E3 is here again and, of course, as all of the gaming enthusiasts line up to see what kind of top of the line technology developers can offer, then surely Virtual Reality, one of the most exciting and speculated on technologies led by the very same community in the forefront of it all is… taking a backseat to other announcements? Not even mentioned at Xbox’s showcase when it’s been promised for years now?
It seems like we’re at a point with the technology where it’s reached an impasse. While it no longer has the novelty of being an idea fresh off the shelf, VR is still so new that the expectations put on the Rift or the Vive can’t be reached at the current moment.
The VR Revolution Will Not Be Televised
As soon as the first Rift was announced, VR slowly became a mainstay in the technological sphere, and why wouldn’t it have? We’ve dreamed about the days when we could put on some goggles and be transported to another world for years, and with the popularity of movies like Ready Player One it seemed the hype wouldn’t die down anytime soon.
And let’s be real, have you seen that movie? That kind of stuff looks wild, and it really does tap into the unlimited potential that having a virtual world all to yourself (along with millions of other players, of course) can provide. I’d gladly play any RPG on the scale of the Oasis and lose my personal life for cyber glory fighting off the Iron Giant with a couple of friends.
Level 20 Iron Giant. AoE Debuff: Sob Hysterically
But even with all of this hype, the technology isn’t at a place where our dreams can come true quite like we want to. This leaves VR in a very interesting position, as it really did suffer from being too hyped too fast, as evidenced by those thinkpieces pondering if VR is dead or not. After experiencing it for myself, I can see that they still have a lot to figure out, as movement and motion sickness pose the biggest concerns at the moment. And judging by the state of the product, omnidirectional treadmills are a long way from becoming affordably mass produced.
But even movies like Tron or Ready Player One, who point to the stars and imagine what the world will be like with VR, are still limited to the idea that headsets are only for games. I’m not saying it won’t be used heavily for gaming, as the primary market for VR is gaming enthusiasts, myself included, but there’s so much more out there once they work out the kinks.
The VR Social Experience
So as the day of VR creeps closer and closer and companies tweak their products to work better and cost less, new avenues of thought on VR are being experimented with everyday. One place that I haven’t seen the speculation, surprisingly? Social Media.
Or, to be fair, I don’t think it gets nearly enough speculation. There are some really good articles talking about the potential of VR, but there’s still so much more to be made than a Virtual Desktop or essentially a large computer window projected over a starry background.
I see VR redefining what it means to be on social media, and how we interact with the world around us. This is mainly due to the ease and ability to transport from fantastical location to fantastical location that VR brings, from the most mundane video lecture to the wildest fantasies of any MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Ro—Warcraft. It’s Warcraft, alright?).
But seriously, compare what you do on Facebook or Twitter to what you do in MMOs. Sure, there’s no raid bosses (unless you include your mother-in-law) but you interact with thousands of people at a time, join guilds (groups and pages), form clans (add friends), interact with each other to earn points (literally snap points) or support the economy (retweets, likes or cold hard cash). Add in a loincloth, a sword and the ability to fight each other and that’s really the only thing separating the two from each other.
This kind of thought process opens up a world of new possibilities where instead of just posting statuses for your friends to see, you can post statuses for your friends to join. On top of that, you can snap into any situation with the ease and comfort of a Star Wars hologram.
“Hey Ben, this Vive I got is awesome!”
Think about all of the different things you can do around town with friends. Maybe you post an event on facebook with your friends to hit up an arcade and play some skee-ball? Or with VR you can do it without leaving your room. Maybe your mom always wanted to see Mona Lisa in the Louvre, but she’s never had the money to travel to France? With VR you can see that and the Statue of David in the same room. Maybe you have a bet with your friend that the Clippers could beat Golden State, but he’s in Chicago and you’re in New York? Well now you can watch yourself lose that stupid bet and venmo your friend $50 courtside in LA. Or maybe you want to go to meet new people and have nice conversations about whatever? I think you get the idea. Only in this case the creepy guy staring at you across the club is 1,000 miles away and dressed up as a box for Windows 95.
All that really needs to happen, is one developer needs to make a hub (a la Rec Room or SteamVR Home) where all of these features can be combined into one while also allowing other people to be in the VR room with you. Add a profile, a voice chat system or hell, even just a messaging system that could easily be navigated without causing headaches due to motion sickness or complication and you’ve got yourself a step towards the new age of social media.
All of it really just boils down to the ability to be anywhere you want at any time with friends, family, strangers. Anybody really. Sure, it will still probably have statuses and likes and retweets, but beyond that don’t be shocked if video goes the way of photography, and it’s not in a way that video, which rules social media at the moment, would want.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re a long way away from VR being the most popular option for the general audience, but those examples of things you can do with VR social media I listed earlier are things you can do by yourself on it right now. All it takes is the right platform to converge all of those experiences into one and you’ve got yourself the social media site of the future. The best part? This is still all from a time period where cameras aren’t yet optimized for VR, so you can only imagine the ease of traveling and socializing when/if VR becomes the norm.
There are so many ideas that are just starting to take shape that will revolutionize the way we interact with people on the online world. Soon social media won’t just be a screen where you make a funny joke or see a 2D image of your friend’s beach trip, you’ll be in a second world where you can join your friend binging Stranger Things in the Netflix app, or just click a link and join your friend for a moment on their vacation. Social media is on the verge of becoming interactive in a whole new way previously thought unimaginable.
And that’s all stuff that I could think of. Imagine what ideas the people who actually write the code could come up with. Imagine the kind of 3D worlds the codejunkies in Silicon Valley can create for us. We’ve already seen this kind of outreach with Google Glass, and with products like this becoming more and more readily available as the price drops it won’t be long until we’re updating our status like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.
“Star Wars Episode LII was okay, I guess.”
Sure, this is all speculation for the future in a field that’s still taking baby steps, and it’s still learning to optimize its features to even be presentable to the general population, but even if it delivers on half of the ideas that I’ve brought up, you’ll see the world change as rapidly as it did when the smartphone came into the picture.
And if you aren’t looking forward to that, at least you’ll be happy with the large spike of VR fails that will come with it.