VR: Looking the other way

Erik Bjäreholt
Status: Completed

About a month ago, Oculus VR announced their Oculus Development Kit 2 and on the same day Sony announced their Project Morpheus. While the jury is still out on who will lead the future of VR (although the current leader is without a doubt Oculus) things are definitely not progressing slowly in the space. Outlooks are promising, most reviews are positive and there is a growing anticipation in the game-developer community, concerned about how they have to adapt, what will be the first “killer app” and how to create it.

But while some people dream about fully immersive successors of Skyrim and sci-fi space games I suspect that in the shadow of their hype lies far more than has yet to reach the minds of ordinary people hearing about the technology. One that I’ve personally been thinking some about since the announcement a few days ago is replacing monitors with virtual workspaces in VR. Now the reason why this might not get much traction initially and does at first glance seem very unlikely to become hyped is that to most people monitors aren’t cool. Skyrim is cool, so it’s easy to imagine that something even cooler than Skyrim must be pretty cool. But something cooler than monitors? Well, monitors aren’t cool so not much to compare with. Lots of people consider their smartphones cooler than their desktops or laptops.

But what if I told you that monitors can be cool? A couple of months ago this post about 4K monitors appeared on Hacker News and it didn’t take me long to crave one. Now, I might be a little biased with a 1680*1050 and two 1280*1024, one on each side, as my desktop setup.
Most people don’t have it as I do, and I quite frankly wonder why (because it is amazing) but I guess I can understand they never felt the need or perceived the benefit, I mean which ordinary person knows that adding a second screen can increases productivity with 9 to 50 percent? I remember when we made the transition from 1280*1024 monitors to 1680*1050 and 1920*1080. Power users drove early adaption and the rest promptly followed.

The trend is pretty clear, resolution is increasing, more people use multi-monitor setups and when resolution increases so does monitor size. But where will this end? Well, the extreme scenario should be pretty obvious given the title of this post, fully immersive workspaces.

One attempt has been made, Ibex. While a good start and the creator certainly has the ambition sought after in the space there is still plenty of room for competition and variants. There might even come out a dominant one if someone jumps ahead of the competition.

There is still a lot of work to do, but nothing we can’t handle. I am convinced that VR will be the PC of the 20th century that will forever change what we mean by reality.

Michael Abrash put it perfectly:
“We’re on the cusp of what I think is not The Next Big Platform, but rather simply The Final Platform ― the platform to end all platforms ― and the path here has been so improbable that I can only shake my head.”

While I think that The Final Platform will be a BCI of some form, it would not seem totally implausible if primitive BCIs found their way into VR as an extension that ultimately removed the need for a screen, but that’s probably a couple decades away (or am I being too optimistic?). That is, of course, before (and if) mind uploading becomes a possibility, and I’d rather not call the hypothetical computer, on which we will exist, a platform.

To make VR happen in all it’s glory is now in the hands of a few companies and perhaps also you, the reader, and me (if I can find the time).

It would be an understatement to say that we have an exciting future ahead of us.