Remember 3D televisions? For one brief, nuclear-hot moment, they were the biggest thing in consumer electronics. Every major manufacturer rolled them out and showed them off. But there was a problem. It was an innovation driven by the manufacturers, not their customers. Everybody hated the uncomfortable, incredibly expensive glasses you had to wear, and the truth is, movies are still pretty great on a big LED TV even without lame 3D sequence shoehorned into them (the director of the infamously bad 3D movie “Clash of the Titans” once said that the effect “was just a gimmick to steal money from the audience.”). After people got over the fervor of something shiny and new, they stopped buying 3D TVs in a hurry because they had never really wanted them in the first place.
So where does that leave virtual reality (which I’ll refer to as VR from now on)? For a long time, it was hard to watch tech blogs without overloading on news about Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Microsoft’s Hololens. But things have cooled off as we all wait patiently for the technology to finally become (no pun intended) reality. Average citizens seem a little put off by the whole “nerd flailing around in his mom’s basement” look of the things, and I wonder if the masses are still a little raw from the smoke and mirrors that the Wii introduced and the Xbox Connect continued (it’s time for everyone to just admit that the Wii was the world’s greatest bowling simulator – and nothing else). As Roger Daltrey stated so eloquently, “We won’t be fooled again!”
Here’s the cool part – I think this is going to be really good for VR. None of us are going to rush out and pay $800 for one of those stupid-looking headsets unless manufacturers and software developers give us a good reason to own one. It may start with gaming, but it has to be more than that for it to live up to its potential. In fact, I’m convinced that it will eventually have to break away from the whole headset/glasses hardware thingy for it to ever become more than just a gimmick.
In the meantime, all of us in the web development business need to keep one eye on the state of VR. Anybody who approached tablets too conservatively a few years ago can tell you what happens when everybody is trying to use your website with a device that you aren’t prepared for. Touchscreens changed how we approached website navigation, online forms and a lot more – and it happened much faster than anybody thought it would (except maybe Steve Jobs). VR could do the same thing when somebody finally figures out a killer app that actually fills a customer need.
We love the future, so if you’re too busy to keep an eye out for what’s coming next, just check in with us from time to time, and we’ll give you our take. Together, maybe we can get there before anybody else.