2016 was the year of virtual reality. In one year major players like Facebook, Sony and HTC all released their VR headsets. The predicts that the VR market could become a $160 billion market by 2020. Will this revenue only come from gaming? Or are there other implementations of virtual reality in our lives in the near future? What about a second virtual world we can escape to whenever we want?
I predict VR’s success in 2016 will hinge on ideas that step outside the handholding demos of the present. How do we control games? How interactive are VR films? What differentiates a “VR experience” from using my television or laptop or phone?
There are tons of people developing things that go beyond kiosk demos, but what we really need is a chance for natural selection to do its work. Right now, VR projects are judged largely on how well they translate into a New York Times writeup, which isn’t the same as being a compelling or repeatable experience.
We’re reporting on the Amusement Park era of the medium. Most virtual reality films and games play out like dark rides, pulling you through a series of flashy sets, with your hands and feet locked in place. Everything is big, flashy, and colorful, and there are dozens of people promising the most spectacular experience of your lifetime. Yes, we’re now climbing mountains and time traveling and, of course, shooting bad guys, but we stay within the gated walkway of the virtual space. And like an amusement park, VR is great fun, but I only need to visit now and then.
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I’m not convinced people who work on VR today have a definitive idea of what this medium will become over the next decade, in the same way no one could predict the grand and minute ways smartphones would evolve as technology and parts of our lives. In 2015, VR was just beginning to find itself, which made it difficult both to experience and summarize in the occasional neat news item or essay.
Virtual Reality Essay | Bartleby
The biggest thing I’m wondering about is what success for VR would look like. The answers seem to range from “popular gaming accessory” to “only remaining artistic medium.” On a more fundamental level, is consumer VR an entertainment system or a tool? Are we potentially looking at the new television, or the new personal computer?
Like all of us, I frequently think about what has caused the decline in the use of illustration. Since nothing occurs in a vacuum, it seems to relate to a transformation that has occurred to the American ethos. I believe it to have something to do with the pervasive and powerful effect of advertising and television. I know TV gets blamed for almost everything in American life, but as they endlessly say about computers, television is only a tool. Television is the tool of advertising, the most universal educational force the world has ever witnessed. Sadly the lesson plan of TV involves only one principal, endless consumption. If you turn on your TV set and look away at the nearby wall you will discover that the reflections produced by the light from the TV set constantly vary dramatically in contrast and intensity. These contrasts are paralleled by the sounds emitting from the same source. It occurred to me that abrupt changes in the intensity of light, were indications of danger that our neurological system has evolved to respond to. What effects can a lifetime of exposure to this assault produce? After all, our children are subjected to it within months of being born. When a shadow passes over a field mouse, it becomes alert to danger. Every cell of our body has been programmed to respond to light. It's obvious that the intensity of visual and audio contrast has increased though the years. I assume that our brains' response to this continuing onslaught is a protective deadening to our neural receptors. I am convinced that the passivity and indifference of the American public to their own lives and interests, is some how related to this phenomena. It is hard to believe, but a poll taken recently indicated that two thirds of the American public could not name even one of the democrats running for president. Not to mention that three times the number of Americans believe in Satan than evolution. We have lost our sense of what is real, and replaced it with an addiction to the virtual reality created by television, entertainment, and advertising. Incidentally the constant juxtaposition of images like that of a woman crying over a child lost in a fire and a commercial for Pampers amplifies this sense of meaningless and daily stupor.
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The virtual reality created by television is expressed through predominately photographic means, our culture's most dominant way of expressing "reality". Susan Sontag has written brilliantly on photography, in fact, that is the title of her early book.