While the launch of consumer-level Virtual Reality has gotten off to a slower start than some (myself included) expected, it is not going to fade into obscurity. As we continue to learn how to design games, experiences, and other apps for VR, it will slowly become more integrated into everyday life. It just won’t resemble anything that we expect or are familiar with.
Sure, it will still involve wearing a headset of some sort, but they will more closely resemble glasses or goggles and include Augmented Reality as well, so familiar elements will be there. But what a person sees and does will be more than we can imagine today.
We will have games, of course, but very different games from the ones we are used to now. As different as the experience of playing Chess or Monopoly is from playing The Legend of Zelda or Call of Duty. We don’t really know what the language of VR is yet, but as we learn and continue to develop, games made for VR will diverge more and more from what we think of as a game. This is not a surprise - it took the cinema 20 years to figure out its own unique visual language to tell stories in a different way from plays or books, so we’re still getting there in VR.
VR will change the way we view many events as well. If you’re a sports fan, you’re going to be able to watch your favorite sport from the best seats in the house. You’ll even be able to bounce around between different perspectives at the touch of a button, so you’ll go from behind home plate to the bleachers to right near first base. A large amount of data would need to be broadcast to make this happen, but it’s inevitable that the infrastructure will evolve to accommodate it.
The easiest thing to predict is that VR will be used for entertainment. What is really going to be a huge change is how VR will be used for, well, everything else.
Want to sit at a table and talk to someone rather than just call or text, or maybe watch a movie together? You got it. Want that get-together to be by the beach, in a rain forest, or on Mars? Done and done. The process of shrinking the planet that has gone from travel, to mail, to the phone, to the Internet, will continue in VR.
Tired of just having to sit in front of a computer monitor all day? Well, you’re in luck, and this will be one of the biggest changes that will come from VR - how we work. Data modeling for Virtual Reality is one of the not-quite-so flashy areas of research right now, but will be one of the most impactful. Everything we are used to seeing flat and on a screen will come alive in 3 dimensions and surround us. Will this lead to better work, better analysis, and a better understanding of economics, science, and society as a whole? Maybe. But it will certainly change our perspective, as well as the conclusions that we come to.
Virtual Reality today is a new musical instrument that no one knows how to play just yet, but once we learn it we’ll produce songs and symphonies that have not even been dreamt of yet.