Could VR replace hardware? Could some of the expensive, bespoke hardware we use day-to-day eventually be replaced with a virtual reality environment instead?
To explain where I'm coming from, I feel I should explain that my thoughts on this started when I watched a video on YouTube. It's included below, and you won't need to watch all of it to get a sense of what I'm talking about.
So what's interesting about that particular example is that, until now, to be a DJ with access to those tools demonstrated you'd need a lot of expensive hardware. This is true of a few things I can think of, but we'll come to those next.
Using VR means that aside from the expensive computer and VR setup - which I admit isn't exactly cheap at the moment - you don't need any other hardware in this setup. And I suspect that it's not just DJing that could benefit from this, although it certainly feels like a workable alternative to buying CD/MP3 "decks" a mixer and a load of other hardware devices.
And this got me thinking about some of the jobs that I do which would benefit from this, so here's a sort of case study on how I work. When I edit video, I use Adobe Premiere Pro CC. It's software-based as you would expect. But high-end professional edit environments would use hardware to make editing a lot easier. For example colour grading is often done on BlackMagic control surfaces that cost a lot of money. In Premiere I often lament the lack of decent control over audio levels and shuttling around within my timeline.
Now both of these examples are reasonable niche, but I'm pretty sure there are a huge number of things that we do with a hardware control interface that might be better with VR. Think about those tasks where you find yourself wishing you weren't tied to a keyboard and mouse. And we've seen this already, to some extent, with Google Tilt Brush in VR. You can paint, but there's no need to buy a paint brush to do it. Now paint brushes are cheap, so it's much less of a problem, but the idea is still valid.
And there will also be some advantages to having things in a virtual environment that we are used to having in the real world. Muscle memory, for example, would allow us to use a virtual environment more efficiently than we would a normal desktop. I could, for example, turn around to look at the various locations I store my physical media, grab the ones I want and then move back to edit them.
Perhaps in many ways VR might one day make up for the shortcomings of the modestly-sized windows environment many of us are used to. Multiple desktops and monitors help, but none of them give us the scope that VR could to look around and have things we need placed where they make sense to us.
Of course we'll need VR hardware to improve a bit, but I feel like in the next decade we might start to see a system emerge that makes working a lot more efficient than it is right now. Companies that make bespoke hardware might have a rough time ahead.