When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought the little-known VR (Virtual Reality) company Oculus Rift (now renamed as just Oculus) for an eye-popping $2 billion in 2014, many Wall Street experts were left wondering if he was spending too much money on a niche technology that may never become mainstream enough to recoup the investment.
After all he paid only $1 billion for photo app Instagram which became a smash hit and a whopping $19 billion for messaging platform WhatsApp, but those two companies were a threat to Facebook’s dominance as a social network, something Oculus was far from becoming at the time.
Fast forward to late 2020 and the acquisition looks more like another home run for Zuckerberg and Facebook now that the world is spending more time at home and can no longer travel with no restrictions. In September, Facebook announced the launch of the Oculus Quest 2, the second iteration of their first wireless headset that brought true VR to the masses for the first time.
What made VR slow to be initially adopted was twofold, the expensive price point and the need for a high-performance PC. Now that these major barriers of entry have been removed from the equation, VR seems poised to finally make the leap to mainstream consumption for the first time ever.
The magic of VR is its unique ability to transport the user to another world without leaving the comfort of their living room. As many fans across the world have watched the NBA playoffs unfold with virtual fans, it is not far-fetched to imagine an experience where fans can watch games in VR from the vantage point of front row at a Lakers game or the sidelines at a Super Bowl.
As the college experience has quickly turned into an online-only endeavor, it is only a matter of time before classes are taught in a virtual classroom where teachers can lecture students from all over the world instead of one small localized campus.
Education and entertainment aside, the application that seems obvious in this time of increased home isolation is virtual travel experiences. For those looking for bucket list adventures like traveling to Egypt to see the Great Pyramids or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, VR can give you a way to escape to far off places without the hassle of long-distance transportation and close public exposure.
Of course, a VR experience will never be better than seeing the real thing up close, but for some the novelty of this new technology is enough to keep them content for now. To enable VR to be the best version it can be for mainstream public consumption, edge computing will be an integral part of this leap. Edge computing will have the ability to bring VR and AR (Augmented Reality) to life by reducing latency and allowing for high-resolution graphic displays to be run in real-time.
The immersive experience of VR and AR will have the ability to display things that will put unimagined details of your physical environment into your view for safety, comfort and convenience, much like Google Glass and Magic Leap have tried to do in the past to little success. The future of VR hinges on our willingness to bring it into our lives and homes.
VR is finally ready for us…but are we ready for it?