Monday Musings: Optimism about VR

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June 6, 2016

I’ve recently been asked a few times: what will you do if VR fails?

I take issue with the idea that an entire technology paradigm will ‘fail’, especially because virtual reality as a technological platform is still at such an early stage relative to its potential. There is plenty of negativity going around, but this post isn’t really about that: instead, I wanted to take today’s Monday Musings and share a few things that I’ve found keep me feeling optimistic and excited about immersive technologies when faced with that doubt or negativity.

Let’s start with an honest truth: Even as a virtual reality developer and evangelist, there are moments where I feel a momentary sense of disappointment around VR. I want to clarify the emphasis on momentary in that statement, because I think it’s incredibly important for the industry to be honest around the platform and technology. When I feel momentary disappointment, it’s not in the sense that I’m disappointed in the platform, the technology, or any given headset – it’s that sense of that instant gratification that the internet has nurtured telling me that I should have it all, immediately.

I solidly believe that within my lifetime, immersive technology will have changed everything about how we as human beings view and interact with information. I don’t ever question VR as a whole – how can I, when it’s already fundamentally shaping healthcare, education, and how we think about computers? There’s at least one human being alive on this planet right now because of VR, and virtual reality personally kept me in the tech industry when I was questioning if I belonged – so it’s impossible for me to say that it hasn’t, and won’t continue, to change the world as we know it.

It is too easy to get bogged down with the negativity in news outlets who haven’t “gotten it” yet, or to read pages on pages of reddit comments about how their sense of entitlement has ruined an entire computing paradigm at the early stages of life. It’s important as industry professionals, developers, and enthusiasts that we stay focused on building these immersive ecosystems up to their fullest potential, rather than getting overwhelmed by the haters.

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So, in addition to just simply saying “It Won’t”, here are a few things that I do to stay optimistic about VR, and a few things that the community’s chimed in with, too:

  • Seek out a community event near you and spend some time talking to other VR creators. If you’re working alone in a bubble, it can be hard to stay excited – especially if it’s day 5 of trying to fix that bug standing between you and your beta release. Sometimes it can be hard to justify nights out instead of staying in to work, but your project will thank you when you get out of your head for a little bit and try out some other WIP VR apps. If you can’t find a group in person, join up a VR developer Slack channel or talk to people on Twitter!

  • Revisit your first experience. I wrote a blog post after the first time I tried the DK 2, and while I can’t just load it up and give that exact demo a go, I remember it fondly when I go back and read the post itself. I also like to load up a few of my first Unity demos that I built and remind myself how much things have changed over the past 2 years. This can really help remind you of how far the industry has come in a short amount of time, and help you remember where things are going.

  • Write a conference proposal! Talking about virtual reality to new audiences is one of my favorite ways to get that hype back, and it also is a great way to learn a new skill. Figure out a niche area of VR that you think would be fun to learn about and use that as a template to write about your experiences. For me, I absolutely love going to JavaScript communities and talking to them about Web VR – it’s always amazing to see experienced web developers get excited about building for virtual reality when they learn about the work going on with browser-based VR!
  • In a similar vein, reach out to local universities or student groups and offer to come in and do a workshop or demo night for students – a lot of the time, I’ve found that a passionate, friendly voice goes a long way in inspiring new developers.
  • Remember that no one can predict the future – and that the “impossible” is often a mindset. The market for VR devices is at a higher penetration than ever, and the affordability of tools and resources to learn from is virtually limitless. Try a variety of new projects, and don’t limit yourself to what you already know.

Great things take time. Stay focused and clear on what you’re building, and remember to take the time to love what you do!

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