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Virtual Reality (VR) Technology: Is it Ready?

Do you remember when The Lawnmower Man was released? This was my first look at virtual reality and the impact it can have on humankind. The entertainment industry has been releasing movies like this for years. They literally invent the future on the big screen. Think about:

  1. Teleporting in Star Trek
  2. Cryogenic sleeping from the Aliens series
  3. Ludicrous speed from Spaceballs (okay, maybe not this one)

Hollywood has laid out a path towards the future of what we could invent. I’m not sure that light speed and teleporting will ever become a reality given the law of physics. Either way we have to continue innovating.

After The Lawnmower Man was released in 1992 we didn’t see significant up-tick in virtual reality technology. It was too soon given technology had to catch-up with the expectations. That said, I recently read Ready Player One (see my book review here) and came away with the view that everything in that book is now possible with today’s VR technology. Whilst it may initially be slower and of less quality, the bare bones of an “Oasis” like virtual reality world can now be built. It would require hardware for the user, a networked capability for the multi-user virtual world and software to build the VR engine (i.e. create the world). We have done some of this before, think about Minecraft (i.e. sandbox gameplay).

Is Virtual Reality Real and Ready?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to test out virtual reality technology in the flesh (excuse the pun). It was called “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” which was designed/built by The Void and hosted at Westfield Shopping Centre in London. Four of you team up and go on a ~15 minute adventure discovering the secret that the Empire has planned. I wore a headset with goggles, a chest pack and a gun. We walked around a pre-built maze in the physical world (which we couldn’t see) however the VR world transformed it into something you could only see in the movies! Firing at Darth Vader and having him blocking each shot with his light sabre was quite stressful! Suffice to say It was an unreal experience! (but too short)

The story Ready Player One is set in 2045 and the virtual reality technology described in that world is phenomenal. At that rate we are going virtual reality technology AND virtual worlds not too dissimilar to the Oasis will be a reality (again excuse the pun) within 10 years. Imagine the possibilities: education to anyone anywhere, an evolved work environment and reduced commutes and emissions just to name a few. There will also be some negatives which we will learn on the way. I for one cannot wait!

2 Responses to :
Virtual Reality (VR) Technology: Is it Ready?

  1. Dan says:

    While I think VR/AR is cool and look forward to the fun parts and the areas it can truly enhance people’s experiences (especially around disabilities, etc.), I think I’m less enthusiastic that you .

    The negatives I think are a bit scary. As is true for any great thing – it seems to enhance both sides of the coin.

    We’re only starting to see the affects of lots of screen time on people. We’re seeing the effects of remote wars (eg drones). And perhaps the worst is our capitalist society which could literally own our new world (which I think might be the point that of Ready Player One but I haven’t read/seen it so not sure).

    So I’m concerned the bad might outweigh the good…

    But on a less dramatic note, the near term is looking good with education, etc starting to embrace it and offering great benefits.

    We had a VR/AR guy talk at out UX Meetup last week. There is definitely some interesting things happening.

    1. Brad Revell says:

      Good points. The technology is phenomenal however it can be leveraged in bad ways. Social media Is a good example of this today where the bad in my opinion is outweighing the good; unfortunately.

      But yes we are a capitalist society and VR/AR will come in force. Looks like it is inevitable in the short-term. How we legislate in the long-term is still TBD.

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