Quick thoughts on the present and future of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality
Some individuals, pundits, and other factions within our videogame, computer, and technology community seem to want to liken the latest explosion in Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) consumer technology to 3D technology that was in seemingly every new television of recent vintage as the next big thing, until suddenly it wasn’t just a few short years back, or to the promise of The Lawnmower Man-esque experience of 1990s technology that came up far short in terms of immersion and practicality. In other words, VR, AR, and MR are just the latest poster children for technological fads, less the personal computer revolution of the late 1970s and more the failed personal robotics movement of the early- to mid-1980s.
While I agree that this is still early days for the latest attempts at this type of technology, I do believe we’ve crossed the necessary technological and business-case thresholds for this to have real staying power rather than simply arriving with a hype-filled bang and leaving with a disastrous whimper. In other words, in 10 years, rather than looking back on this time of Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Microsoft Hololens, Sony PlayStation VR, et al., as end points, we will instead liken this to the heady days of the release of the 1977 personal computing trinity of the Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore PET. And like that time, competition will be fierce, mistakes will be made, initial prices will be high, etc., but soon enough it will all shake out to become a legitimate industry, well within reach of the average consumer, with an ever growing list of use cases, many of which we can’t even imagine right now.
Time will tell on all of this, of course, and I could be dead wrong, but I suspect I’ll be posting again in 10 years about how this was indeed the starting point for finally realizing the promise of decades of science fiction fantasizing and earlier, not-quite-there technology and consumer interest. It should be a fun decade to come.