We all want to understand the virtual reality technology.
Not only the high-end headsets, interesting accessories and the cool gaming experiences but how this new technology can affect our daily lives by reforming many industries in the very near future. Yes virtual reality has the potential to do that… This week at the VERGE 16 conference in Santa Clara, California I moderated a breakout session with some key industry players to address the future implications of VR.
Together with Daniel O’Brian (VP of HTC Vive), Roy Taylor (Corporate Vice President of AMD) and Arno Hartholt (Computer Scientist for USC Institute for Creative Technologies) we talked about the practical and potential applications for VR and the ways this technology may evolve in the next years.
The discussion was more than simply providing information on a technical level. The participants had practical experience in the field that allowed them to elaborate on the past and future of VR.
Below you can find some thought provoking ideas from:
- an executive of a high-end VR headset maker.
- an executive of a chip maker that empowers these VR headsets.
- a computer scientist that lays the background for the industry.
and a journalist that keeps track of all these bright people…
Why VR failed in the 90’s and why it can succeed now?
“When we had VR in the 90’s it was only one company who produced headsets. Now there is more competition. There are hundreds of thousands of people working in VR now. The amount of investment that goes into VR are sized in billions of dollars. You can’t put genie back into the box. The quality of technology, the size of the ecosystem and the momentum are all signaling that this is really different now.”
“Through all these years we learned what made us sick in VR. The designers understood the asset creation, gaming engines, tools and how to create content in 90 frames. Now they can make really fun and amazing experiences. Together with the advancements in hardware industry this will become considerable for the end users.”
What is the killer app for VR?
“I believe that there isn’t a killer app. Every people that comes out of a VR experience is different. It resonates differently. Everybody picks something different, everybody draws something different in Google’s Tilt Brush— except for CEO’s… they always draw their names.” “VR is such a transformational experience. We have to stay very open for new possibilities. One person told me that the most immersive experience ever had was a social interactive Ping Pong game. In VR anything can be a killer app, for anyone. Even Ping Pong…”
We haven’t realized the impact of VR yet
“The Shoah Foundation with USC in Los Angeles has interviewed a holocaust survival called Pinchas Gutter and created a hologram of him. Using speech recognition technology and holographic images you can now ask him any question and he’ll answer. This is a very interesting work that can be an example for future VR experiences. With body scanners, artificial intelligence and voice recognition my grand, grand, grand son can have an image of me in VR. They can ask me questions and I can talk to them. By using VR, effectively I can live forever. I think this is a very profound experience and we haven’t yet realized the impact of VR yet.”
“If you talk to a real person you feel judged — even though it’s a doctor and patient situation. But talking to a digital character who you know it’s not judging, allows you to open up. If you do that in VR instead of 2D images, it’s even a game changer.”
“We have partners in journalism that are using 360 cameras to build deeper empathy with others, providing the real person’s view instead of news agency’s view. We have partners who use VR for sustainability in city engineering. We partner with automative companies that need to prototype different products in a short period of time, they do this in VR and save materials and money. I think this is all fascinating and will open the doors for new interactions we have yet to see.”
Can VR lower the costs of healthcare?
“If you make a financial comparison, the cost of a VR headset therapy is more expensive than sitting down and talking to a doctor. However hardware prices are coming down fast. Besides, with virtual reality not only we can cure patients but we can also train doctors. There are numerous ways to get the healthcare costs down with virtual reality.”
The discussion about virtual vs augmented reality
“In virtual reality you can put people in controlled environments and this is relatively easy for developers. But augmented reality has bigger problems to solve. So it’s a much smaller community. In the future developer communities will decide which one will be bigger, not somebody else’s goofy vision.”
“There are things that I’d like to do in VR, like walking on the moon. I can’t do that in augmented reality.”
“We really want people to be encouraged with what the possibilities are. We want people to understand that there are different levels of VR and we want them to understand the value of it. We want to build the best VR experiences, by putting them at the center of the content, giving them full control and move around safely in a virtual environment.”
“The technology is exponential. We are living the second renaissance. We had VR in the 90’s that didn’t work very well. Now they work but we’re still at the very much beginning. As exciting and immersive it can be, VR is still just one element. There is augmented reality, artificial intelligence and so on. VR is one part of the big puzzle. It is now very easy to create a VR experience any game developer can do it. It’s really about the ideas and how you apply that to your own field.”
“I am sure you may have heard about the deforestation in the Amazons. Intellectually we know that it’s wrong but it’s really hard to get across just how big a problem that is because we can’t see it. With virtual reality we can see this, you can’t do this with photograph. I wish someone could do this.
Consumers need to get used to certain technologies. Imagine there is a cooking hologram in augmented reality and someone chops a finger off… that’s going to be a lawsuit. Virtual reality is a more controlled environment whereas augmented reality will take some time to understand.”
On the ethical consequences of designing new experiences
Daniel O’ Brien
“We have to be diligent not only to lift the ocean of what the possibilities of VR are but to continue to study new technologies. There are a lot of things that we are working with independent teams on issues like how much time should we spend looking at the screens close to our face or should we expose this technology to kids? We owe ourselves a lot of diligence to make sure that we don’t do bad things.”
“Einstein’s famous relativity equation opened the doors for space travel but it also gave birth to the atom bomb. This is a general problem of science and technology. It is a delicate balance. But we just shouldn’t stop inventing because of the wrong consequences.”