The New Era of Virtual Reality

A Wild Duck guest editorial

Richelle Ross-sRichelle Ross is a sophomore at the University of Florida, focusing on statistics and data science. As a crypto consultant, she educates far beyond the campus. Her insight on the evolution and future of Bitcoin has been featured in national publications. Richelle writes for CoinDesk, LinkedIn, and Quora, providing analysis on Bitcoin’s evolving economy.


In 2003, I remember going to see my first IMAX 3D film,
Space Station . My family was touring NASA at Cape Canaveral Florida. The film was an inside view into life as an astronaut enters space. As the astronauts tossed M&Ms to each other in their new gravity-free domain, the other children and space_station_1I gleefully reached our hands out to try and touch the candy as it floated towards us. I had never experienced anything so mind-blowing in my 7 year life. The first 3D film was released in 1922. Yet, surprisingly, flat entertainment has dominated screens for in the 9½ decades that followed. Only a handful of films have been released in 3D—most of them are animated. But now, we are gradually seeing a shift in how people experience entertainment. As methods evolve and as market momentum builds, it promises to be one of the most groundbreaking technologies of the decade. I foresee Virtual Reality reaching a point where our perception of virtual and real-life experiences becomes blurred—and eventually—the two become integrated.

Ever since pen was put to paper, and camera to screen, audiences have enjoyed being swept into other worlds. For those of us “dreamers” being able to escape into these stories is one way we live through and expand our understanding of other times and places—even places space_station_2that may not be accessible in our lifetimes. Virtual reality is the logical progression and natural evolution of these experiences.

I caught the VR bug after one of my Facebook contacts was posting about it and sharing 360 degree videos that were of no use to me unless I too had the headset. Having been a Samsung user for the last several years, I purchased the Samsung VR headset to understand what all the hype was. Just as with my childhood experience visiting the space station, the VR Introduction video sent me floating across the universe. But this time, it was much more compelling. I could turn my head in any direction and experience a vast heavenly realm in 3D vision and tied to my own movements. Behind me was a large planet and in front were dozens of asteroids slowly moving by.

Similar to visiting the Grand Canyon, this is one of those novel experiences you really have to experience to appreciate. Within about ten seconds of trying it out, I had become hooked. I realized that I was experiencing something with far greater potential than an amusement park roller coaster, yet I also recognized that any applications I might imagine barely scratch the surface. This unexpected adrenaline rush is what leads tinkerers to the imaginative leaps that push new technologies into the next decades ahead.

Video games are probably the industry everyone thinks of being affected by this new paradigm. I immediately thought about the Star Wars franchise with its ever expanding universe. It will be a pretty exciting day when you can hold a lightsaber hilt that comes to life when you wear a headset and allows you to experience that universe from your living room. You could even wear a sensored body suit that allows you to feel little zaps or vibrations during gameplay. With more connected devices, the possibility of Li-Fi replacing Wi-Fi and so on, video games are just scratching the surface.

I discussed what the future of VR could offer with Collective Learning founder, Dan Barenboym. We explored various difficulties that impede market adoption. Barenboym was an early enthusiast of virtual reality, having worked with a startup that plans to deploy full-body scanners that give online life to gamers. The project began long before the film Avatar. Berenboym suggests ways that this dan_barenboym_5624swould improve online shopping by allowing people to see their avatar with their own personal measurements in various outfits. This doesn’t have to be limited to at-home experiences though. Dan suggests that instead of walking into the boutique changing room, you walk into one with mirrors connected to VR software. Your reflection ‘tries on’ different virtual outfits before you pull your favorite one off the store rack.

We also discussed the current obstacles of VR like the headset itself, which is a hindrance in some respects as it is a bit uncomfortable to wear for prolonged use. The other looming issue is money. There are many ideas similar to the ones we brainstormed, but startups may struggle to get off the ground without sufficient funding. The Oculus Rift is one great example of how crowdfunding can help entrepreneurs launch their ideas. It is easier than ever before to share and fund great ideas through social networking.

Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, shared his own vision in 2014 after acquiring the Oculus Rift. Zuckerberg eloquently summarized the status of where we’re headed:

Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming and we oculus_rifthave a chance to build it together.”

