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Mixed reality is finally getting there
or so I think.
The first time I touched Virtual Reality was for my Bachelor degree, I chose the specialization in “Virtual Reality for Chemistry” mostly because I was fascinated by movies like “The Lawnmover Man” or “Johnny Mnemonic” and it brough me on a fascinating path from quantum physics to computational pharma discovery. It was 2002 and the technology was really rough, for my thesis I had to patch up together a glove and an accelerometer using VRML as the visualization technology.
It was really really bad.
The iPhone moment for VR
I kept tabs on the advancement of the field while I was doing other stuff and then Oculus came along changing everything. In 2016 they started selling the Rigt gear, for me (and many others) it was the same as when Jobs unveiled the iphone, it was expensive and still clunky but I knew this was a gamechanger.
So did Facebook.
The first time I tried the oculus in an immersive VR setting was 3 years ago at the “VR Arcade” here in Amsterdam, the place just opened and the graphics were a bit clunky but I went back home to my wife and told her “I just saw the future”.
The ability to literally walk in a huge room with 4 other players and interact with a virtual world that is mapped on the physical world (more or less) was just incredible. But it still was too expensive for a home user, we had this big backpacks and had to use all those special pointers for the cameras to locate us.
VR goes solo
One of the major problem with the Rift was that it was wired, you needed a good gaming PC and if you wanted to walk around you needed to bring the PC with you.
Then Oculus did it again, with the money provided by
And then this Christmas the sales for Oculus Quest 2 skyrocketed and I decided to find a rig on sale and buy it for myself (and now I need to win the resistance of my wife, like I did when I convinced her that Die Hard is one of the best Christmas movies ever made).
A quick review of my experience
It’s frigging awesome.
A longer version
The graphics are still not 100% what you can expect with a gaming PC for sure but are definitely up to par with mobile gaming.
The fact that the rig has also two stereocameras to allow you to immerse yourself in VR (walk, jump, crouch, etc) is a huge difference with previous rigs and makes a ton of difference.
The ability to walk in the Star Wars universe and use a lightsaber in a duel with Darth Vader, is worth the money I spent on this.
I might be biased, but I never thought I’d see this level of tech for VR before 2030.
The future of gaming is the future of the Metaverse
First things first, I hate the word Metaverse, it doesn’t mean anything and honestly after seeing two avatars in a formal suite watching a presentation in an Accenture office I prefer to commute 4 hours a day and let my soul die in reality rather than in VR.
So let’s rename the Metaverse to Mixed Reality, is a better name and it really makes it more clear what’s the aim here.
Mixed reality isn’t us walking with weird glasses that makes you look stupid but rather being at home being able to interact with the real world with VR.
If this doesn’t make any sense to you, imagine the ability to interact with distant friends in VR, not just play videogames but have actual VR calls (not video or audio calls, VR calls in which you effectively sit down and talk or play some game).
Zoom fatigue is real, and since I bet on remote work I also bet that having the same meeting in VR (not in formal attire in the gray office of Accenture but rather in a roblox kind of setup) will make the remote experience much better.
Are you serious??
Will it look weird
? It will, it’s called the uncanny valley. But is just temporary, we have all the components to make this happen, in fact you could argue that Roblox is already a mixed reality, just not immersive.
What’s missing then for mass adoption?
I think that Oculus Quest 2 is similar to the iPhone 3S, a solid consumer product that shows the full potential of the technology in 5 years but we are still not there:
They get a lot of hate for the use of the Facebook account, just create a super entity called “Metaverse account” that can be linked across different entities with Oauth or something.
Situational/Spatial awareness is still missing, in real life you are aware of your sorroundings, in VR you are still blissful unaware of what’s behind you. Better sound could help but probably not enough yet.
Is still bulky and not powerful enough, the battery lasts 3 hours and is super heavy on your face causing fatigue.
Touch interface for the full body would be awesome but gloves at least are needed.
The games and applications are still not using the full potential, the killer app is still missing (sometimes the killer app isn’t obvious, think how the most useful app for you phone is Google Maps)
And of course the main argument, it’s still just for games.
But games are serious business, and the fate of mixed reality is in the hand of the new generations that are gaming right now on Minecraft or Roblox or whatever else I am too old to be aware of.
They entered for the games, stayed for the job