As we read epic news about startups like Magic Leap raising more than $1bn in funding pre-launch, or Oculus getting acquired for $2bn by Facebook, you might be one of many people wondering “What the hell is happening with Virtual Reality (VR)? Why is VR important? Why should I care?”
Personally, I don’t want to live in a virtual world. As human beings, most of us enjoy real-life interactions with our colleagues, friends and people we love. We appreciate simple sensory experiences like a cup of coffee in the morning, laying down on a beach, going to a movie theater. All those things that make our lives exciting are very tangible and real things. So why VR?
What we see of VR today seems to be mostly focused on games and entertainment, but it has an incredible potential in many aspects of our lives, because it provides a new computing platform – almost an “operating system” – that removes the physical limitations we face when using and experimenting things in real life. So what we lose for doing part of those things virtually instead of physically, we gain by being able to either do more of those things, or more importantly by doing things we just couldn’t do before. Take this incredible story of a surgeon who used VR to save a baby’s life. Or this aerial 3D capture of Taiwan below, letting you explore in VR the damages caused by this weekend’s terrible earthquake.
VR isn’t just another new hype or gimmick. It’s a story about the unstoppable digital evolution. All our realities have been profoundly transformed by the digital era, giving birth to new media formats, new forms of human interactions, new creative mediums, new ideas. Sound was the first to go from analog to digital. Images and videos were next. But as we live in a three-dimensional world, virtual reality is likely the final step of this evolution. At least the most transformative for now.
VR has been around for a while, but similar to 3D printing, it was just missing the right combination of three ingredients:
- A technology that works and that is easy to use
- Affordable headsets (HMD)
- User Generated VR Content
2016 is the first year where we’re starting to see a potential for this combination. The most critical part is user generated content. A platform like YouTube is so big only because everybody can watch AND create videos. The same goes with all the major media networks (Soundcloud, Flickr, etc…).
At Sketchfab, we’re working on one specific link of this huge value chain: letting anyone publish and browse 3D content on the web and in VR. We believe it’s an important step towards more and better User Generated VR Content, because we leverage a large existing community of 3D creators, and because many more are joining the flock every day with technologies like 3D capture. (Read more about Sketchfab going VR)
2016 will be a fascinating year for VR and 3D, and I’ll keep sharing my thoughts here.