VR Revolution 9/23/22

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

A couple of days ago (as of the writing of this blog), I read an article about the impending virtual reality revolution. The article claimed that in the next few years, a majority of us will be living with either virtual or augmented reality.

Virtual reality is basically wearing a headset that makes it look like you’re living in another realm. Being something of a techy (with an inheritance), I own one of these, and it’s an interesting diversion but hardly something I use frequently. In fact, the “motion” as I fly a virtual plane or walk in a virtual world usually makes me motion sick. My eyes tell me that I’m moving around, but my inner ear disagrees, and these two opposing inputs cause problems.

The art in the virtual reality (VR) is really very good, but still cartoonish. You clearly know that you are not in the real world. They’re trying to push this cartoonish world as somehow “productive”, but aside from meeting room spaces, there really isn’t much you can do in it, and it can only be used for meeting if all participants have a VR headset, which is still not very common. Online meeting software is actually easier to use and more powerful since you can share screens.

augmented reality (AR) was a huge concept a few years ago when “Google Glasses” were introduced, but it never really took off. The idea of AR is that as you walk around, you’re logged onto the information network live, so as you see buildings, for example, a little pop-up will tell you the name and what the business is. So if there’s a restaurant inside, you’ll see it on your AR screen. Think of it as an informational overlay over the real world you are seeing, kind of like cyborgs in science fiction movies. “Human”…”A Cat”…

Honestly, I don’t see either one of these becoming the revolution the producers of the products hope. There’s really only one major company making VR headsets as far as I know, and although I have a few friends with these (overly heavy) headsets, they’re still rare. Until you can link them to your computer to do file sharing, such as online collaboration sites allow, they lack power. And let’s be real, how often do we really need a search engine telling us that it’s a fast food joint on the left? A few years ago, I walked into a business because I had no idea what they did. It was fun walking up to the young woman at the front desk and saying, “I’ve walked past this building many times and still have no idea what you do here. What do you do??” She was elated to be able to explain that they are energy brokers and how they work.

I feel as if the concept of VR and AR is just so much more exciting than the reality. The concept of an immersive gaming experience fits right in with the entire “holodeck” concept, and the first time you put a VR headset on, it really is astounding. I must admit, I’ve not actually tried an AR set (although maybe I should), but I can only imagine it to be distracting. But the funny thing is that, in using these devices, are inviting large corporations and advertisers into our daily lives.

So far, I’ve not seen any advertising in my VR experience, but it’s easy to imagine that, before much longer, there will be ads throughout the realm. The movie industry has been using product placement for years, so in VR, it’s easy to imagine “placards” on walls and banners pulled by “planes” in the air, and much like social media, the ads will be kinetic and targeted based on our histories. In AR, I can imagine the glasses automatically popping up information paid for by large companies, even if not requested, and even beyond the control of the user. In both cases, we are paying money to allow these large companies to advertise, not unlike wearing corporation t-shirts, paying money to advertise for some product or service. In a manner of speaking, wearing these t-shirts is a form of product placement in our own world. So why not in the virtual world? Maybe the next time I’m flying my biplane in an old time virtual aerial battle I’ll see an oil advertisement on my control panel. Then, with my motion sickness, I’ll have to throw up.

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