I went really crazy in the spring of 2014 the day I was introduced to virtual reality (VR) in San Francisco. I mean nuts. Within minutes of hitting the demo floor, I’d reverted to a frenzied five-year-old on Halloween. I stuffed myself with every single flavor of experience and begin imaging all the new applications VR could enable: from music, entertainment, live stereoscopic, live rendering, video journalism, medicine, healthcare, journalism and education. I was struck by fact that the startups came from all over the world.
I went really crazy in the spring of 2014 the day I was introduced to virtual reality (VR) in San Francisco.
The headsets were deceptively easy to slip on, and far more comfortable than I’d imagined. They opened windows into worlds I would never come across in my daily life. Next thing I knew, I was a passenger on a plane intent on delivering a dose of exposure therapy to cure one’s fear of flying by an Italian startup, Psios.
No article, television news account, or any other 2D-presentation could come even remotely close to the exponentially more impactful experience of being “in the room.
Next, I walked through the apartment complex in Florida where Trayvon Martin, a black teenager was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a white man. This tragedy spurred the Black Lives Matter movement. The 3D, virtual experience was created by Nonny de la Pena, a well-respected journalist turned one of the major influencers of modern VR and founder of Emblematic Group. The experience was built with actual witness recordings, and a 3D-representation of the scene of crime. Feeling like a fly on the wall, the experience shows witnesses making calls from inside the apartments. No article, television news account, or any other 2D-presentation could come even remotely close to the exponentially more impactful experience of being “in the room.”
In a stereoscopic live feed, I was standing face-forward and could see myself fully from the back as if I was a bystander five feet behind myself. It sounds strange to even write those words. But it was utterly otherworldly, not unlike how my NYU students describe being surprised by what they sound like after listening to recordings of themselves. We don’t know what our bodies look like in the context of our surroundings. Unforgettable.
I’ve had the good fortune to meet and spend time with Tony Parisi, one of the early pioneers of virtual reality, an amazing person.
I remember that moment and the realizations that flowed with crystal-clarity. I felt like I’d just met a newly released genie with zero no intention of returning to the bottle. I felt a rare certainty that this was a monumental moment. The potential for these developing technologies is vast – and they will fundamentally change the way we live and work. It was a heady moment for a life-long storyteller like myself who grew up on science fiction, urban fantasy and folklore like a fourth food group. Including books like J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings” or Octavia Butler’s “Wild Seed” that I read back in the days when “Dungeons and Dragons” was a collection of dice and notebooks. That entire day, I was transported back to those earlier days when possibilities felt limitless.
Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of capacities in this space of emerging tech. I have been on the business, investment, advisory and also the content producing side. The products, app and browser-platform applications on the market and those coming are providing us with entirely new experiences and uses in all sorts of real-world ways. I’ve had endless conversations and interactions with investors, entrepreneurs, academics, and graduate students in New York City and Silicon Valley who are feverishly building, creating, and developing hardware and software to drive the VR/AR industry’s growth.
Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of capacities in this space of emerging tech. I have been on the business, investment, advisory and also the content producing side.
I’ve had the good fortune to meet and spend time with Tony Parisi, one of the early pioneers of virtual reality, an amazing person. He’s the co-creator of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), and has authored books and papers on the future of technology. Don’t be put off if you’re not a programmer or technically savvy by the title of one of them, “Learning Virtual Reality.” It is an amazing book that explains what VR is in simple language, “Virtual reality, VR for short, comprises a collection of technologies: 3D displays, motion-tracking hardware, input devices, software frameworks, and development tools.” It provides: “The ability to be transported to other places, to be fully immersed in experiences, and to feel like you’re really there: present. It opens up previously unimagined ways to interact and communicate.”
Tony has done us all a profound service in simply explaining both the technology and a primer on how to make it. It helped me, a non-technical contributor to this space, develop a basic VR programming literacy as I pursue its many interactive applications for narrative and immersive storytelling.
That spring day nearly two years ago, I was struck by how broad the applications were then, and I’m even more impressed now. There is barely an industry that will remain untouched by the new capabilities VR/AR offer. As more and more people become exposed to VR beyond a gaming experience, they will see the span of potentials. It’s about the future of architecture/construction, big data, education, social, communication, medicine, healthcare and on and on. If you haven’t experience any VR/AR for yourself first-hand, please do try it.