VR does not start to take off. There are many fields where it should already have crossed borders and be causing daily headlines with its spectacular advances. However, there are many areas of our current technology where VR still doesn’t set the tone.
The problem is not VR. Technology is more than mature. The problem are that companies that know their industries are going to be affected tremendously. It is the same example as electric cars. Manufacturers of combustion cars are reluctant to offer electric cars in their catalogs because they know that their current business model, that of cars that are ruined at age 15, and of those who make profitable benefits from their official technical services, that business is at the edge of the abyss. Electric cars have a tenth of mechanical elements and suffer a much smaller deterioration. It is a full-fledged advance. But the industry is reluctant to accept it. Why? It’s very clear. An old and bad but profitable business is always better than a new and good one, but that is going to mean less revenue, and that will force a painful restructuring.
The same exactly will happen when VR arrives in all its force. We begin to hear in the media how the big boys are positioning themselves. They know it’s going to be disruptive. They know that VR is going to be an atomic bomb for many industries, and they don’t want to be with the ass in the air when it arrives. Facebook was the first to move token, acquiring Oculus. Sony followed, the first to stop laughing when they realized that the entertainment thing in VR could be very serious issue. Microsoft has not been lame. They has gotten into VR through the small door, the one of the Augmented Reality, but they are super committed. HTC, the mobile phone company, left the business and now it is centered solely and exclusively in VR. And Google, always so quiet, is doing its things in hopes of punching his fist on the table when appropriate. Then there’s the inimitable Apple, always in silence, always on the lookout, releaseing strange things as ARKit, an incomplete technology so that we start relishing what comes to us. What they want us to come upon, and when they want us to come over. Not before.
Because, what is going to come? What will be the technological future that awaits us?
1. A world without screens. Only viewers. Glasses.
In the future the screens will disappear. The reason is what I call the “paradox of the infinite screen”. If we are able to create a screen technology that allows “retina” definition even by placing it in a light glasses only a few inches from our eyes, then we have created the infinite screen. It will no longer be necessary to have several displays on our desk. We can create as many virtual screens as we want, and place them so that they float in the space where we want. A 50″ TV in a tiny dining room? There will be no problem. We will put our viewer, and from the glasses we can visualize TV of the size that we want. And replace the smartphone? No problem. Our display will include an AR and VR system. If we are on the street, we put on the glasses, and we can have in our hand a virtual screen of the size we want.
You will ask me how much definition we will need on those screens in order to achieve such a dream. The truth is a lot. Probably an 8K will not suffice, and in addition it will be necessary to think that we will have two eyes and therefore two micro-screens. But do not hesitate. That technology is coming. It is already taking giant steps right now. There were already many companies working on micro-displays. They were using them only for certain professional activities. But in a few years these companies will be worth billions. All of them will be in focus because the whole future will be a pair of screens inside a glasses.
Suddenly, the display of a single device will eliminate all others by one stroke. Do you understand why I say that VR is scary to many companies, and everyone is taking it very calmly to succeed?
2. A world without smarthphones. Only viewers. Glasses.
The cell phone is dead. Finite. Caput. Now you will understand the fear and even terror to VR of many companies!
Think about it. We have been doing communication the same monotonous way for a century. First were messages (the telegraph), then came voice (the phone) and then small messages wirelessly (SMS and mobile), to end up landing with chats, messages in the cloud (wasapp) and video conferencing. But no one uses videoconferencing. It’s bullshit. It is just a tiny little window showing a flat and almost inert face of the speaker, almost always looking in any direction but you.
It’s time for something new. And that hour has already arrived. It has already arrived two years ago, when I had a chance to try Oculus Social, and I thought, wow, when this achieves full functionality, it will destroy cell phones. It will crush it.
The world to come will have telepresence. Listen. It is not teleconference, nor videoconference. It’s like a hundred times more communication. It is the end of the road in communication between people.
Imagine it. You put on glasses, your interlocutors do the same, and you are all in a virtual simulation where you experience the true and real feeling of being one next to the others. Not only do you see the others in 3D, that you do. It is that you will see their facial gestures and their hands, you will see how their virtual eyes look at yours, you will see their lips moving following their real voice, which will not come from rubbish stereo speakers, it will be real 3D positional sound, and you will notice where every person is even without seeing them. To make matters best, virtual avatars will reach almost in the photographic fidelity, creating the permanent feeling of being next to that other person as if you were next to his or her in the real world.
Science fiction? This already has a year of existence on some platforms. Facebook is taking slow but safe steps in this regard. Microsoft has already made its first prototypes. The thing is beginning but when it wakes up at all it will be the biggest disruption of a technology that nobody has ever seen. Suddenly, in a few years, the world will forget mobile phones forever. Nothing will be comparable to putting on a viewer, even in the street, a simple and comfortable glasses that will not only protect us from the sun like the current we usually carry, but will be incredible screens that will allow us to superimpose other virtual people in the real world or if we are at home or in a private place to close all our field of vision and enter into a complete virtual telepresence.
