I haven’t been writing a lot lately because I’ve been so busy and traveling. And some of what I’ve seen has got my head spinning — literally.
At a private VC-sponsored event in Cincinnati this week, inspired by the forthcoming Place Conference (The Omnichannel Marketing Conference), I got an opportunity to wear the Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset — Whoa.
It’s immediately clear this will be a whole new platform — for gaming (obviously), education, travel, shopping, social, marketing and, yes, sex. Now I agree that at $2 billion Facebook potentially got a deal.
It remains to be seen how wisely Facebook develops Oculus Rift as a platform. However even if Facebook doesn’t fully realize the potential of Oculus Rift, there are others working on similar VR capabilities.
The YouTube videos don’t really convey the experience. You don’t “get it” until you put the goggles on. Then you immediately understand.
The Matrix meets Second Life is what this is. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is absolutely right that one version of the future of social networking moves into this world. Probably, in as few as five years, millions of people all over the world will interacting in real-time in totally immersive virtual environments through internet connected VR goggles. It will be in the context of “games” in the near term but it will quickly expand beyond that.
Imagine for example a virtual, self-guided and photo-realistic tour of the Louvre in Paris where your virtual self interacts with other real people in the galleries. Things like this will happen.
As expressed in Oculus Rift, VR is at once incredibly exciting but also disturbing. If you thought the internet was addictive, just wait until people can totally lose themselves in HD virtual worlds that include other real people, as I’ve suggested. Truly, it’s The Matrix.
Then, yesterday, I got a demo of the more utilitarian but also impressive Lowe’s “Holoroom” (video below). While the company says this wasn’t inspired by the Star Trek holodeck, it creates a virtual environment that users can “walk around” in. Lowe’s is rolling this out in Canada first with a home version to come.
The idea is to help people better visualize and design spaces. But the application of this is much broader than home improvement.
My experiences with the VR goggles and Holoroom this week convince me that in a decade “the internet” (if it’s still called that) will be very different than what we’re experiencing today. The 2D PC screen will seem like the Model T by comparison.
Wearables add another dimension to all this. Apple’s iWatch or watches are supposed to come out this fall. Between the iWatch and new Android Wear designs that promise to be more fashionable, the “wearables” market will finally take off. However that doesn’t extend to Google Glass unless the product is radically redesigned.
My immediate thought after wearing the VR goggles was, this is what Google should have developed instead of Glass.
To all of this we add “the internet of things.” Collectively these developments point to a compelling (and somewhat scary) future beyond the PC screen where the “real world,” all-encompassing virtual worlds and augmented reality are all deeply interpenetrated.