Virtual Reality: Game-Changer Or The Next Google Glass?

There’s been a breathless, relentless amount of coverage about Virtual Reality over the past couple years, and it’s reached and maintained an extended crescendo since late March, when the Oculus Rift finally hit the market.

You can sense the hyperbolic excitement in this extensive piece from the latest issue of Rolling Stone, which explores VR and profiles the creator of the Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, who, in addition to having a name that sounds right out of Central Casting, constructed the first Rift in his parents garage. He then sold it for two billion bucks to Facebook.

Will it be money well spent? We’re not so sure. Personal technology has been flailing a bit to find the next “must-have” product since the iPad and other tablets. Google Glass was a colossal flop, the “Ishtar” of devices, maybe even worse because you looked like a “glasshole” wearing it. The Apple Watch has been met with a decided “Meh.”  3D TV proved no HDTV.

But Virtual Reality devices seem so…..isolating. Are we headed towards a world where a family sits in their living room, each with a big clunky box wrapped around their face? A recently married couple sitting in bed, each lost in their own world? Classrooms of goggled students?

Hopefully not. Part of us thinks the unhappier you are about your real life, the more likely it is you will embrace VR. And the way things are at the moment — hey, just check your Facebook or Twitter feed — there’s no shortage of angry, unhappy people.

But checking out further from real reality, in our estimation, is not the way to go. We at 7CTOs are supporters of technology that enhances your reality, not creates an ersatz alternative. If humanity can no longer engage with reality, if we need some kind of so-called “superior” fake reality, we are in serious trouble.

That’s not to say there aren’t valid reasons for it. As the Rolling Stone article points out, VR will help train surgeons with less mess and no corpses. Colleges and hospitals can use it for virtual tours to save prospective students and employees money. We’re not saying VR is evil, or that there are no good uses for it, there most certainly are.

But let’s face it, the big money is in mass-market acceptance, and in order for VR to be financially worthwhile for Facebook’s investment, it needs to be as ubiquitous as the iPhone. And we’re not sure it’s going to get there. We personally don’t want to live in a virtual environment. We’d rather improve the real world we live in now.

Of course, there’s a growing number of quantum physicists who are suggesting we actually already live in a virtual reality, but that’s a column for another day. Unless our Avatar gets deleted, of course. ;-)