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Amy Webb - A futurist's notebook

Every week I open my research notebook and share artifacts from the adjacent future.

The Future Of...Virtual Reality

Amy Webb

Happy Oculus Rift Pre-Order Day! Virtual reality's event horizon is officially upon us.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, HTC, Samsung, Sony––the world's largest tech companies are racing ahead in a land grab to dominate VR with their own headsets. Some will require a mobile phone. Some won't. Batteries will power some, others will require tethering to a switch. They'll all do the same basic thing, but each headset will require different a different operating system, with competing virtual storefronts to download or stream content. Soon, we'll add our own photos and videos to our chosen VR repositories. We'll create memories in VR. We'll make new friends and new enemies in VR near-futuristic worlds.

As with all Wild West tropes, this one will have winners, losers, big ugly hats, saloon brawls and a sheriff who tries to create order out of chicanery. It's a story we're all too familiar with. Remember Betamax vs VHS, and then later VHS vs VHS-C? How about Minidisc vs CD-RW , and then Zune vs iPod? Ask your friends who were on the losing sides of those battles what it was like to be a digital refugee, forced to leave much of their digital lives behind.

VR is full of promise. Some day, students will meet each other in VR classrooms for the most sophisticated, cross-cultural lessons ever taught. Our elderly grandparents will be able to travel to the Parthenon, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and to the far reaches of China's Great Wall. Athletes will train on simulated plays in a room the size of your kitchen. We will crawl inside the news, poke around and experience society's narrative as it unfolds in real-time.

But we're not quite there yet. Welcome to f*cking Deadwood.

We have an opportunity right now to build a better reality for our future virtual worlds, and it starts with agreeing on a set of standards for a unified VR operating system.


Variegated Realities

  • Vintage Reality - Sega VR headset, introduced by MTV-VJ Alan Hunter the summer of 1993. It was never released, but the video promo was, and its ah-mahzing. When you watch it, remember that the video is now 22.5 years old! (video)
  • Vague Reality - Here's the first prototype for the RealitySuspender, a new harness system that simulates walking and running within your VR environment. (RealityRig on YouTube)
  • Vogue Reality - A timeline of fashion's early experiments with VR (Racked)
  • Vouille Reality - This True American Hero built a VR version of Duck Hunt. (Gizmodo)
  • Vexing Reality - Even virtual assistants are getting sexually harassed. (CNN Money)
  • Vast Reality - Millions of lines of code, illustrated. (informationisbeautiful.net)
  • Vainglorious Reality - “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?” (Marc Andreessen on Twitter)
  • Veritable Reality - 'Suspended Animation,' now open at the Hirshhorn, is a trippy exhibit from the future. (Hirshhorn Museum)
  • Vapid Reality - Watch Bette Midler sing Kim Kardashian's most vapid tweets. (Kimmel Live)
  • Verbatim Reality - Live Oculus Connect 2 coding session with John Carmack. (Oculus on YouTube)
  • Vestiges of Reality - New ultrasound technology lets you touch and feel things virtual objects, just like you used to in the real world. Remember when I talked about this at ONA '15? (Bloomberg)
  • Vertebrae Reality - Stories of broken bones and other VR injuries (Gizmodo)
  • Vincent van Gogh Reality - The Night Cafe is an immersive VR environment that allows you to explore the world of Vincent van Gogh first hand. (at Devpost)
  • Visceral Reality - This is the world's first full body smart textile tactile feedback suit that lets you feel the virtual reality you see. (TeslaSuit.com)
  • Vitriolic Reality - How to robocall the robocallers. Transfer all your telemarketer calls to this glorious bot. (Jolly Roger Telephone Company)
  • Victorious Reality - Notes from Einstein's Zurich lecture on Relativity. His prediction of gravitational waves was proven last week. (Einstein Archives)


Vocal Reality
Futures made of virtual insanity now. Always seem to, be governed by this love we have for useless, twisting, our new technology. Oh, now there is no sound for we all live underground. –– Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai.


Vessel Reality
Drinking a mug of virtual reality beer makes you feel fatter in real life. According to science:

Scientists had subjects wear a VR helmet and gave them the body of a very heavy man. “They saw from a first person perspective a virtual body substituting their own that had an inflated belly. For four minutes they repeatedly prodded their real belly with a rod that had a virtual counterpart that they saw in the VR.” After, subjects were asked to estimate their own stomach size. "The results show that first person perspective of a virtual body that substitutes for the own body in virtual reality, together with synchronous multisensory stimulation can temporarily produce changes in body representation towards the larger belly size."

Reality Reality
We've officially launched the Future History Festival! If you've ever wanted to attend a Spark Camp event, this is your chance. We just announced programming, which includes a DIY sensor lab, a chance to build a popup gallery with Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector, a live recording of the Slate Money podcast and much more. The FHF is about challenging the way you see the world around you. That means that you won't see any of the usual suspects at whatever industry event you usually attend. It's a chance to gain new perspective from smart people outside your circles. Registration is here, and I have a discount code for you: SparkGuest. That will get you in at our alumni discount rate.

Check out my annual tech trends report if you haven't already. There's a bunch of great information on what to watch out for in the VR space this year (especially on pages 22 and 51-56.) If you'd like for me to come and talk trends in your office, have a look at my 2016 Foresight Program.

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