What Nobody Will Tell You About Virtual Reality

There’s a lot of hype about virtual reality these days, and most of it is wrong. Science fiction films and books have created a hunger for Oculus-style, head-mounted displays (HMDs) and “immersive” experiences, but does wearing a pair of goggles really have more power to transport us? Based on my 10 years of experience in the field I don’t think so.

The VR revolution will not be experiential, but rather enabling. VR is a feast for our hands, not our eyes. Curious? Read on.

The flagship of today’s VR craze is the Oculus Rift, which is a stereoscopic, wide field of view, head-tracking device that blocks out the world just like the movies promise. In our collective cultural consciousness, VR is the headset. Sensational as the effects of HMDs are, it turns out that the additions they lend to the viewing experience don’t actually add more information than a human can gather from looking at a more traditional image. If Bruce Willis is taking down a helicopter with a motorcycle on your TV, he’s still doing that in the Oculus as well. It’s the event that’s exciting, not how you’re seeing it.

I hate to break it to everyone, but great societal upheavals — like the Internet and smartphones — were generated by advances in our ability to act on and process the world. VR headsets show us what we can already see in a photograph but more sensationally. This is not enough to change society. VR for the eyes, while certainly entertaining, is unlikely to create new industries.

So, when you read headlines that The Future of Travel Has Arrived: Virtual-Reality Beach Vacations, Google Cardboard Saves Baby’s Life, Father Witnesses Son’s ‘Miracle’ Birth In Virtual Reality, realize these authors are making a —> Read More