Some of us old-timers... you know... the real old-timers... not just before the internet but before computers... are feeling a bit of Déjà vu with the launch of consumer Virtual Reality and the reactions it's drawing including the inevitable predictions of its demise. It seems to be a mix of people genuinely concerned for its future, some for whatever reason want it to fail and a lot of prognostications by people that have yet to own or even experience VR. Some of these people make an eloquent case for their side.
Here are a few of reasons some have named for the eventual failure of VR:
- It is expensive.
- It requires a lot of space.
- It is complicated.
- It is difficult to set up.
- Most people don't own one and won't for some time.
- It has to be experienced to be understood.
Now I'm not throwing shade at these prognosticators by any means. Rather I'm pointing out that this has happened before and it involves a particular piece of tech most people embrace today. The personal computer.
Back in the 80's the first IBM PC I ever saw was purchased by my father... a very forward thinking move for a farmer back then. There were no programs but there was DOS and VisiCalc, the mother of spreadsheets. I went from a tiny little Sinclair to a full blow IBM in the home environment. Let's explore this further for reference and comparison to the reasons above:
- It was VERY expensive, around $10,000 in 1980's dollars!
- It was bulky with several large and loud pieces.
- Took a basic grasp of some flavor of command line DOS and knowledge of asci helped.
- Plug everything in... cross your fingers and power up after a few minutes of whirs, clicks and rattles. Didn't get a command prompt? Too bad. No Google... no dial up bulletin board and no tech support outside of the computer shop it was purchased from.
- No one in our town or surrounding farms had one. None of my friends or neighbors had a clue about PC's except that they were evil and would take over the world or at the very least cost us jobs!
- Telling someone about a computer brought about a medical phenomenon known as "Glassy Eyes" which leads to a loss of connection between the person trying to explain what they just experienced and the person now afflicted
Flash in the pan they said. It'll never stick. Fad. Now I'm not saying that this incarnation of VR is what will be adopted by the masses but I'll go on record as saying VR is here to stay and will eventually alter our lives just as the impact of PC/Smartphone tech has. Just the training, medical and educational aspects alone will put a lot of capital behind VR for innovation which spurs research and development and I haven't even discussed the elephant in the room. The gaming market. After being able to stand in front of a desk or table in a cave, lab or dungeon and interact with it... or walk up to and open a door... or have a life sized game character talk to you... monitor based gaming may never be the same or good enough. Sadly... there will even be VR Tech junkies one day.
A firm grasp of the obvious tells us that VR will take time for mass adoption, for the market to grow and for it to integrate itself into our daily lives. It will happen. It's not hard for me to believe we are just at the threshold of what VR can and eventually will provide. Resist adopting VR at your own risk. We all know a few people that have no need for a computer and consider them to be nonsense. Want to be one of them one day? So... if possible... move the furniture... clear the holodeck... it's time to enjoy this new experience for what it is and what it will eventually become.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.