When was the last time that you gave any form of media your complete and UNDIVIDED attention? Even in the best of theaters, you sense the room around you, the escape lights on the aisle floor, the exit emergency sign… not to mention the person behind you, eating their popcorn like a starved pig at the feeding trough. In today’s world of ADHD, second and third screen interactions are as commonplace as the snack and the drink. So when was the last time you gave any media all of your focus? When was the last time your focus disappeared from your being and you became a witness? I believe it is the sensory deprivation of audio and visual external stimuli that creates the biggest win for VR. It is the ability to achieve as close to total immersion as one could possibly attain, short of jacking straight into the hippocampus, as was done in The Matrix.
Would you like to be a world class football player, kicking in the goal to win the World Cup? Or perhaps you would like to be imprisoned in a straight jacket, wrapped in locked chains, hanging upside down, 3000 feet in the air in a burning cage with the world’s most accomplished daredevil? Do you want to escape your mundane surroundings and transport to somewhere amazingly exotic? Or shop in the world’s most exclusive stores? These and hundreds of thousands of other experiences are all awaiting you in the months and years ahead, with the widespread proliferation of virtual reality.
There is no question that virtual reality will provide some of the most important new experiences for humanity to explore and learn from. As with any nascent technology, some attempts will prevail, while others fall by the wayside. Technical specs and delivery systems will only continue to improve, and a new language for user interface, user experience, and programming for a 360º canvas with multiple potential outcomes will evolve in parallel. The global attention to VR was piqued by the Facebook $2 Billion investment in Oculus. When that first massive VR product awakens an ever broader audience, the consumption potential for this medium across all spectra of business, gaming, entertainment, education, information and presentation will escalate to a $7 Billion per anum industry over the next five years, according to Deutsche Bank.
The profit, human experience, employment growth and spread of knowledge are only a part of the positive wave of opportunity that this unique medium will be capable of delivering. I believe the reason for this boils down to one word…. imagination. Virtual reality captures the curiosity in all of us, sparks our imagination and delivers in a way that no medium before has been able to do. Virtual reality does this through sensory deprivation. Putting a comfortable virtual headgear atop your head, and blocking out all visual and audio stimuli in favor of the vibrant content that you can consume with this device, separates VR from all forms of entertainment, education, and everything else to date. It delivers on the holodeck from Star Trek on many levels. With great VR, you really feel as if you are there. When your brain stays focused in an intense, yet intimate surrounding, the immersion becomes that much more fulfilling and the content is separated from the ADHD of second screens, and wandering eyes, and distracted ears that every other media must compete with, for your undivided attention.
Independent of that first VR hit phenomena that is likely to come from out of nowhere, the deeper and more valuable virtual reality experiences are more likely to arise in a gradual rollout as every company works to produce their minimum viable product, bring it to market and then work with their users to iterate that product into ever greater successes. This Lean Start Up approach means there are going to be some very mediocre VR experiences that people will inevitably have for their first taste of VR. It may put some off of the platform, while others will instinctively try other content until they find the app or program that really delivers what they were hoping to experience in this magical new arena.
The military is no stranger to VR, and have proven over countless sessions, that VR provides a substantial cost saving approach to bringing a soldier into the heat of a situation. VR causes the soldier to evaluate details, make an assessment and then take a course of action. Virtual reality is brilliant at this single, cost saving strategy. Let’s look at training football players, which many Universities and NFL teams are doing right now. Once each play is created in VR, any individual player can experience more than 10 times the amount of drills for a tiny fraction of the cost, because you no longer need coaches, plus 21 other players on the field, just to train your players to read their opponent’s eyes, body language and more. At Illusion Factory, we are pairing this technology with our proprietary IQSConnect™ motion evaluation artificial intelligence to bring very specialized sports training to life. NASA uses virtual reality and augmented reality in special underwater helmets to assist their astronauts in the most demanding of circumstances. Bomb squads and hazardous materials disaster crews have a wealth of immersive training that can cause the exact same level of stress on the trainees, without putting them in harm’s way to get that critical training.
Transporting yourself into a conference room, concert, or audience of any kind of event, and engaging with others virtually, is one of the big promises of this vibrant technology. As systems which track your facial movements are integrated into VR, you will transport yourself into a virtual space and engage with others on a very meaningful level.
Education will expand exponentially. Why show a video to a student, when you can transport that student right into the heart of the excitement? Walking inside the pyramids, standing on Mars and staring at the Earth, flying through the neural pathways in the brain are but tiny samples of the vast new learning experience opportunities which await us. Study a surgery and take in the complete experience from the surgeon’s point of view, step into Leonardo da Vinci’s studio and watch him apply each layer of paint, sit beside Yo- Yo Ma and study his technique while he exquisitely plays his cello. Whatever the form of knowledge you are seeking, the more likely you are to be deeply engrossed when that knowledge is delivered to you in a format that really sparks your interest and delivers on your burning curiosity. Walk through the jungle and look at the dinosaurs, stand in the Paris Opera House and look up, whatever subject matter drives your personal interest, will be exponentially better in VR, if, and only if, the content is produced properly. (we will go into this in another blog).
No matter your area of interest or specialized field of study, virtual reality is coming to enhance the experience. Production of virtual reality is not without tremendous challenges, but the widespread use of the technology means those hurdles will be quickly overcome. Imagine what you might have envisioned if someone told you that video had just been invented and you could use it to change your personal or professional life…. this is the paradigm shift that is standing on your doorstep. It is only now just a matter of time.