VR has been implemented in the gaming world, the film industry, and sports!

My favorite part about VR is the obvious growth that it will see in the next decade.

Anyone that has tried VR can tell that there is a feeling of encapsulation from the moment the headset goes on. You forget where you are and you want to move around in this new world you’ve just entered. The closest thing we’ve had to this is probably an indoor amusement ride at a theme park. Google’s VR station called “Dream View” contains several cushy, sleek headsets you can try on while you sit in a spinning chair for easy discovery of your new world. There are a variety of videos you can click on with a small, simple controller given to you as well.

Dream View menu. You can click on an app or video to start an experience.

I chose an Ancient Sea Animals video, that transported me to a museum hall with large fossils framed on the walls. The hall was full of sunlight, had light hardwood floors, and a glass ceiling. While the resolution was definitely sub-par, and no where near retina yet, there was an atmosphere and a detail that was enough to make me feel like I was somewhere else. What happens in the video is stunning, as the fossils come to life and you are suddenly standing in an underwater version of the museum! Even in low-res, I still held my breathe as I saw a sea animal swim inches from my face and felt myself lean back as if it was actually going to touch me!

There is so much potential for VR right now. Of course, there are many improvements to be made. For one, the headsets look like anything that came from the 90’s– big, chunky, and heavy. Am I right? Two, the resolution quality will one day be as clear as day. And the day that comes, we will all live in different worlds constantly in and out of reality. Three, adding an illusion of the other senses might also come. Feeling, smelling. That sounds very Sci-fi, but who knows? Four, being able to explore and walk around (safely) to experience other locations within the world you’re experiencing. I watched a VR video the other day that let me stand on top of the Mayan Ruins. It was beautiful, but all I wanted to do was touch the trees or walk around to the other side of the mountain. I have a feeling VR will be the cassette of this generation and will morph into a beautiful smartphone, giving us exactly what we expect from this other world of reality.

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