3. A virtual world. Not AR norRV nor MR. Only viewers. Glasses. Virtual.
Our current VR glasses are heavy and uncomfortable. They are a temporary solution. They are the latest generation of virtual glasses. And it has not been the worst. You should look for Google “The Sword of Damocles” if you want to see a real hijink of virtual glasses of the 60.
But do not hesitate. In five to ten years we will start to see glasses as light as sunglasses. They will have to carry a small mini-PC in their pins but the usual thing will be to carry a mini-console in your pocket. The equivalent of our current mobile phones or tablets, but that will not have screen. Everything that now forces us to do to be able to handle a mobile or tablet through the screen will no longer be necessary in the future. The screen will have disappeared, leaving in place a viewer, a glasses, and a small mini-console. The phone will have become a small box, the size of a wallet, with enough graphic power to be able to fill our viewer wirelessly.
You will get to work, and there will be no screen or keyboard at your desk, except for nostalgic people who like to pound keys and hear their sound and their tactile feel. Then there will only be a box without a screen, a mini-Mac if you want so that we will connect our viewer and it will offer us as many screens and virtual keyboards as we want. They will float fixed in the space around us or be mobile. We can close the field of vision completely (and then we would be in VR), or we can leave the real world visible and overlap more or less virtual things in it (what is called AR). The mixing in the same device of both capabilities is called by some Mixed Reality, or MR, but it is pure and simple VR. The only difference is how much of the virtual world and the real world we want to see. Because both systems require the same: a display, cameras or sensors for absolute positioning, and a powerful console to move realistic graphics that make null the difference between a real FullHD screen on our desktop or a virtual screen with the same definition.
4. Farewell to cinemas. They will survive as nostalgic technology, just like theaters. Welcome to true home theater.
You come back home and you want to see a movie. But you want to see it in a big way, as you did when you went to the queue of the cinema, to buy tickets, and then you sat in an armchair in front of a gigantic screen that you barely cover with your eyes.
Now you will put your personal viewer on your comfortable sofa in your home, and without queuing, you will enter a virtual cinema. Your seat will always be the best, whatever you want from the cinema. No fight to catch the best seat. Around you, eating their virtual popcorn, other people like you (in worse seats, although they will say the opposite, because in fact they will have also chosen their seat). The screen, infinite. As if coming out of the ceiling. This is virtual technology, there are no physical rules here. The sound, 3D positional. No such Dolby Surround or THX shit from the past. The movie, in 2D or 3D, as you prefer. But not a 3D substitute like the one we have now in many cinemas. Authentic 3D multifocal with infinite depth of planes, which will give you the feeling that the cinema screen has literally disappeared.
Do I continue? Science fiction will tell you again. And the point is that I have already seen two short films of animation with these characteristics last years. Why I have not seen a full large filme yet? Very easy. Because those who push technological advances in Hollywood film industry do not want to throw away the immense fortunes that have taken place in 3D cinemas in recent years. First they want to put us through a long period of fucking 3D cinema, and only when they have paid off their investments well, then they will give the OK to put money in VR. Disney, Warner, Sony, they all know that when VR hits theaters, cinemas will be gone. IMAX will be over. 3D cinemas will be over. The industry will be over as we know it today. Distributors will move the torch to streaming companies. The change will be brutal. And the loss of income for many will also be brutal.
5. The world of Ready Player One, but without dystopia.
There is a book that is prophetic to the extreme with all that I have just said. It’s the book by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One, about to become Steven Spielberg’s latest movie. In this book Cline describes a world where people use a single device for everything, a viewer and a console. There are other peripherals to complete the experience, but the essential thing in the whole novel is that. Cline shows a world where no one uses screens, or mobile phones, or keyboards. All this has been replaced by a virtual world that borders on reality, which is even more real in some aspects than reality itself. He also paints a dystopian world to make the story more exciting and dramatic, something I’m pretty sure will not happen. But if you can read this novel by imagining that the things you have about VR are going to happen in a much more utopian world, you will be quite close to getting an idea of what the future will be like.
Distance education using VR, telepresence in private chats, business centers operating within the virtual world, virtual currencies finishing with a valuation similar to the real currencies, connectivity to the virtual world from anywhere with wireless systems that work in both AR and VR modes, professions that will take place only inside the virtual world… This is going to arrive, will be here in not a long time. There will be very strong resistance from some industries, companies will push for this to be delayed as much as possible, but little can be done against the impressive power of experience. From the moment another person puts on a VR viewer of the ones that are now and try it, and that person glimpses the spectacularity of this technology, nothing can stop the word spreading.
The future is coming. It’s here. It came a couple of years ago.