The VR/AR escalator

Two weeks ago I finally tried VR for the first time. I have been hooked since then. While I can feel the incredible potential of the tool, it is however too early, for me, to truly understand its implications.

Imagination of re-imagination is always limited at the beginning. The first ideas one gets are usually the obvious ones. In VR this means: better, more immersive, games, real-presence movies and documentaries, “live” apartment viewing. The difficult part is getting to the point where truly native experiences can be thought and developed.

Simon Lajboschitz, who runs Khora VR here in Copenhagen, helped me with two useful keys to frame expectations:

  1. Internet:Information = VR/AR:experience

If the internet, especially in its first phase, is the democracy of information (wikipedia being its poster child), VR and AR will be the democracy of experiences. As an extension, we can plot a likely path into the future of VR and AR by taking existing information and “translating” them into experiences. For example, if today the internet allows us to learn about something by reading about it, tomorrow VR will allow us to learn about the same topic by experiencing it.

  1. AR and VR as an escalator

Rather than being two different experiences, AR and VR are two directions of the same “escalator”. With VR, it is us going into the internet. With AR, it is the internet coming to us.

Both points share a critical element: the blurring of a clear demarcation between the “real” world and the web. I look forward to this change. In the last twenty years the internet has increasingly taken over our life. Yet the tool we use to access it are limited by a two dimensional form factor that feels like a straightjacket.

Our office environments are a clear example of this. Everyday we walk to a physical space and spend a large share (for most the majority) of our time facing a screen. With the exception of a few specific functions (coding, maybe, and design, at times) all other tasks don’t have an intrinsic need to be performed sitting at a desk, staring at a flat surface. Our working days have become way more stationary than they need to be, mostly due to the stationary nature of the web, trapped into our desktop computers and phones.

While for some VR can seem a further step in that direction, I expect it to be the opposite. Initially, wearing a mask (or a helmet) might feel like an additional step away from the “real” (debatable, naturally). Over time, it will liberate us from the constrains of the flat screen and bring back true freedom of movement (and interaction) to the workplace.

The age of VR and AR is starting. I feel excited.