Virtual Reality is the perpetual motion machine of tech: every time you look around, there’s some wild-eyed inventor with a weird contraption and the same claim: ‘this time, it works!’
So we’ve gotten used to pointing VR over to the corner with the deathrays and cold fusion guys. But we could be wrong this time.
From a business viewpoint VR was less than a novelty in the 1990s, but VR or AR (Augmented Reality) apps could explode the way mobile apps did, and modern enterprises that aren’t involved in vending VR devices and services could still provide value to their customers via VR. Imagine what real estate will do with it, for instance!
So VR could work. But why should we dust it off now?
Why it’s (maybe) time to rethink VR
1: The tech is there.
The difference between VR nbow and VR in the way-back-when is the difference between 1982’s Tron and 2010’s Tron: Legacy. In ‘82, the ideas were there – but the tech? Watch the movie and you tell me. VR’s the same.While it meant yards of trailing wires and pixelated landscapes it was never going to go far with consumers – let alone businesses. But now that it means Google Glass, or even Oculus Rift, VR might have a fighting chance.
2: The price is right.
Early attempts at VR were truly wallet-busting, as early computing tended to be. The trade-off between price and performance meant VR was stuck in the same situation as very early mobile devices, where they didn’t really deliver and they cost far more than their performance merited. In some cases, like the presciently-named but ill-fated EyePhone, that could be half a million dollars. Now we’re talking about a price tag between $200 and a little over $1000, there’s a chance for a consumer market to develop.
3: Industry heavyweights want it to succeed
In its first iterations, VR was powered by individuals with dreams, and companies like Sega that were dipping their toes in the water. For the bigger players, it wound up as just another page on ‘10 Tech Flops You’ll Remember if You Lived Through The 90s.’ But this time around, Google is seriously committed to its ‘augmented reality’ Glass project, and has Maps, Hangouts, Drive, Youtube and search all ready to tie into it. Facebook, Sony, and Samsung join the list of those with deep pockets who want to see VR succeed.
4: The hacker’s paradox
As VR has professionalised, it’s also become open to hobbyists and hackers in a way that just wasn’t possible in the 90s. That means tens of thousands of people working on solving VR’s problems, coming up with sometimes-diverse solutions: the Ubuntu, Fedora and Korora of VR.