The past two decades have seen digital technologies advance at lightning pace, as sophisticated smartphones, social media and the fruition of digital contents become integral elements of our everyday lives. Yesterday’s cutting edge technology and must-have gadgets are being replaced at breath-taking speed and today’s versions have capabilities that would have seemed impossible a few decades ago. The natives of Generation X, with their brick-like mobiles that could store a whole ten text messages would never have foreseen a world where you could chat to your friends, download a high-definition movie and order your groceries, all from your slim line, super-powered smartphone.
With the Virtual Reality revolution upon us, it’s fascinating to look back and see what science-fiction writers in The Matrix (1999, written and directed by The Wachowskis) predicted:
“In the future, self-aware robots “grow” vast fields of people to use as batteries. To keep the population mentally active and placated, the robots plug the humans into a computer simulation that re-creates the late 1990s. Almost everyone lives their entire existence within this system, but a fraction have escaped the prison. They can jump back into The Matrix at any time by plugging their brains back in through a port on the back of their head. This virtual reality would require computers that can interface with the human brain, and it would have to keep track of each individual’s body and vital organs.” (Jeff Grubb, venturebeat.com)
This breakneck pace of technological change is exhilarating, as big-budget firms compete to release their innovative creations and we, the public, wait with bated breath to see what they will come up with next. The recent advances in cutting-edge graphics and the introduction of virtual reality (VR) technology are one such example. Promising to create revolutionary new experiences for consumers, gamers, designers and more, the advent of VR is one of the most exciting (and disturbing?) new trends of recent times.
A social virtual reality?
Virtual reality technology is already widely used in gaming, where flawless pin-sharp graphics and a move away from “platform”-type games in favour of a “first-person” viewpoint, have created exceptionally realistic user experiences. In addition, car manufacturers are beginning to introduce virtual reality showrooms, where you can explore the insides of a vehicle or build bespoke configurations, and the world of medicine is beginning to use VR technology to “fly through” the anatomy of a patient while surgeons are in training, or create detailed simulations of disease.
And the world of social media, which, with over 2 billion users worldwide has had an astounding impact on how we live our lives, VR will also begin to make its mark. In a world where we share everything we do, feel, think and even eat, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has seen the potential to integrate VR technology into his platforms to create an even more engaging social experience.
VR headset technology
In a surprise move, Mark Zuckerberg appeared at the recent Samsung’s Mobile World Congress event, where he put forward his vision of a social experience where users can connect using virtual reality headsets. To illustrate his point, he described his plans to share videos of his new-born daughter with his parents, filmed with immersive 360-degree cameras. These videos hint at a future where users will be able to watch a video of a family event or party with friends and feel as if they are there in person.
With over a million people having already watched 360-degree videos on Facebook, however, this “future” is closer than it may appear. Facebook’s new “social VR” team are already behind the scenes working on ideas for virtual content beyond gaming and with more and more VR headsets appearing on the market, this is a trend that is sure to grow and grow.