Is Virtual Reality the Latest Fad?

A virtual reality prototype sits on display on a clear glass mannequin head

It is no secret now that EVERY major company is “all in” on virtual reality. Facebook made a significant investment when it bought VR company Oculus a little over a year ago, Microsoft is busy at work on the Hololens, and Google is doing everything possible to aid this push. Are we ready? Do we care? Will things change?

I think it is a cool technology.  I thought Google Glass was/is neat … smart watches were/are pretty OK … 3D televisions had some good times … The Segway was something to see … Bluetooth headsets? Meh.  With each of these technologies, though, I was, and still am, highly skeptical of large-scale adoption. As big of a techie as I am, why should I be? These are cool devices doing cool things!  What is not to like?

The problem with all of these technologies is that there isn’t or wasn’t a market demand for them. They specifically catered to early adopters without understanding the significant cultural and environmental shift that many of these needed in order for them to be acceptable to the masses. The release of a new format of technology cannot go the same “announcement” or “event” route that Google and Apple use for each iteration of their newest version of their latest “thing”. When I started reflecting on this idea, something my Grandfather always used to say came to mind. He spent his entire life in construction, and whenever he was faced with a new challenge, work related or not, he would confidently chime “The bigger the house, the bigger the foundation”. It gave him a place to start. He never rushed into anything. Always building the foundation first. Applying this, it allowed me to question VR in a different way. Will Facebook’s Oculus programs be compatible with Microsoft’s Hololens, or would developers have to choose a platform? Will this be the latest VCR/Beta/HDDVD/Blu-ray decision? How disconnected will a typical family allow themselves to become when a simple set of 3D glasses couldn’t even be adopted into the home movie routine. How big of a safety issue is Virtual Reality when compared to the still ongoing “Wiimote” epidemic. Will this change the way we consume information or interact with others? These are things I would like to see addressed, alongside the flash, bang and polish.

In spite of all of my questions, opinions and skepticism displayed in their comment sections, The New York Times and Google are “doubling-down” by distributing over one million Google Cardboard Viewers through the NYT’s Sunday paper in early November. Consumers will then be able to experience VR through their smartphone, browsing 360 degree enabled YouTube videos, including a short documentary produced in partnership with the New York Times. You can view a preview of their technology using the embed below. Let me know what your views are on this topic and the directions you think we are moving in using the comment section.

I’ve also combined the above referenced articles and a few more fun videos and goodies into a Storyfy article for you.

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3 thoughts on “Is Virtual Reality the Latest Fad?

  1. I’ve always thought the Oculus Rift was an interesting piece of technology. Have not gotten my hands on it, but as a gamer I think it would be cool too. When people play games, they want to be emerged within it. They want to feel like they are actually in the game. This allows the person to experience that. I wish it wasn’t so expensive, I would buy one for myself.

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  2. Awesome blog, one of the best and most informative I have read thus far! Another awesome capability of this new technology will be utilized in real estate. Users will be able to see the inside of homes or buildings for sale without actually stepping foot inside of it.

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  3. Great post and connections to varying technologies. I also recognized virtual reality’s emergence in social and journalistic environments after I read about ABC News pioneering their own VR segment. I wrote about it in one of my blogs: https://sjfcmultimedia.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/a-frontier-of-war-and-evolution-abcs-virtual-reality-coverage-of-syria/. Journalism is storytelling and with VR, storytelling is amplified. I think that virtual reality has the potential to be a very effective, interactive, and even poignant platform to share stories – after appropriate consideration and selection of which stories would benefit from the detailed medium. Given the example of Syria, virtual reality (and all of its bandwagon riders) could be instrumental in creating transparency on social issues and across countries and continents. What we need now are those willing to capture the stories, the device compatibility and resources to access the VR segments, and open minds willing to accept and learn from this evolution of journalism.

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