Why I am excited for the first time

The older guys will remember the VRML fad back in the late 90s. It wasn’t bad, it was a glimpse into the future, the only problem was that some overoptimistic people such as me got overexcited with the technology and believed in its reality. I was even experimenting with it while I was learning HTML. But then we hit a VR winter much like AI winter came before. AI now has resurrected ever stronger lately and I believe it’s time for VR too. The game changer? Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 & Horizon.

Headset is the new modem

When people understood that another cyber reality is possible and bought their first modem (I was one of them buying up a 1200bps modem) the power of the new medium was immediately obvious. 1200bps modems were not the first iteration of the technology but it was enough to start logging in and chatting with other people and that the community reached a critical mass. That’s what’s happening with virtual reality at the moment and my prediction is that the community is not going to be made up from gamers but people looking for alternative experiences. This part of the crowd is the more curious fun loving adventurers that may feel stranded at home due to the pandemic and willing to explore how it feels to have a virtual drink at a bar chatting to foreigners. This is what is missing from the internet of today versus the old era. The ability to meet strangers since IRC died.

The importance of Open Tools

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that the landscape for developers includes more than the usual (and admittedly great) tools for the Job such as Unity XR and Unreal. Godot is a FOSS project that is a direct Unity competitor receiving more traction. A-Frame and Three.js form the basis of the Javascript WebVR/WebXR stack that is also supported by the Mozilla Foundation. Another open and decentralized alternative to Facebook’s Horizon project is Decentraland which technically at the time of writing is not a VR project but will soon become one.

Mozilla Hubs is a great effort to bring A-frame and cloud together. You can essentially call it social programmable VR experiences and I am very excited about this possibility because the future of Virtual Reality I think it’s social and not gaming.

Work

I don’t think VR is going to revolutionize work meetings. I don’t see anything that adds value to video and shared screens and whiteboards unless the job itself is done in VR such as physical object modelling. Industrial uses are dominated by Augmented Reality which adds a lot of value to the industrial worker/inspector through glasses or lenses.

Mental Health

I do think that this is a field that can be revolutionized. A quick look to the potential applications include treatment for different anxieties and fears through exposure therapy (think fear of flight or cockroaches). Also escaping your overcrowded family apartment to be in a quiet place while you are having a depression flare up or anxiety flare up is also a game changer. Or meeting your therapist in a flowery garden versus a hospital room.

Conclusion

Very excited for this new frontier. There are dystopian scenarios too that include people not living their living rooms to exist inside virtual reality only to escape reality. Well that’s not a very good scenario in most situations but imagine scenarios such as being in prison, being alone in a remote mountain or restrained by your parents. Variety is the spice of life and everything in good moderation will move society forward opening new horizons.

Full stack software developer, startup founder. Mostly interested in radical & futuristic ideas with social impact.