Sedentary VR leads by a narrow margin.
When I see the first ragged-looking creature I nearly jump out of my seat in surprise. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It looks to have been made entirely out of moss, straw and dirt. Turning my head, another little gremlin pops into view and then another, and another, all of which are far too close to me for comfort. When my vision is swimming with dozens of the things I hear a loud trumpet blast. What looks to be a giant, clockwork monkey head emerges from a dark corner of the arena-like space. It screams and cackles before disappearing.
In one of the craziest demos I’ve ever tried, I strapped an Android tablet to my face in a room and started walking around in VR, untethered to a computer. Without the aid of cameras, the tablet automatically mapped the room I was in and let me explore an ethereal space with a white tree and floating heads. But the crazy bit was that Google’s employees, including Tango lead Johnny Lee, were also in that same space. I could see their heads in VR and they could see me, and their position in VR was exactly the same position in real life. I reached out to one of those virtual floating heads and my real hand tapped Lee’s real shoulder. It was wild.
Sounds like it could the beginning of “social VR.”
This assumes, of course, that people are willing to strap into VR devices and not perceive any meaningful difference between what’s real and what only seems to be. Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick explored this very question more than 30 years ago in an influential thought experiment. “Suppose,” he wrote in 1974, “there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Super-duper neurophysicists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Would you plug in?”
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
Gee, what did he do? Finally read some books by Philip K. Dick, who envisioned all of it well before anyone heard of Jaron Lanier or Neal Stephenson?
In fact, Dick envisioned beyond VR, to VE — Virtual Emotions: The Penfield Mood Organ in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
electric-sheepThe book is full of delights, but one of my favourite parts is the opening passage, four pages long, in which Rick Deckard and his wife Iran are arguing about the Penfield Mood Organ as they get up in the morning. The Mood Organ is a device with which, by punching in a number, a human user can instantly alter his or her mood. Deckard routinely sets it to have him get up in a cheerful mood, and advises his wife to do the same. Her objection to this is almost exactly the same as my objection above to sentimentality. Emotions need to be earned. She tells her husband that her mood organ schedule for the day includes a “six-hour self-accusatory depression” and when Deckard asks her why on Earth anyone would want to schedule that, she argues that it’s healthy to feel emotions that are congruent with the situation you find yourself in: in their case a poisoned and depopulated world. In fact, she tells him, she has programmed the organ to plunge her into despair twice a month.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
So, yeah, please. We can go back to LSD, which probably inspired Dick himself. We can go back to peyote and other hallucinogens American aborigines used for enlightenment. We can call on The Spirit Molecule.
And the writer of that piece, disclose: Are you on Adderall? Or taking another one of the many “IQ-enhancing” pills Silicon Valley is infamous for ingesting?
Naysay your damn pills first.
Research firm CCS Insight predicts the number of sold virtual reality devices will grow from 2.2 million last year to 20 million in 2018, with smartphone-based devices representing the vast majority. “Smartphone virtual reality is poised to be the big volume driver for virtual reality in coming years,” the company’s chief of research, Ben Wood, told AFP. More sophisticated virtual reality headsets that run on an expensive computer will remain a niche product because of their high cost, he added.
The number sold isn’t any indicator of longevity of use. Personal computers gathered a lot of dust in homes until people discovered they could communicate with them. That wasn’t what anyone in the software houses that were flogging spreadsheets and word processors ever imagined. I point again to this post: Why My Samsung Gear VR Virtual Reality Headset Is Gathering Dust.
And there’s certainly a strong hypothesis about the future direction of VR at the core of LG and Samsung’s decision: mainstream adoption of VR won’t happen until there’s mainstream creation for VR. In other words, it looks a lot like LG and Samsung think that their 360 cameras are the missing piece of the puzzle that will drive VR adoption beyond gaming — and help to sell their consumer-priced VR headsets.
Which is another reason why I think Apple hasn’t indicated any move into VR yet. Apple would want to update iMovie, et al, to help create/edit VR. It’ll be very interesting to see if Apple also releases a VR camera — and if it’d be mono or stereo.
The largest mobile games (Words with Friends, Angry Birds, HayDay, Candy Crush, etc.) were all started by mobile-first companies that iterated and experimented before they had a hit. It took several years after the iPhone was released before platform-defining titles were launched: Words with Friend/Angry Birds both launched 2 years after the iPhone and Candy Crush/HayDay launched 5 years after.
I’ll point again to my own post: VR Industry FOMO Is An Illusion
Outlets for VR “content” (god I loathe that term):