Virtual reality is becoming to fruition in a variety of forms.
Last year we started to see virtual reality moving from science-fiction vision to a viable technology, and this year it’s coming to fruition, in a variety of forms. “Virtual reality matured into a serious category” at CES this year, as Mashable noted, while the upcoming Sundance Film Festival is showcasing 11 VR films under its New Frontier banner. VC firm Rothenberg Ventures says, “We believe 2015 will be the year of VR” and that VR is neither a trend nor niche technology but rather “a platform that will ultimately transform every industry.” Late last year, Rothenberg launched River, a VR accelerator that will run from February through April.
Along with Google (the pared-down Cardboard), Samsung (the Gear VR), Sony (working on Project Morpheus, a VR platform for Playstation) and Facebook (which bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion last year), Microsoft is joining the party with the cool HoloLens, a surprise announcement at its Windows 10 launch this week. The twist is that the headset will “bring high-definition holograms to life in your world, where they integrate with your physical places, spaces, and things” rather than immersing the user in an alternate reality. Microsoft envisions “the era of holographic computing” enabling new ways to create, teach and learn, visualize and share ideas and work.
Pundits have already speculated on the potential of Oculus Rift and other such headsets to revolutionize gaming, retail and entertainment. Communications is another important avenue, as we note in our Future 100 report: Oculus Rift CEO Brendan Iribe envisions people wearing headsets to feel as though they’re in the same room with others around the world in real time. And certainly Oculus and others are likely to “reshape marketing communications,” as Adweek put it in a recent cover story.
Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz writes that “the next few decades of VR will be similar to the first few decades of film,” as “experience makers” (next-generation filmmakers) explore and experiment with the medium. “Looking back,” he says, “the movie and TV screens we use today will be seen as an intermediate step between the invention of electricity and the invention of VR.”