Virtual Reality: The Biggest Tech Disruption in the Next 5 Years | Kevin Kelly

I think in five years or so VR is going to be a really prominent platform for experiences, for business, for commerce, entertainment, and social. Let me tell you why. So I’ve been trying a lot of the VR gear and the thing about VR is, and the other version of it called MR, mixed reality, which is where you see virtual objects in the real world and VR where you see only the virtual world, both of those operate on a different part of your brain then when you’re watching on a screen. So a very common demonstration in VR is to put on a pair of goggles while you’re in a room and then to drop the virtual floor inside away so that you’re suddenly standing on a cliff and to ask you to walk out on a plank that’s over nothing, maybe it’s kilometers deep.

And for most people it’s almost impossible to do. Your knees start shaking, you’re nauseous, even while your brain is telling you hey you’re in the same room I was in a few moments ago. But the VR is working on a lower different part of your brain stem it’s a much more primeval part of it that experiences things. And when you take your VR goggles off you remember not having seen something but having experienced it. And that ability to get to where we feel things, get to where we experience things is very, very powerful. And in trying many, many of these worlds for almost two decades or more one of the things that’s most surprising to me is that the most intriguing things in these worlds are not incredible objects, they’re not amazing worlds, they’re actually other people. So when you have a world with other people in it that’s really what’s the most powerful thing. And we now have the ability to add a couple things to make those people seem real.

One of them is eye contact. The other one is the ability to have real-time capture of their movements so you can see their body language and you can detect that that’s actually this other person. And the experience is a real experience. And that experience of other people I think is going to make VR the most social of all the social media. And actually we’ve been trying a couple of these VR games where you have to do stuff physically and even the idea that this is sort of you’re going to become a big slug in the closet isolated is totally wrong.

This is going to be some of the most callisthenic kinetic activity that we’re going to undergo. So VR is likely to become the social platform within five years. And this is the place where we’re going to download, exchange, buy, purchase experiences, which are going to be some of the most valuable things that we can create. And they’ll be a whole economy based around this. And then the amount of data that is necessary to make this work is huge. There’s going to be no VR without AI. And the VR companies who make this are going to become the largest data companies in the world because in order to have your avatar in the VR real time you have to capture so much of our behavior that we’re going to be capturing behavior that’s expensive to capture outside in the real world but it’s going to be very cheap to capture in VR.

And the companies that are running these they’re not making their money selling goggles, they’re going to be collecting our lives data and that’s going to be their wealth. And so part of the attraction for business in VR is going to be the fact that everything is quantified, that everything is digitized and our digital lives are going to become paramount there. And so the issues about who owns that data, the issues about who controls that data, the issues about what can be done with it will continue to loom and the power of what you can do with that will be harness by AI because that data alone is just a headache without AI. And that promise of having a virtual life is going to be I think the big thing in business in five years.

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