Today saw the long awaited chance to pre-orderthe pricy $599 Oculus Rift. The website crashed within minutes as so many people were clicking the buy button.
For those of you unfamiliar with Oculus (www.oculus.com), it is much more than just a virtual reality headset. It is the nexus of pioneering software, extreme computing, 3D and 2D media content, all wrapped together with real-time internet.
Basically it's like pornography, 'it's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.' And once you see it, your reaction is also very similar to the first time an adolescent sees porn...with eyes wide open and a drooling dropped jaw.
However, unlike pornography, virtual reality is going to transform our increasingly digital society in ways that make mobile phone apps seem lame and antiquated. One day sooner than later even mobile (hand-held) phones will be obsolete.
Why is virtual reality so important? Communication. The better the human race gets at communicating, value is always created.
Example: Before the telegraph, the fastest way to get a message sent was via train or horseback. This was not cheap. Imagine paying someone today a day's wages just to deliver one message. Only the wealthy could afford this type of service. Now a homeless person with not a penny to their name can contact almost any place in the world with free email.
Virtual reality is a jump in communications that dwarf software like Skype and FaceTime.
In a virtual setting, all those little bits of information that is lost in emails, phone calls, and videochat can finally be unlocked.
We all have seen those spy movies where a subtle look of the eyes or face of someone gives away that person's 'bluff.' Those that play poker know exactly what I'm talking about.
There is so much more than subtlety that we will be able to finally communicate fully with vr's power.
Online communication as we know it today consists of sight and sound. Our other senses: touch, smell, and taste are lost in the digital world. These other senses also communicate much more than we realize.
Virtual reality will allow us to communicate touch. Imagine dancing in a 300 year old virtual Austrian ballroom with a virtual instructor while you are in your home in Scranton, PA. No more rigid Thursday night dance classes to attend.
Now instead of learning ballroom dancing at a cost of hundreds of dollars, a virtual reality ballroom dancing program costs $30 and you keep it forever. The value created is the money saved by going virtual. The end is the same either way...you learn to dance. Sorry no phone app for this one!
Let's enlarge our scope to something we do on a daily basis...shop. Imagine a virtual mall (where all the kids hang out in the future). You can try on virtual clothes from Nordstrom, order the item while in the virtual mall. You can even have your friends tell you how they think it looks on you if they are hooked up at the same time as you.
After spending some real cash, you go to the virtual bookstore to learn about the hottest new books. While at the virtual book store you buy a book that is delivered instantly to your kindle, or in paper if you know what that is. You also sign up for the virtual bookclub of the month.
Virtual dating. A good friend of mine has a great idea...fostering more offline behavior we all crave.
While at my virtual bookclub a certain girls' insight into Moby Dick just blew my mind. I never would have found this amazing person without the ability to communicate virtually.
The next step, I ask her out on a real in living person date. Before meeting in person we already know the content of the person's character which virtual reality provided. I already feel connected to this person as humans feel with any person they spend time with whether virtual or not.
Dating takes time. And with all the virtual activities humans can participate in to get to "know" someone, finding that special person will be easier than ever before, more genuine than a dating site ever could be, and a whole lot less awkward. Finally we are getting to the point where technology is starting to bring us together on another level than Facebook memes.
Not here just yet, but coming...Other senses such as smell is another format of communication. Example: That smell is so bad, it is probably a good idea to get away from it. Think rotting corpse.
The bottom line. This technology is here to stay and will change our behaviors just like the iPhone. This tech revolution is not even in its' infancy yet, more like it is just exiting the womb.
The only obstacle in virtual reality is the limits of human imagination.