VR, or Virtual Reality, is summed up by Mark Zuckerberg once saying it was “the next steps on the internet”. But why do the big tech giants keep mentioning VR when talking about your next boardroom meeting? We explore.
Virtual reality, as the name might suggest, is a technology that aims to put you in the virtual world. Think, Ready Player One. The idea is that you can walk, talk, and otherwise explore the internet as you would a new city. This technology is still very new but the seeds are in development at the moment. The concept is generally achieved with VR headsets with surround displays and sensors, motion tracking to adjust the visuals accordingly, spatial audio, graphics rendering and interactivity to allow you to interact with virtual objects.
Silicon Valley was very excited about the concept for a hot minute there, around about the time Ready Player One was released actually. The loudest voice was Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who renamed his Facebook company to Meta and declared the Metaverse to be his new project.
But that was in 2021. Where are our headsets, Mr Zuckerberg?
Well, it seems like there’s a new sheriff in town and its name is AI. Around about the time that Open AI released ChatGPT 4, in January of 2023, Zuckerberg said Meta was stepping back from virtual reality. With every other tech giant moving budget to AI projects, it only made sense that Meta would follow suit.
The shift in working
Apparently, the project isn’t abandoned completely, but if you were to take another look at Zuckerberg’s pitch at the Facebook Connect conference in October 2021, you might notice an interesting point: no mention of gaming.
Thus far VR has been touted as the next technological advancement in gaming, and that’s probably because gaming has spearheaded its development with smaller projects, like Wii consoles that use sensor technology, portable consoles like the Nintendo Switch, and the Oculus headset that has an array of games to play, including casino games like the 32 Red best slots.
And yet, Zuckerberg was talking about holding meetings. He was talking about more interactive Zoom meetings essentially. How you could present a slide or brainstorm with people who were working remotely.
It’s not the worst idea, given that the global pandemic forced people to try working from home. A lot of people soon discovered they could use Zoom if they actually tried it, that they did like having the freedom of not needing to physically be in the office, and that they could even work abroad and see the world. It’s a shift in culture, more than a shift in marketing angle, and Meta is smart to get on board with it.
What’s in the future?
Meta might have given up the fight but it’s far from the only tech monopoly that was interested in the concept and developing it. Microsoft, Google, and HTC (High Tech Computer Corp) are all currently developing their own virtual reality experiences and equipment. For example, Microsoft has the Windows Mixed Reality project: VR headsets made by partners like HP, Dell and Samsung that run on Windows 10 and focus on entertainment experiences. On the business front they have the Dynamics 365 Guides, which is a workflow guidance platform for training and frontline workers.
Google, meanwhile, has been starting small. Their products include Google Cardboard, a low-budget VR experience using a phone and Google Blocks, which allows you to quickly model 3D objects and environments. But the biggest project is Google Glass, which is an AR experience in smart glasses to help visualise virtual worlds hands-free.
Google Glass is a promising step forward simply due to the demographic they are looking to infiltrate. It’s much easier to take a manager running a meeting seriously if they are wearing a set of spectacles rather than a full VR headset.