What could this mean for the social networking that Zuckerberg pioneered? I’d venture to say the void of a long distance relationship may be eased with VR immersion that allows you to be with your family at the click of a button. You could be sitting down in your apartment in the U.S., but with the help of a 360 camera, look around at the garden that your mother is tending to in the U.K. The same scenario could be applied to a classroom or business meeting. We already have global and instant communication, so it will serve to add an enriched layer to these interactions.

The concept of reality itself is probably the biggest factor that makes virtual reality so captivating. Reality is not an objective experience. Each of us has a perspective of the world that is colored by our childhood experiences, personality, and culture. Our inner dialogues, fantasies of who we want to become, and areas of intelligence determine so much of what we’re able to accomplish and choose to commit to outside of ourselves. Michael Abrash describes how VR works with our unconscious brain perceptions to make us believe we’re standing on the edge of a building that isn’t really there. At a conscious level, we accept that we are staring at a screen, but our hearts still race—based on an unconscious perception of what is happening. Tapping into this perception-changing part of our brain allows us to experience reality in new ways.

As VR becomes more mainstreamed and incorporated into all areas of our lives such as online shopping, socializing, education, recreation, etc., the degrees of separation from the real world that society applies to it will lessen. Long-term, the goal for VR would be to allow us to use any of our senses and body parts. We should see continued improvements in the graphics and interaction capabilities of VR, allowing for these experiences to feel as real as they possibly can.

One can only imagine the new vistas this powerful technology will open—not just for entertainment, but for education, medicine, working in hazardous environments or controlling machines at a distance. Is every industry planning to incorporate the positive potential of virtual reality? If not, they certainly should think about the potential. As long as we pay attention to present day needs and issues, engineering virtual reality in the Internet of Things promises to be a fantastic venture.

Author’s Note:

Feedback from Wild Ducks is important. I’ll be back from time to time. Drop me a note on the comment form, or better yet, add your comment below. Until then, perhaps we will meet in the virtual world.

— RR

7 thoughts on “The New Era of Virtual Reality

  1. Ms. Ross: You provide the best general overview and insight into the coming market for VR. Congratulations on your writing gig. This is an excellent piece.

    I am arguably your perfect audience. I am both a fan of Wild Duck and a manager in a VR clinic for startup companies. Although a bit light on detail and adoption obstacles, Dutch citizens and government fully agree with your analysis of the future market potential for virtual reality.

    I studied in America, and expended most of my research on the refinement of immersive, real-time VR. I am fortunate to have played with Rift, which will be commercially available in less than 2 months. It has high resolution, a wide viewing angle, and sufficiently low-latency in responding to head movement. This gives a breathtaking experience that goes significantly beyond your first IMAX space film.

    Today, I am tech liaison to the largest private startup clinic in The Netherlands. We expect to be heavily vested in virtual reality. Despite the early momentum of American companies like Google, Facebook and Oculus, we have every reason to believe that Holland will become the Silicon Valley of VR.

    I met Ellery on his visit to Germany. (He passed through Holland on a drive to France). I went far to meet up with him, because of Wild Duck. He is convinced that you are the next prognosticator of several key industries, including Bitcoin and VR. So, I will add my two cents. (Euros are divided into cents, just as your dollar)…

    I enjoyed your introduction to the market potential for VR, and I recognize that it is not meant to dig deep below the surface. After all, this is still a bleeding edge market. But, I urge you to stay in the game. Consider writing a piece that goes beyond the novice and beyond the hype. Give us some guidance on the directions that the market is going and who are the major players.

    For example, talk about the supply-demand curve, the technology obstacles, and the adoption rate. How soon will the cost plummet, like it did with early DVD and Blue-Ray? Will there be medical side effects (like there is with too much keyboard use)? What will be the effect on the overall economy? Could it be the death of air travel? (Imagine tying Skype to immersive VR!). I am just scratching the surface. I bet that you will go far with this.

