There has been a lot of excitement and hype about virtual reality and mixed reality in the news full of predictions, estimates, and expectations for what the future will bring. Much of it is based on actual reality, and there’s a good bit that is based on one of many possible realities. For people in the industry, this is pretty normal. We know what we can do, see what we hope to do, and dream about what could be possible. Seeing the incredible range of possibilities is part of the fun and even more of the excitement.
Where it gets complex is that everything that the industry says, believes, and dreams about is getting published in the media. Spectators less familiar with the deeper aspects of virtual and mixed reality get to see only one part of the magic that is happening right now. They see the speculation, predictions, and the hype designed to get investors enthusiastic about putting their money into the amazing technology that is emerging. This is not only expected but necessary. The technological hurdles still ahead will take ingenuity and investment to overcome, and investors need to know that there is an eventual return waiting for them. And to be sure, there is. Virtual reality and mixed reality are going to be exceedingly important in the future. I have no doubt about it, and neither should anyone else. How important? What will be the “killer app” that pushes it up the hill of development and over the cliff of “oh shit we need that”? We don’t know yet.
As researchers and engineers were developing the protocols for the internet in the 50’s and 60’s, they dreamed of what this new entity could provide. In the early 90’s when American society was getting their first taste of what an accessible internet could be, we all talked about the amazing things we could suddenly do. Download an audio file overnight! Amazing! The reality of those early days was less glossy, less interesting, and certainly more difficult that what we have now. And while some of the dreams of those early researchers and pioneers were spot on, many of the ways we use our connected devices today was never even considered.
That’s where we are now with virtual reality and even more so, mixed reality. The people who are already living with it every day are dreaming of what could be possible, but we don’t know yet how this will impact our world. And that’s a good thing. We need to watch and even help this industry evolve from it’s clumsy infancy to it’s awkward adolescence and teen years. Remember those giant brick cell phones people used to carry? It was necessary, but we didn’t stay there. VR is in the same place. Hopefully the excitement of looking to the future of VR and MR won’t poison the progress that is being made every day. There will be disappointments and missteps. There will be confusion and competition. But one day, we’ll see that the journey was worth it. And we’ll be amazed at how far we’ve come.