2017 Will Be A Year Of VR And High-Tech Music

2017 Will Be A Year Of VR And High-Tech Music
January 2, 2017

Have you noticed all the TV commercials with everyone gathered for the holidays breathlessly sharing the virtual reality goggles? 


Or hear how Chance the Rapper recently became the first recording artist to receive Grammy nominations for a streaming-only album? 


And how did anyone live before the iPhone was introduced a decade ago? No Tweeting. No Snapchat. No Uber. No Candy Crush. No sexting. 


Fake news, anyone? 


No doubt, 2016 was a year of disruption in American politics and pop culture, but it shouldn't have come as that much of a surprise. Disruption, in terms of technology in everyday life, has been around for a decade since the advent of smartphones and all that followed: apps, social media and omnipresent videogaming. 


Social media, virtual reality, smarter smartphones and increasingly digital entertainment will continue to trend in 2017. It's not even a question. 


While we can anticipate some of what the new year holds – Lady Gaga raising eyebrows during halftime of the Super Bowl, tween girls flocking to Beauty and the Beast, an unsettling return to Twin Peaks – if 2016 taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected. 


Chicago-based Chance the Rapper's streaming digital mixtape Coloring Book is a harbinger of the future of pop music. 


Grammy member, record producer and musician Michael Morales says when it comes to music, physical product is mostly a thing of the past. Chance the Rapper's Grammy nod for best rap album validates that approach. 


"It tells me the music business is changing in ways that we never thought it would," he said. "Music is entirely intangible now. Recordings are intangible, but at least they used to put it on a tangible product where you could buy it, hold it and feel it. It's really strange going into this realm where there is nothing you can touch anymore. That's a little weird for me." 


At San Antonio's Geomedia, virtual reality is simply, um, reality. 


Murray Breit, director of business development at the interactive media house, said VR increasingly will impact pop culture. Videogaming and entertainment will continue to be at the leading edge of the technology applications that immerse users in the digital world. There will be no escape. 


"We predicted that many years ago," Breit said about the barrage of television ads touting VR to consumers during the holidays. "You're seeing more of the mass population being exposed to it, and it's becoming more readily available." 


Virtual reality now typically involves head-mounted devices and smartphones running apps. Soon it will be suits and hand controllers linked to computers with varying levels of interactivity and immersiveness. It will be pretty cool, Breit said. 


"There are some amazing experiences you can do," he added. For example, Google's Tilt Brush is a 3D painting experience akin to being dropped into Photoshop and enabled to draw the world around you. 


"What we will see in the very near future is that the 'tether' is going to be gone," Breit said. "You'll still need a computer, but you will be free from a cable going to that. The headset will be mobile, and you can move around a room environment and walk around." 


Smartphones will continue to be the center of universe for their owners. Coming this year are smartphones with more processing powers, greatly improved cameras and longer battery life. Some will have the ability to bend, flex and even fold, according to Tekz24.com, a technology site based in India. And competition will be fierce. 


"At this point, we live in a completely connected world with the expectation that we will always have the information we need at our fingertips. We don't argue over which actor was in a film, we just hit IMDB," said author and pop culture expert Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, via email. 


"We make plans by going to websites wherever we are. Just a decade after coming into existence, smartphones have completely changed the way we think about getting information that is part of the daily conversations we have." 


But Markman said all the communication technology comes with a caveat. It doesn't mean that Americans, post-election, are communicating all that much – or listening to each other. Folks have got to get out of their bubbles, he said. 


"The most difficult problem we face in 2017 is learning to communicate with people we disagree with," Markman said. "The country has gotten highly polarised on a number of issues, particularly politics. Because the Internet allows us to focus on information and people who hold similar views to our own, we rarely venture outside of our bubble to talk with people who think differently than we do. 


"While it is easy to focus on people who agree with us, it means that we do not have forces that moderate our opinions. This year, it will be important for people to learn to converse with people who have different viewpoints."

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