About 15 years ago I was teaching a class on Virtual Reality. The head gear was heavy, the computer cost over 100k and the graphics were more primitive than what you can get today on a low cost smartphone. Even so, I still felt like it was the future.
I was excited a number of years ago when Second Life came out. In it, users can have a virtual avatar, and explore a virtual world created by their users.
I have tried Second Life several times and while it has improved it is still too primitive to attract the average person to try it. It looks like this might change.
[V]irtual reality is undergoing a renaissance. And while Oculus develops a consumer-ready virtual reality headset, Second Life creator, Philip Rosedale, and his latest startup,High Fidelity, are hard at work constructing a next-generation global virtual world.
[H]e wants to make avatar interaction a richer experience. Our virtual selves should precisely mimic our movements in the real world in as close to real time as possible. Body language is a key element of satisfying real world interactions. Until we have realistic body language in the virtual world, folks won’t be drawn there.
You can actually do this now. Modern game consoles can now track a person’s body pretty well. With better cameras they will be able to track facial expressions as well. That’s step one. So how do you run this much higher level of detail? How will they get the computing power to do it? Just apply the Theory of Disaggregation.
While body tracking may make for more realistic and intuitive avatars, High Fidelity’s other big idea will power the world they live in. In exchange for virtual money, virtual citizens will assign their computer’s unused processing power—when they’re sleeping, for example—to construct High Fidelity’s world in exquisite detail.
They are disaggregating the computing power to their customers. So the more popular the game gets, the more computing power will be powering it. That might work.
Virtual Reality could have a profound effect on Education. Virtual field trips using a variety of datasources from around the world will make class so much more engaging than just reading from a textbook. The cost will come down and the quality will go up. Along with Augmented Reality this technology can change the world in the next decade in a similar way that smartphones have changed our world in the last 10.