    ~Lars
    Amsterdam

  2. OMG. Just what I need! My 14 year old and 9 year old are already zombified by their screens and gadgets. If I didn’t make them put it away at the dinner table, during homework and at bed time, they would be living inside an iPad, Android or PlayStation.

    Now, it gets worse! Richelle is harbinger of a future when my kids will be wearing alien headsets connected to an Xbox. (Did you see that last photo?! The guy is completely zoned out. He probably hasn’t washed that beard in months!)

    Once you hook my kids on one “immersive experience” after the next, how long before you provide stimulation below the waist. After all, that’s where this is going, isn’t it?

    I am as connected and hip as the next gal, but darn if your going to stupefy me with a fake world, immersive or not. Please, just for once, let’s try living in the real world. Please?

    Mortified in Minneapolis

    • As with every popular technology, there is a potential dark side. But I think you’re too pessimistic. It won’t be about not living in the real world but about experiencing everything that was previously out of reach. Imagine with education for instance being able to actually allow kids to have a full view of the universe and use their hands and eyes to zoom in on distant planets and stars in a VR realm, or for kids to have an interactive conversation with other children around the world. Any tools like social media and the Internet can be used for bad, but the benefits outweigh the costs.

  3. Redirected from LinkedIN
    Gerardo Moscatelli is a Commodities professional with 15 years
    experience in European, Asian and South American markets

    Thank you Richelle,

    I had exactly the same feeling of being part of an incredible revolution when I first tried the Samsung VR Gear with my Samsung Note 5 (which purchased all together still cheaper than an iPhone 6!). It is important to distinguish the vast alternatives that this VR Gear offers: You can watch 2D and stereoscopic 3D movies in a virtual theatre, 180 degrees side by side 3D, 360 immersive videos or be immersed into a virtual 3D 360 world and interact with it. You can also pilot a drone and see through the camera in 180 degrees as is you were in the done. There are infinite applications for this.

    I believe it is not necessary to pay the expensive price of an Oculus Rift to access virtual reality. I am going to Shenzen in two weeks to meet with manufacturers with a plan build an affordable Virtual Reality platform, in my opinion this should cost max $500 USD for an integrated VR Gear including hardware, screen, glasses headphones and control. Thank you for the post, every time I talk about the possibilities of VR and cryptocurrencies to my friends and colleagues they don’t get the point. Within 10 years everybody will be buying Virtual experiences with Bitcoins.

  4. Extremely interesting and very enthusing. Thank you.

    I am reminded of the experience of a French mystic who was living in south India during major part of the last century. Once she had a longing to go to Himalaya. One day, she was sitting in a small courtyard and the wall which separated it from next courtyard had shards of glass stuck on top of the wall (to keep out thieves). Suddenly a ray of sunlight on a sharp piece of blue glass on top of the wall caught her eyes. What happened next? In her own words: ” And positively, spontaneously, without thinking or reflecting or anything … I saw the summits of the Himalayas: I was on the summits of the Himalayas.

    It lasted more than half an hour. It was a marvelous mountain scene, with mountain air and the lightness of the mountains – it was all there. The splendor of sunlight on the Himalayan peaks.

    After that half hour I hadn’t the slightest wish to go!”

    Similarly, she spoke of another experience of sea: “I was given a similar experience with the sea.… In the house… there’s a veranda with a little nook, and set in the nook is a window (not a window, actually – an opening), and through the opening you can glimpse a patch of sea, no bigger than this (gesture). And at that time too the body was feeling closed in, a little weary and confined. .…. And one day, as I am walking across the veranda .…. I turn my eye and … I see the sea. And suddenly it was all oceanic immensity – and with a sense of free sailing, from one place to another.… The sea breeze, the taste of the sea, and the sense of immensity, vastness, freedom … something limitless. It lasted a quarter of an hour, twenty minutes. My body came out of it refreshed, as if I had gone for a long sail.

    I want to emphasize that the effect is PHYSICAL: the experience is concrete and has a physical effect.”

    What that French mystic experienced decades ago (between 1920 and 1940) might become an accessible experience to all humanity thanks to VR. In fact, she had wished at that time that she could transmit her experience to others as well.

    The world is changing, evolving, becoming a paradise!

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