I have already written in Oculus Rift and other systems and how they are going to impact on business travel or education.
But one might believe that this technological revolution will take decades to take hold in the mainstream as it’s the fad of some geeks, business or technology wise.
Many years back, at the end of a big negotiation, all team members were offered a Wii system – you know those games with a sensor that allowed you to physically interact with the game.
At the time, we still held stuff in our hands in order to allow the system to correctly gauge our very movements and translate them into action on the screen. Primitive as it seems from today’s point of view, at the time it was a sensation.
For the first time playing was not for young geeks anymore – it was ready to enter the mainstream as the knowledge threshold became meaningless. Installing and switching on those systems and especially interacting with them became as simple as folding socks.
The real miracle happened outside living rooms and kiddies bars. Just months after I got my Wii, I learned that retirement homes were buying them at a crazy rate as they found out that retirees loved them and started to move their bodies again. They played, found it fun and gave their biosystems a much-needed jolt.
Those retirees that were engaging in Wii playing were less sick, happier and more likely to live a fulfilling life than those who shunned it. Doctors were full of praise for the games as not only quality of life went up but also costs of maintaining health care went down.
In a matter of months, the world of retirement homes was transformed and there was happiness all around.
But many are so sick, so immobile that they could not even do the most basic things so they could probably only watch the others from afar. That’s nice but not really.
Virtual Reality is going to change that. Imagine one of those glued to the bed for pretty much the rest of their lives would have such a headset that is able to give them full immersion into whatever the system played to you.
They would be able to communicate much more freely with friends and family as this would be as close to sitting in front of somebody as it can be.
They would be able to enjoy the Great Barrier Riff or Ayers Rock from any angle or see a life performance at the Sydney Opera.
But if two people are communicating with each other over such a system, cameras don’t work anymore. Would you want to see your counterpart wearing such a system while he talks to you? Avatars will become really important.
Everyone could create his own avatar that looks as much as real life as one can imagine it minus all the things one does not want the others to see. If an old cancer sick woman wants to communicate with her baby grand-kid, she likely wants the kiddie to remember her in a better way than as a very sick woman. Or if someone lives for months in a hospital after a heavy accident, he probably does not want his kids to see his mangled body while they talk to him.
If one wants, one still can put the real thing but some will sure prefer the Avatar that looks like them minus all the things you don’t want others to see of you.
That, in turn, makes up for great communication as its still the words that count and the visuals from us that we can control will be much better able to translate whatever emotion we want to convey.
But let’s come back to all those glued to a bed or otherwise severely limited in their mobility. For the moment, it will only be visuals with audio. It will be interactive, it will be impressive but it will still not be immersive.
It’s no stretch of imagination if someone adds little bitty things left and right. Imagine olfactory sensations you could get or even some tactile stuff on your body.
For a person whose only option is to stare at a ceiling all day or television at best, a Virtual Reality environment will be a true life saver. For a quadriplegic who only sees the world from a wheelchair that he must direct with his chin or not at all, this would give back some sense of dignity as this person will be able to mingle with the rest of the world again.
But there are also billions of lonely people who have nothing but a dog and a television set. Virtual Reality would give them an option they very likely will fall for quickly.
Scenes like in the surrogate are maybe not for tomorrow but the bridging solution Oculus Rift will be a vast improvement of life quality for armies.
Some people maybe can’t leave bed. But they can have dreams and they have never been this vivid before.