Why Virtual Reality is here to stay
The year was 1992, and a wildly popular movie had just just hit the box office with a topic that reflected fervor of the early 1990’s, Virtual Reality. You may remember the film titled “The Lawnmower Man” which is about a scientist, Dr. Lawrence Angelo (played by Pierce Brosnan), who subjects mentally retarded Jobe Smith (played by Jeff Fahey) to virtual reality experiments. Jobe’s mental abilities improve to superhuman levels as the process continues, but he lacks the emotional maturity and character to use his powers humanely and as a result becomes a homicidal megalomaniac. Although the movie was a huge success, over the next two decades Virtual Reality would lose it’s appeal to mass audiences and continue decline in popularity reaching an all time low, around 2012.
The decline in popularity
The graph above shows the decline in searches on the popular search site Google for the term “Virtual Reality” for the last 10 years. Was this decline due to the fact that people realized it wouldn’t give you super powers? Or were people afraid that Virtual Reality would turn them into a psychopath? The truth lies with the fact that technology was just not advanced enough to appeal to a mass audience. During the 1990’s people envisioned a future where you could simply put on a pair of sunglasses and suddenly be taken into a virtual world where you could do anything, and where the only limit was your imagination. Unfortunately that vision did not materialize for decades, and as a result the movement lost it’s steam.
Technology and the revival of interest
The interesting aspect of Virtual Reality is that during the time that popularity for the technology was at an all time low with consumers, there was a resurgence of interest for the technology in other sectors. In 2007 development began on a virtual reality software which took design coordinate geometry used by land surveyors and civil engineers and incorporated precision spatial information created automatically by the lines and curves typically shown on subdivision plats and land surveying plans. By 2010, prototype software was developed for the core technology to automate the process leading from design to virtualization. The first beta users in 2011 were able to press a single function and automatically drape the design or survey data over the digital terrain to create data structures that are passed into a video gaming engine to create a virtual interactive world showing massing of buildings in relation to man made improvements. Around that same time other entrepreneurs and small companies started developing consumer friendly Virtual Reality systems.
Why Virtual Reality is here to stay
One of the leaders in the push to bring Virtual Reality into the mass consumer market is an entrepreneur by the name of Palmer Luckey. He came up with the idea of creating a new head-mounted display that was both more effective than what was then on the market, and inexpensive for gamers. The well known game programmer and developer John Carmack happened upon Luckey’s prototype and after sampling an early unit, decided just before the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, that the future updated version of Doom 3, would be compatible with head-mounted display units. This caught the attention of a technology giant, Facebook.
On March 25, 2014, Facebook announced that it had agreed to buy Oculus VR for $400 million in cash, $1.6 billion in Facebook stock, and an additional $300 million subject to Oculus VR meeting certain financial targets in a transaction expected to close in the second quarter of 2014. Other large tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple saw this transaction as a way for Facebook to get a competitive edge in this advancing field and are currently working on their own versions of the technology.
When the largest technology companies engage in a battle to gain the biggest share of the Virtual Reality market, you can rest assured that it will only advance the platform to new heights.