If you've been following the election coverage, you'll have heard a lot about jobs and opportunities and the future. Everyone sounds worried. Or almost everyone... because Robert Scoble isn't worried about jobs. In a recent Facebook post, he agreed that self-driving cars are going to wipe out a bunch of professions but something else will conjure up "many millions of new jobs." That something, he says, is virtual reality.
It sounds bizarre, and his post triggered a big debate on Facebook, but I think he could be right. These are early days but I've already been playing around with an Oculus Rift headset, and the more I use it the more I can see the opportunities.
Nothing is more immersive than virtual reality. It puts you in a location and lets you believe that you're really there. You can roam around and play games like you've never played them before but here's what really makes the difference: you can also interact with other people.
Back in the early days of the Internet, we had chatrooms and then we had Second Life where people could meet and chat. But the immersion and the interaction in virtual reality are on a different scale altogether. I've been roaming around a virtual environment called Altspace VR, and I've been blown away by the experience.
It's easy to see how entertainment companies are going to use this. Performers today have to earn from live concerts but there's a limit to the number of tickets they can sell. Not any more. If you've failed to land a ticket to some sold-out Taylor Swift concert, you'll be able to buy a virtual ticket that will put you right there in front of the stage. Look to your left, and you'll see the friend who wanted to come with you. Look up, and there will be Taylor singing live right in front of you. People already pay large sums to watch sports matches on a flat screen. They'll certainly pay for an experience that puts them right there in three dimensions.
Community events will also going to be virtual. If you can't make it to a conference, you'll be able to attend sessions from your living room, and still be able to interact with other people.
Already, designers and architects are using virtual reality to explore environments and make changes to products before they go into production.
This isn't about video games, fun though they are. This is about an entirely new way of communicating, using entirely new tools and interacting in an entirely new way. Businesses will want to be able to show their products in virtual space, and they'll want tools that can help them to do it. They'll need staff who are as comfortable selling in a virtual world as today's millennials are interacting on social media. After working out how to sell online, they'll need to know how to do business virtually.
The next big thing is already here. The question is whether you're there too.