What Will Make VR Happen?

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With the market so sedate, I’m not feeling compelled to crank out content just to make sure there is a new post every few hours. ZeroHedge combats this by basically writing articles about ANY kind of bad news going on (nuclear meltdowns, terrorist attacks, shootings, what have you – – just to break the boredom of the market sucking out loud). I’m not going to play that game, though. If the markets get exciting, great, I’ll write more. In the meantime, you already know where I stand, so I’m going to write about something else.

Most Slopers know that I introduced my first virtual reality product, SocialTrade VR, earlier this year. It got a nice write-up in Barron’s, and I had a ball putting it together.

However, I didn’t expect to make any money off of it. It was strictly an experiment. I did, however, want to put my toe in the water of this new field, since I found my Hive VR goggles tremendously cool and interesting.

Lately, though, it occurred to me I haven’t put the goggles on for weeks. Neither has anyone else in my family. So, just like the 3-D printer, it was a novelty – – – something cool, fun, and interesting at first, but after a short while, the thrill was sort of gone. (Even though Drunken Bar Fight has got to be the coolest game I’ve ever played).

This got me thinking about technology adoption in general. You see, I have some familiarity with this subject. Some of you know that back in 1982 I wrote a book called The World Connection which turned out to be rather prophetic, I was just a kid when I wrote it, but it speculated on the growth of email, live chat, and electronic commerce in a world in which computers were connected to one another.

When I wrote it, however, computer communications was strictly for hobbyists. It was slow (300 baud acoustic modems), didn’t have many services available, and the entire universe of people online was probably measured in the tens of thousands, as opposed to the billions we have today. So I was ahead of my time by at least a decade.

Sometimes it seems that services we take for granted today were just dying to be born but had to wait for the technology to come along. Take Uber or Lyft, for example. These services make screamingly huge amounts of sense. I can, from anyone location, summon a driver within a few minutes. I will, in advance, know the driver’s name, what he looks like, what car he drives, what his reputation is, and so forth, and he likewise will know a few basic things about me, including whether or not I’ve been a jerk to other drivers (I have not). He can see on a map where I am, and I can see on a map where he is and how long it is until he arrives. Plus the cost is cheap.

Compared to Uber, something like a taxi is retarded in the extreme. If I’m not on a New York street corner, I have to actually call a dispatcher to have a taxi come out, and even if I am on a New York street corner, I have to frantically wave and hope that the cabs passing me by might just happen to have an empty seat. Taxis completely suck compared to Uber, which is why the industry is going the way of Blockbuster Video by way of Netflix.

What made Lyft and Uber possible, of course, was a combination of (a) GPS technology (b) the Internet (c) widespread adoption of mobile phones, and all the technologies therein. Ten years ago, such a platform would have been impossible, and even seven years ago it would have been a relatively miniscule market. Today, however, the world is ready.

So what will it take for virtual reality to have widespread appeal? That’s a tough question – – the answer might even be “nothing”. As it is now, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. At my house, we’ve got a fairly high-end computer whose sole life is dedicated to VR. It has a special version of Chrome (called Chromium) installed, and of course we’ve got our rather pricey Hive VR goggles as well as a decent amount of room to roam about without hurting yourself. It’s all great fun once it’s set up, but it’s a pain, and that probably has a lot to do with why no one has fired up ol’ Drunken Bar Fight in weeks.

It’s not for lack of software. There is a plethora of absolutely superb software out there already for VR. It’s mostly games, and they’re stellar, but there are educational products and just-for-fun items like SocialTrade out there too. So the content is compelling and extremely commercial-grade. The impediment is the hurdles required to (a) get the system established in the first place (b) get motivated enough to fire the goddamned thing up, don the goggles, grab the controllers, move the coffee table, and all that.

It may well be that until we have something along the lines of embedded VR – – a vision system somehow connected to our own optical experience as human beings – – it will continue to simply language. I can’t really think of some “killer app” that would compel people to use VR right now, since we’re still in the same “hobbyist” mode as I was back in 1982 with my Lynx 300 baud modem.

There’s no grand conclusion to this post. I simply have had this stuff on my mind a lot, trying to reconcile the mind-blowing experience and excitement of VR with the fact that I, of all people, am letting the system sit there and collect dust.

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