It’s been 25 years since Lawnmower Man (google it) hit the screens and let audiences imagine an interesting, albeit scary technology; Virtual Reality. The film portrayed a suit and headset (and a dose of SciFi) that gave the user the sense of being in an entirely different world by feeding sight, sound, touch, smell…etc. Controlling all the senses gave the illusion of leaving reality behind.
We’ve toyed with a variety of technologies over the years with the intent or goal to immerse the viewer in the experience. Most of these are passive. 3D movies and TV, immersive theme park rides,…etc. Every effort has left us short. We rush to them, are left wanting, and then wander away…3D TV anyone?And even at this moment we are being bombarded with jargon, toys, apps and more all touting VR, immersive, 360…etc. How do we make sense of what appears on the surface to just be another video game fad?
It’s simple: Virtual Reality suspends disbelief. You feel as if you are there. You are scared of the height, humbled by the beauty, or otherwise experiencing real emotions from an unreal experience. You can look around, you can look behind things, perspectives change.This is not 360 video, this is not a passive experience where you ‘watch’ something….this is an experience where your every glance, step, and motion creates and maintains that you are in fact, somewhere else.
This is the distinction, and this is the standard that should be used to assess this technology as it develops at an exponential pace over the next few years. I am not implying there is no value or worth to these other technologies, as the differences between VR and other ‘immersive’ experiences simply represent different tools for different jobs. Are we there? Well, we have sight, sound, walking around with accurate motion and hand/object tracking which can yield a feeling unlike anything we’ve had previously. I think the technology is definitely ready for prime time in certain applications but it may take a few years to bring out a blockbuster. Will you enjoy the experience?
See for yourself. There’s no better way.