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No surprises on virtual reality

Because it works here doesn't mean it will work in your lounge
(Image from Wikipedia)
I read recently that Facebook is slashing the price of its Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) goggles, suggesting that they simply aren't selling as expected. But, to be honest, this comes as no surprise at all. I would suggest that VR suffers from exactly the same problems as 3D TV did (remember that?). There are some inconveniences we are prepared to suffer relatively briefly for the novelty experience. Think 3D glasses in the cinema or a VR experience at a games show. But for our everyday viewing or game playing, we don't want to be encumbered by attaching chunky hardware to our face.

I'm not saying that VR won't happen - it probably will. But I suspect it will only really become mainstream when it can either be done passively - using a large curved screen, for example - or if the headgear is so light and unobtrusive that we really don't care that it's there.

What amazes me here is the inadequacy of those who have the job of guessing whether or not a technology will be popular. Admittedly, future gazing is no exact science. We will always get things wrong. As I've mentioned before, Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock was huge in the 70s, but wildly inaccurate with its tech predictions. And wonderful though the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey is, its technology predictions are a lesson in how to get it wrong.

I'm not claiming any great ability as a futurologist. But sometimes it's easy to see that there are some experiences that don't translate well from a special location or event into everyday in the home. And VR as it currently stands is one of them.


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