Tag Archives: Virtual reality

When virtual reality is too real

Virtual reality is far from perfect.

Among other problems, the quality of the untethered experiences which are required to turn virtual reality into a mainstream product is well behind what’s possible with a tethered experience, you’re left with an upset stomach after extended use, and bandwidth constraints result in long load times.

As a result of these problems, we have yet to see a virtual reality app store that would solve the discovery problem for various virtual reality experiences take off.

But people are working to solve each of these problems, and making great progress. So much so that some virtual reality experiences, like this one, are already too real.

 

Virtual reality applied to furniture browsing

Product categories with a high degree of product differentiation and high order values are challenging to sell purely online. For example, buying hard or modular furniture often benefits from a complementary visit to an offline showroom.

But what if you could perform the offline visit from the comfort of your home using virtual reality technology that lets you walk through the furniture showroom? This replicates the offline experience with one exception. It doesn’t offer the sense of touch. However, it’s enough to convert many customers. And the sense of touch is also likely to be baked into virtual reality in the future.

Here’s an example of the technology, developed by Matterport, applied to an Ikea showroom.

Utopia and dystopia

Founders Fund recently released a podcast series called Anatomy of Next. The series consists of 5 sessions, one on each of nuclear energy, biological engineering, robots, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

There are two common themes which unite each of these areas. The first is that the adoption of these technologies each represents a big change from our current status quo. The second is that they each carry the potential for big positive and negative outcomes.

However, when the potential for big change comes together with the possibility for big positive and negative outcomes, we tend to focus our attention on the downside risks rather than the upside potential. Big change means moving into the unknown, and our fear of the unknown makes us default to thinking about the negative outcomes.

The podcasts attempt to go beyond this default inclination by highlighting not only the dystopian, but also the utopian possibilities brought about by each of these technologies. For example, nuclear energy could destroy the world, but it also has the power to solve our energy problem. Biological engineering could create a race of superhumans that dominate over non-superhumans, but it could also be used to cure all sorts of diseases. Robots could kill us, or they could take care of our repetitive tasks so that we focus on creative ones. Virtual reality could turn us into isolated individuals who try to escape the real world, or it could provide us with a great source of entertainment while also letting people interact with others thousands of miles away in a way that allows for many more use cases than the phone and video calls that are currently available to us.

Most important, as the podcasts emphasize, it is humans who will decide which outcomes will prevail. As Irish statesman¬†Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

You can listen to each of the podcasts here.

Experimenting with Android and virtual reality

After listening to the announcements at the recently held Google I/O, which you can read a summarized version of here, I decided to buy an Android phone. I bought the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and have been using it for the last week.

I have been an iPhone user for about 8 years now. And although I’m not permanently moving away from the iPhone, I’ve decided that I need to also use an Android phone. I’ll be experimenting with using both over the next few months before deciding whether to continue using both or to stick with just one. There are two reasons why I’ve also started using an Android phone.

The first and most important reason is that I want to be able to use the Google assistant. I believe that artificial intelligence has the potential to massively improve our lives (although it does carry risks) and that Google is best positioned to deliver it to the masses. Given the company’s background and expertise in crunching massive sets of data to produce machine learning which is used to deliver a better user experience, Google is better positioned than Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft to deliver a medium-agnostic (whether smartphone, messaging app, home device, or other) artificial intelligence assistant. Even if smartphones remain the dominant medium in the future and Apple limits the Google assistant’s distribution on iPhones (or the distribution of its full capabilities), iPhone users may eventually switch over to Android phones to access the Google assistant. This assumes that the Google assistant is good enough to warrant the switch, which I believe it will be.

The second reason is that I want to keep up with developments in virtual reality and its use cases. I had tried and enjoyed the limited range of experiences available on Google Cardboard¬†a few months ago, and wanted to upgrade to a more capable virtual reality headset. That headset is the Samsung Gear VR (powered by Oculus), which works with Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, and Note devices, but doesn’t work with an iPhone. Although not as capable as the Oculus Rift which I have yet to try, the Samsung Gear VR is easier to use because it isn’t tethered to a computer.

I’ve enjoyed the first Android experiences that I’ve had with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and its VR headset, and look forward to experimenting further.