I’ve been a strong advocate of the future of VR. Let’s assume we have a device that allows us to wear for a long period of time without motion sickness or sore-eyes, with full peripheral vision and good-enough input device to express ourselves virtually. It doesn’t have to provide full tactile feedback yet.
If we can do just two things: creating/adding value (what people call ‘work’) and having fun (what people call ‘consume’) in such VR-enabled world, it could disrupt a lot of industries and solve many of today’s problems as a side-effect.
Think about some of the high-level problems we face today: energy problems (mostly used by transportation and industrial usages), pollution and climate change, lack of adequate healthcare, unemployment, education inequality, diversity issues (racism, gender, etc.). If VR is done right, we can solve most of these problems pretty efficiently.
One of the most prominent reason computer science was able to create so much value and wealth (just look at the most valuable companies in the public market today) in such short period of human history, is because of one thing: it’s less bounded by physical constraints than other industries. We can traverse location, time, and transfer resources using computers and the internet. Smartphones can connect anyone around the world in real-time, allowing exchange of information and resources without limitation.
VR can do much more. Now people can opt-in to work and live in VR, spending more time inside the digital world than the analog world. Digital world is far more scalable, free from limitation, our imagination is the limit and there’s abundance of computational resources to make this a reality.
We can work inside the digital world — saving us time of commute, lowering the risk of accidents and costs of healthcare, consume less energy and food, reduce pollution, and work in a lot more various fields creating more jobs, and have easier access to quality education. We can even choose our ‘skin’ to look and sound different, removing many of the diversity issue we face in the analog world.
People may argue, “who’d be willing to spend 8 hours in a digital world, when we can have a much better experience in the analog world?” But let’s face it. We are already spending that many hours in front of our computers and desktop displays that are only twenty some inches large, navigating the digital space using clunky keyboards and mouse. Or even worse, on tiny displays held in your hands spending hours on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. We are already spending an average of 25 minutes for commuting in U.S. today and it can mean an hour a day just spent on the road.
What if we can save that hour on commute plus the 4-8 hour we spend in front of our computers, and rather spend the equal amount of time in the digital world, doing work in a more immersive environment? The moment you take off your head mounted display, you are immediately at your home able to spend time with your family or on other things you love. (By the way, I am against the idea of wearing free-moving head gears, as it can cause pain for your neck. Should be fixed to a chair/bed and navigated using a controller or eye movement)
I’ve tried living on Soylent for an entire week and the experience taught me something new that I didn’t expect. I got an extra hour or more each day, not having to think about what to eat, going to restaurants, waiting to order food, eating, then waiting to make payment, and coming back to the office — for three meals a day. That entire process was gone and I was able to spend that time doing something completely productive, fun, or relaxing. Eating food became more of a social experience, a chance to meet other people, but when I didn’t have lunch/dinner meetings, I could spend that time just to myself. It was a liberating experience.
Perhaps VR could provide something similar, by giving us more time to spend on things that matter — with your family, your friends, or even work itself.
When majority of the world’s population still don’t have adequate access to transportation, food, education, and healthcare, perhaps spending the resources on VR in these parts of the world could solve many of the problems.