Virtual Reality has finally come of age. For 30+ years it’s been a tech on the verge of being “the next big thing”, but it seems like the stars have finally aligned and the tipping point has been reached. The combination of readily accessible computing power across consumer devices, increased network bandwidth, miniaturization, new design and materials innovations, popular culture driven by gaming, CGI driven hollywood extravaganzas (arguably Avatar was inherently a VR experience without the headsets), and of course big funding all have worked together to usher in a new era of immersive virtual experiences
Skeptical? Here are a few recent headlines:
VR is about to become ubiquitous, and as with all technologies that reach critical mass at a consumer and business adoption level, the impact on many sectors of our lives will be fast and significant. The question now isn’t “if” or “when” but simply “how”, and that brings me to todays’ interview.
David Sackman, CEO of LRW has been evangelizing VR for a while now, and investing heavily in it’s development for not just research purposes, but other use cases. I experienced the power of this tech first hand last year (you can see a pretty funny video of my reaction here) and was so impressed that I invited LRW to help us build a whole experiential exhibit area at IIeX in Amsterdam and coming up next week in Atlanta so others could get immersed in the experience as well. The demand is so great in Atlanta that we will have 3 different VR set-ups running in order to giver everyone a chance to test it out.
There is serious brainpower behind this technology, and specifically in how LRW is looking at the applications of this technology. They have partnered with Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University to bring a whole new suite of products to market. Here is his bio:
Jeremy Bailenson is founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford, and a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. He earned a B.A. cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1994 and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Northwestern University in 1999. After receiving his doctorate, he spent four years at the Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior at the University of California, Santa Barbara as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and then an Assistant Research Professor.
Bailenson’s main area of interest is the phenomenon of digital human representation, especially in the context of immersive virtual reality. He explores the manner in which people are able to represent themselves when the physical constraints of body and veridically-rendered behaviors are removed. Furthermore, he designs and studies virtual reality systems that allow physically remote individuals to meet in virtual space, and explores the manner in which these systems change the nature of verbal and nonverbal interaction. In particular, he explores how virtual reality can change the way people think about education, environmental behavior, and health.
His findings have been published in over 90 academic papers in the fields of communication, computer science, education, law, political science, and psychology. His work has been consistently funded by the National Science Foundation for over a decade, and he also receives grants from various Silicon Valley and international corporations. Bailenson consults regularly for government agencies including the US Army and Air Force, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Research Council, and the National Institute of Health on policy issues surrounding virtual reality.
He is also one of the people Mark Zuckerberg went to before he bought Oculus Rift. He is perhaps THE global authority on virtual reality and it’s practical applications.
I had the chance to sit down and chat with Jeremy and David Sackman on finally reaching the VR tipping point and what are the applications of the technology in development across different sectors we’ll see over the next few years. This is a fantastic interview, filled with smart and provocative comments by two brilliant folks, with me running hard to keep up with them.
This is going to be a big part of the future of everyday life, and consequently for research as well. Start thinking about it today; by 2020 this may be as ubiquitous as mobile is today.