Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why The Imminent New Age of Immersive VR is Utter Bullshit

Forget the hype about the new age of immersive virtual reality. That’s the polar opposite of where we’re heading. We live in a time when expedience is the pre-eminent capability and accessibility trumps utility. We watch movies and play games on 5” phone screens instead of 50” televisions. We shoot photos with an 8 megapixel smartphone instead of the $1000 SLR gathering dust on our shelf. We hunt and peck text messages because we don’t want to give our undivided attention to a five minute phone call. And we’re starting to put on smart watches because it’s too much of a hassle to reach into our pocket and take out our smartphone.

That’s why I’m skeptical about the brave new 3D web that’s supposed to be launched by Facebook’s $2 Billion acquisition of Oculus. We’re not willing to pay attention to anything for more than five minutes without checking Twitter or Facebook, sending a text or taking a Selfie. When faced with technology options we choose the one that requires the least commitment to undivided attention, the fastest startup time and the lowest learning curve. That’s not VR. Not today. And not for the foreseeable future.

I’m confident that immersive VR will become the dominant domain for many of the millions of hard core immersive gamers and role players around the world. But until we can wear contact lenses that shift us seamlessly between RL, AR and VR, don’t hold your breath for mainstream use.


R. said...


Chestnut Rau said...

I could not agree more. Well said.

Unknown said...

I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but it seems to me you are overlooking a factor that will lead to a certain level of VR becoming popular, though not the full experience of a virtual world.
Attention spans have been getting shorter for decades, as has the trend to passive entertainment.
That has everything to do with why Second Life and other virtual worlds have never developed a widespread, large audience, especially in the under-30 crowd. They require a large investment of attention and a high level of active interaction.
Contrast that with WOW or Neverwinter, which, though immersive are essentially passive, the game is laid out and the monsters spawn in the same spot no matter how many times you run that dungeon.
So, as far as that goes, I agree with you. The drones have been conditioned to expect everything handed to them on a platter, in small, easily digestible moments of time.
But though you mentioned it obliquely, I don’t think you are giving enough importance to the convenience factor. Convenience is why people are using their smartphones to take pictures, not short attention spans.
If a 3D web is the most convenient method of accessing a variety of media, including social, people will not only adopt it, they will demand it.
Picture your average drones coming home from work, strapping on their headsets and being instantly in contact with friends. At a touch of a button, they are on facebook, posting about a movie they plan to watch that night; another touch, they are sitting in the virtual theatre with friends, their facebook feed streaming off to the side and requiring a glance to the left to bring it into focus; another touch and the twitter bar comes up so they can tweet about the great movie they are watching.
All without moving a muscle off their couch and only the most minimal active involvement. So if the 3D web can offer that sort of convenience, a minimal form of immersive VR may garner widespread acceptance.
It won’t be, however, a full scale immersive experience. The masses won’t show any greater interest in virtual worlds; those still require a long attention span, along with active and willing immersion, something the well-conditioned masses are not capable of.

Botgirl Questi said...

Crap and Chestnut: Thanks. :)

Bear: I'll hold judgement until I see what develops, but it's going to take a lot of time for current websites to provide compelling VR content. Given the immaturity of the medium, there's going to be a long learning curve for the UX and design people who will need to figure out how to translate the Internet flatland into a 3D Metaverse. There's also the issue of interoperability as multiple VR hardware vendors get into the market. Standards are going to have to emerge.

Remember when 3D television was supposed to be the next big thing? It hasn't taken off. Partially because of the hassle factor of glasses and partially because most of the content we view doesn't gain a lot through 3D. I'm not convinced that most of the current things we do on a flat screen are going to benefit from VR.

Finally, if you live in a household with other people, shutting oneself off inside a helmet is a very different attention stealer than checking Twitter on your phone. So unless everyone is surfing that same thing at the same time, it's not going to play well in families.

Inara Pey said...

Bravo! Bravo! Encore!

Nail struck squarely on head, including observations on the isolationist nature of these first generation devices.

Unknown said...

I think they have much bigger things planned then a little immersive VR for these things. No doubt we will soon see these as nothing more then lightweight glasses that can be worn regularly and are hooked to our smart phones. Then instead of having to squint at my 5 inch cell phone screen i have the display as large as I want, anywhere I want. No longer will we be tethered to our monitors but can do anything from e-mailing, twittering, read a web page, to a full VR experience while we are on the commuter train, standing at a checkout etc. Voice commands and finger sized trackball mice or even head and or eye movements allow navigation possibilities as good as we now have with finger swipes on a cell or keyboard and mice on a desktop.

It is about portability. No longer need to purchase the next biggest screen size for cell or home monitor. A pair of glasses can can be used for all.

That's the soon to be future I see.

Botgirl Questi said...

Arielle: That's the future I imagine as well. My ideal is the ability to seamlessly move between devices and domains, roles and identities.

Botgirl Questi said...

Inara: Thanks!

Arielle:I think it's likely that we'll end up with some sort of hands free mobile computing platform, but my guess is that its going to be at least a few years down the road before we trade in our cell phones for glasses. I also like the movie Her's concept of audio interface and projection.