The current narrative suggests that this will be the year that we all take virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) seriously. The stage at TED 2016 was already perfectly set for Vrse founder Chris Milk, who on February 18 handed out Cardboard VR to an excited 1,200 attendees to experience "the largest simultaneous virtual reality experience in history."
Thousands from all over the world were also invited to the largest collective experience in VR by simply utilizing their own Google Cardboard viewer and a mobile app. Milk channeled his inner tech guru to advise, "In all other mediums, your consciousness interprets the medium. In VR, your consciousness is the medium." It was at this point I immediately became Keanu Reeves in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and admit to saying only, "Whoa."
The viewer became immersed in a virtual world flying high above New York City or being thrown directly into a refugee camp. The 360-degree vision instantly offered the user a greater understanding of the situation. This could be the next frontier in journalism, in which global citizens don't just see or hear about things, but can walk around in someone else's shoes.
Those who shared this moment instantly developed an understanding of why augmented and virtual reality devices are expected to become a $4 billion-plus industry in the next three years.
The message was clear: Virtual reality is not just about gaming. Milk hammered home this point, stating, "It's not a video game peripheral. It connects humans to other humans in a profound way that I've never seen before in any other form of media - and it can change people's perceptions of each other."
Technology always works best when it brings people together. Now that VR allows you to see the world through another's eyes, it can deliver a powerful message--and maybe even change your worldview.
Any comic lover will warn that with great power comes great responsibility. But there is no denying the possibilities that a humanity platform could provide for the greater good.
The TED talk left attendees with more questions than answers, but in a good way. Users were clearly excited about the wealth of opportunities on the horizon--whether it's checking out your future holiday destination by taking a virtual walk around a city or being immersed in a 360-degree music concert when your favorite band is playing on the other side of the world.
If we can also develop a greater understanding of conflict in a developing country and smash through barriers built up by traditional stereotypes, we might even be able to progress as a global society.
It might sound like something from a cheesy movie from the Eighties, but I think that Chris Milk might have a point when he said that virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world.
If you missed this watershed moment, you can download the Vrse app on Android and iOS with your own VR headset. If you are not ready to strap on a cardboard device just yet, there is also an option to have the 360-degree experience over on their website. Or, check it out below.