I consider myself a "tech skeptic" - one who really needs to see that technology fits or facilitates an inborn desire to do something and has the potential to convert for brands or developers. Without both, innovation is short-lived - a fad that stays in the early adopter world and never tips mainstream. So when I came back to my office after attending the FutureX Live event orchestrated by innovative brand-builder Moxie, beyond excited about the future of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality, my partner thought I drank too much of the Moxie Kool-Aid.
But right now, I am fairly sure you could use a little escape from reality too and are able to see the potential like have. Inventors and technologists have been obsessed with coming up with new ways to escape reality or simulate a better future. Trouble has been though that technology and funding hasn't always allowed for it to be "real" enough. I still thought it was pretty far off from being market and brand viable beyond gaming enthusiasts until I listened to the broad panel of experts Moxie assembled for this conference from film, gaming, academics, broadcast media, advertising and big brands.
Escaping Reality is an Inborn Human Need
In the VR or creative virtual space, you can have superpowers. It can let you do things that you couldn't do before, see things you wouldn't be able to experience, and of course, transport yourself out of your real world.
While on the one hand virtual reality scares people because of that concept of possibly being unable to distinguish what is real and what isn't. Are we in the Matrix? But on the other, the idea of walking on top of the Great Wall of China or something you might not be able to experience, is so compelling that we can't help but find ways as humans to simulate and demonstrate our viewpoints and experiences for others. It's not just about escaping reality but about creating a deeper connection. Without the technology, this is just another means for us to express our stories.
Virtual Experiences Have a More Powerful Psychological Connection
According to Dr. Grace Ahn, behavior researcher and assistant professor at the University of Georgia, "Decades worth of research has shown that very brief interactions in virtual worlds have residual effects that transfer into the physical world and change the way that you think and behave in the physical world."
Making a connection in the virtual world involves multiple factors that strengthen the connection. The user experiences everything first hand and is in control that gives the powerful element of being self-endorsing. Your VR self is telling your real self about the experience, and that is extremely hard to negate.
Strong Investments by Brands & Platforms
With strong investment activities into VR, AR and 360 Video by brands, broadcast media and social platforms, mixed reality has already moved out of the fringe and into the mainstream. Facebook's investment in Oculus Rift is particularly telling because it can transcend gaming to be a social tool. Playwire Media's strength growing in-game advertising means conversion and measurement will be strong. Huffington Post's acquisition of RYOT and USA Today's investment in producing 360/VR videos and Discovery VR immersive projects shows a lot of banking on the future of broadcast media to build the next generation of fans. The one connected element here - content is not free, cheaply generated or user-built - it's being built by a new tech-savvy generation of journalists, story-tellers, marketers, product designers and advertisers.
So, is Virtual Reality going to be mass-adopted or is it just a new technology fad? Futurist & Host of Brain Games, Jason Silva put it best, "People should contextualize virtual reality as just the next chapter of the ongoing human desire to manifest our consciousness outside of our minds, right in front of our eyes. From oral storytelling around the campfire to books to cinema to now virtual reality, we want to virtualize our experience so that we can share our experience. These are bridges that we're filling between each other's minds. These are mediums and interfaces that allow our minds to share space and time and mind together. It stems from the human desire for connection with one another. I don't think these technologies are going to separate us, I think they're going to bring us closer together."