A little over a year ago I found myself in a situation far too familiar for Americans in the 21st century – my phone was destroyed, and I needed a new one ASAP. I began searching Craigslist for a Samsung Galaxy S6, a phone which I had heard good things about, when suddenly I saw it. On the screen in front of me was an individual looking to sell a Galaxy S6 with the free addition of a Samsung Gear VR Virtual Reality Headset. I froze. I had seen examples of virtual reality with the Oculus Rift, but I had no idea that there were affordable options. Within two days it was mine, and I was more excited than I had been in a long time.
If for some reason you don’t know what virtual reality is, it is a piece of technology that allows you to put a headset over your eyes, and enter a new world. Accelerometers and sensors inside the headset allow you to look around in a virtual environment. You can play games, explore the world, and even watch movies in a virtual theater. I still remember the first time I put this technology on my head. As strange as it sounds, it felt almost spiritual to be among the first to use virtual reality.
Today we take technology like computers or television for granted, but have you ever thought about the impact that these inventions have made on the world? They have helped us literally transform the planet and have given humans the ability to learn and grow in ways that weren’t possible before. I’ve had conversations with people who were the first on their street to own a television. Even my parents were among the first to own a consumer computer. At the time I’m sure they had no idea what would be possible in just a few short decades, but I on the other hand am aware of how quickly technology is progressing. When I first put on my own consumer virtual reality headset, I knew I had to show all of my friends.
However it was only a matter of time before what was once an astounding piece of futuristic technology became somewhat of a gimmick. It was cool, but the number of apps was limited and my phone would overheat after 20-30 minutes of use – not to mention how quickly it drained my battery. I discontinued my use of virtual reality until just a few months ago when I discovered my phone was ready for an upgrade. I got a great deal on the new Google Pixel, and it was only $80 for the Google Daydream View Virtual Reality Headset. Using the money I received from selling my old phone I picked one up within a week and the world of virtual reality was opened to me once again. Now my phone can go hours without overheating. Plus, the Daydream View uses a remote that you can use to point and manipulate objects in the virtual world.
Within just a years time, the technology had become lighter, more advanced, and more affordable. It seems the consumer market for VR is just beginning. Sure, this technology is a fun toy, but let’s take a minute to imagine what could be possible in the future. Six Flags has already taken advantage of VR by creating a virtual reality roller coaster experience. As you ride on their real life roller coaster, you can see a completely different world right before your eyes. IMAX is currently working on creating several virtual reality movie theaters complete with swivel chairs for a quality viewing experience. But this is just the beginning.
Within just a few decades this technology will become much smaller and much more advanced. Imagine being able to pull a device out of your pocket that can unfold into a fully functional high definition virtual reality headset. 360 VR cameras are becoming more and more common as well, so just imagine how easily you would be able to film some of your favorite moments and relive them. Imagine capturing precious moments in full 3D with the click of a button, your wedding, vacations, birthdays, historical moments, and being able to pass those experiences down to your children so that they can feel like they were physically there. If this technology was available in the past, we could relive the first moon landing. Or how about Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech? What if with the click of a button the average Joe could literally feel like he was experiencing war? How would that change the opinions of our populace? These are all real world possibilities that, to a civilization just a few decades in the future, would be a piece of cake. Seeing technology progress before my eyes really helps put our little world in perspective.
Last year we had my extended family over for Easter, and I thought it would be interesting to introduce my 85 year old grandfather to virtual reality. Needless to say, he couldn’t take it off. This man was born during the first years of television. He lived through WWII, saw the invention of color TV, the rise of computers, the internet, and smartphones. And now his grandson is showing him a technology that allows him to enter a virtual environment in seconds. I’m sure that when he was my age, he had no idea what the future of technology would hold – how computers and the internet would shape global culture and impact politics – yet here he is. I believe that we are all in a similar situation today. Give humans a few decades and we will show you what is possible.