When I demo VR to people they often struggle to see its potential application in the real world. One dimension they often miss is its potential to let you interact with other people - it’s social dimension. Far from being socially isolating, it may be socially liberating. The possibilities are mind-blowing.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Remember that Facebook bought Oculus for 2.3 billion dollars, when it had not a single customer. Why? Zuckerberg saw the social possibilities of multiplayer VR. He could see that Facebook, the world’s most successful social network, could be transformed by this technology. VR may be the future of social networking. Rather than the flat, text and pics medium we see today, we’ll be able to meet, socialise, do business, experience entertainment and learn in 3D spaces with anyone, anyplace at anytime. Multiplayer VR is already here. You can play games or train in a multiplayer environment right now.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Microsoft is also working on the AR angle with ‘holoportation’. The ability for you and anyone else to holoport to any place at any time really is on the horizon. Imagine teleporting from one place to another. If two people can wear their HoloLens they can see each other as being present in the same space. You have to see this to believe it. First you need to capture you’re body, so that it can be reconstructed online. We can all be created as virtual people, compressed and reconstructed in the other person’s space, in real time. Note that with AR anyone can be seen in the room with you, as if they were standing there. This works through ‘live capture’.
Within VR or AR worlds you need to be able to move around, interact and do things. In VR, controllers such as the Xbox games controller, that comes with the Oculus Rift, are already shipping. Other devices such as the Oculus Touch are in development, along with haptic gloves and suits. You can already move around, manipulate objects and feel them in you hands.
In AR, Microsoft’s Bluetooth controller is a simple one button device that you strap to your fingers. Remember that voice recognition and is likely to play a huge role in interactivity and, of course, social interaction, along with gestures. Don’t forget the possibilities with the headtracking itself, as you know where the person is looking and can place sounds, other people and objects anywhere you want, dynamically, in relation to that movement.
As others see us
Weirdly, you can also put yourself in another person’s shoes and see the world from their point of view. A doctor sees as a patient and experience what it is like to have a visual, hearing or physical disability. A teacher can experience what the learner sees and does. A coach can experience what a sport’s person is experiencing during practice. A man can experience what a woman sees, does and experiences and vice-versa. This opens up possibilities in training of sexual harassment and equal opps. You can experience what it is like to be of any other gender, race, age or disability in any other place. There have already been experiments in experiencing life as a refugee.
Virtual travel with a mountaineer or astronaut is possible. You can fly with a bird. You can actually be on the Moon or Mars. You can experience being in a concert or sports event and be with there on the field or stage. More than this, new forms of film and games will allow you to be inside the film or game and have other people in your team right there with you. You will be able to interact with these other people, just as you would in real face-to-face situations, whether they are AI controlled avatars or real people.
In learning, we really can have one-to-one tuition, as if the person was actually there, with you, in the same space. The Global Classroom becomes a possibility, with teachers and learners getting together, no matter where they are on the planet. Groups of people can learn together, even in other created VR worlds, such as outer space, below the ocean, at the atomic level, inside the body – anywhere. Imagine MOOCs where all of this is possible and millions can be taught by the best teachers using the best created worlds, as if you were actually there.
In both VR and AR, you will be able to connect with relatives, work colleagues, friends, teachers and other learners at any time, in any place. The world is literally in your living room or wherever you choose it to be. This is more than the global village it is the global room.