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Synergistic thinking
This blog contains posts at the intersection of technologies - people - process. I have lived and worked through many transformational changes in technology that have shaped our lives and societies. I look forward to sharing interesting insights and musings. 
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Virtual Reality is destined to be a #Fail

Updated: Jul 10, 2018

VR will NOT be the transformational success it is pitched to be. It WILL be adopted in selected niche areas, just not everywhere.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Whaaatttt. You are kidding right? VR a failure? Yes indeed!

How can this be?

Virtual Reality (VR) is one of today’s brightest, shiniest objects. It is pitched and hyped as destined to alter human “reality” forever – ok – pun intended.

I submit - VR will NOT be the transformational success it is pitched to be. VR WILL be adopted in selected niche areas – yes, it is cool, but it will forever be “niche-y”.

To clarify – in stating VR will be a #Fail – I am suggesting VR will not achieve the level of mass adoption we have seen with things like the automobile and the “smart” phone where millions and millions of units are sold annually. Nor will VR have a societal impact like modern wide body commercial aircraft that altered the human experience on a global scale.

Here are some things to consider (in no particular order) suggesting VR may not be the ultimate slam dunk its purported to be. VR will be useful in some niches.

This VR stuff is not reality. Reality is multi-dimensional analog – and always will be.

VR forces the user to dedicate their attention onto what is being projected in front of their eyeballs. This is a big issue – IMO.

Humans are context switching animals. We like to switch focus and shift our attention rapidly and in unique ways. Humans are very adept moving our concentration on different aspects of our environment on-demand. VR today doesn't effectively support context switching by the user. VR requires the user go all in - all the time – with a singular focus on the presented reality and this can be extremely taxing.

This singular concentration can cause physical side effects too - note some VR users experience nausea. Other possible side effects range from sore eyes to seizures.

Any attempt to pay attention to the analog world outside the VR head display are next to impossible.

  • Forget taking a drink of a beverage, glancing at that incoming call on your mobile phone (oh wait – your phone is sitting in front of your eyes in its VR head band), or moving your attention to your crying baby. Switching context requires you break out of your VR session.

  • To be truly transformative, VR needs a SIMPLE neural interface much like the Na’vi Neural Connection in the movie Avatar.

A simple connection mechanism where you plug in and are completely immersed into a new world with all of our natural senses (vision, taste, smell, touch, emotions) seamlessly supported.

VR needs to be completely immersive – today it’s a projected digital display operating in the analog world. Projecting onto your eyes won’t cut it. VR needs to connect into your central nervous system. This is not happening anytime soon.

Requires a banded projection device worn over the eyes - wireless or wired. Some require you awkwardly insert a smart phone into a holder. Even the $199.00 Oculus Go or Magic Leap One devices will not change the need to place a projection device over the eyes.

Lack of standardization – proprietary and competing architectures. VR cannot scale to millions of users without standardized systems and standardized methods for creating and presenting content – technical challenges will continue to exist for many years.

It’s been "coming soon" for over 30 years now! I first learned about VR in 1980’s – read about Jaron Lanier’s foundational work on VR. Wikipedia post on Jaron Lanier is here. Better yet – learn about and read his books!

There is no killer use case or application. VR gaming is all fine and dandy – but that is just a niche. VR doesn’t address a mass market need or use case – it is not solving a universal problem – its primarily focused on entertainment uses, so by definition is a niche application.

The label “Virtual Reality” is a bit of a misnomer. How about a new term like immersive simulation. After all VR as currently constructed will always be a digital simulation that mimics the real analog world.

Ultimately #Success for VR will take massive consumer adoption driven by a transformative use case. Much of the above analysis looks at consumer implementations versus the application of VR in industrial or health care use cases. Surely there are some VR successes out there?

There are reports that some targeted industrial and medical use cases have been successful. Presumably many people have benefited from complex surgical procedures that were originally designed with VR simulations. VR will ultimately develop niches of success.

Yes, VR is cool stuff. Lots of new tech is cool stuff. Lots of cool tech stuff #fails!

VR as currently implemented will always be a digital overlay into our analog reality. It requires singular concentration by the user which limits the time many users can devote to the experience.

Vendors and pundits will continue to claim VR is successful – they want to sell you VR gear! After 30 years of effort and investment we are still stuck in the early hype phase for VR. It is and will be a niche solution for a few select areas like gaming, product demos and medical procedure training. Because VR lacks a universal killer use case that will cause my grandmother to use VR – it has to be a #Fail.

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