The future of Virtual Reality

This week I have started using my virtual reality headset and I have been totally blown away by it.

When you put on your headset you are transported to your virtual home, a spacious terrace on a mountaintop on a sunny day, with the birds chirping, the breeze blowing, and a beautiful mountainous landscape. In one wall of your virtual home you can manage your command center from which you can launch any VR application, and see which of your friends are online to play with. The sensation of immersion is perfect, after a few minutes you completely forget that you are not really in the virtual world, and after a few hours of VR, going back to the normal world takes a few seconds of adaptation. The realisation that you have been staring at a wall moving your arms around for hours is confusing.

Traditionally, videogames have always been limited by the screen size, the area of game was necessarily reduced to the size of the screen, hence your avatar in this world was small and so were the rest of creatures in it. This is no longer a limitation. Everything is life-size. You are transported inside the game’s world, for those of you who watched Tron, the movie, this is it. In “Star Trek Bridge Crew”  you are captain of the Aegis space ship navigating through the galaxy. When you look out the window, the immense size of the planets, meteorites and stars is breath taking. In “TheBlu” you are in the bottom of the ocean swimming with medusas, tortoises and whales. The sensation is very real and awe inspiring. In“Richie’s Plank Experience” you have to walk a plank on the top of a skyscraper and you are dared to jump off it. Even if I knew I was in the safety of my room in the real world, I could not command my feet to move. The sensation of vertigo was stronger than my brain’s logic. This is amazing!

One drawback that VR experiences have is that when your body is moving in the VR world but not in the real world, for example if you are piloting a kart, or a spaceship doing barrel rolls, your brain is not capable of understanding why your inner ear is not feeling the pressure of the centrifugal force and you get motion sickness. The sensation is similar to getting seasick. I know first hand.

Imagine working on your computer, not from a chair in the office staring at a couple small screens, but on the top of the Everest on a sunny day, in the bottom of the ocean, or in the center of the galaxy. Imagine your screen is not limited by size, but can be as large as the sky, allowing you have a 360 degree screen where you can leave your different applications. This is what Virtual Desktop does. Currently it has some limitations since the VR headset only has reading-resolution where your head is oriented, not where your eyes are looking. Google is working on a headset with human eye resolution using a trick tracking your eyes to see where you are looking at to maximise resolution in this area.

At any rate of advance in VR technologies, in the next 5-10 years it’s easy to foresee that VR graphics and sound will be indistinguishable from base reality. In this scenario, it would be possible for companies not to need to have physical offices for computer work. Workers could work remotely from their homes, teams would be distributed worldwide with a virtual office in the VR world. This office would be amazingly beautiful, spacious, sunny, with breathtaking landscapes. People would have avatars in this VR world which will allow them to have meetings, work together on projects, explain topics on a whiteboard…

bloomberg-on-oculus

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