Dirk Knemeyer

The State of Virtual Reality, May 25, 2016

You know Jon, no, but I think that [Google] Daydream’s on the right track. VR is still at a stage where bleeding edge early adopters might find it exciting and interesting but it’s not particularly practical or sustainable or something that can be like a core part of a normal person’s lifestyle. It ain’t there yet. Google is starting to move it closer with Daydream by virtue of usability and simplicity and integration.

That goes back to the Google roots of the company. Certainly Google wasn’t the first search engine by a mile but what they did is they took the idea of search engine as sort of the powerful central point of a giant platform of crap. They removed the crap and so the search engine is the important part.

What they’re doing with Daydream is moving down the path of having the technology be more usable, more accessible, and more able to be integrated into someone’s daily life and environment instead of being some gigantic thing strapped to their head. Which is how the most popular VR technologies have been manifesting so far.

I’m heartened and optimistic about Daydream as the Google foray into VR but for me VR technology ain’t there yet. I’m happy to sit on the sidelines and let other people burn a lot of money and energy dallying with the latest and greatest stuff that thirty years ago would have been in a Sharper Image store. Then when it gets to be something really practical and interesting, I’ll get into it more in my own life. Daydream is a path down VR as integrated part of a digital life and that’s great. It shows that Google’s thinking about the problems in the right way as they generally do.

Does VR Live Up to the Hype?, June 18, 2015

Will this [virtual reality] wave live up to all the promise? No, it certainly won’t. It’s a cool gadget. Where the technology is now it’s something where you use it once and it’s sort of amazing. I use it twice or three times and it starts to get stale. There’s a novelty aspect to where the technology is now. It’s cool that they’ve got it where it is, but beyond that there’s not a whole lot of there there. We have in our five senses such high fidelity input devices, and the fidelity on these cutting edge virtual reality devices is just nowhere near that. It’s giving us a simulacra of something else in a way that is not at all maximizing the sensorial potential that we all have.

It’s interesting to a point and then at some point what’s the point? Because the technology can’t take us to places where the marketing would promise. Facebook’s big thing is that, oh they’re thinking way out. They’re way outside the box and these are teleportation devices. That is such hipster bullshit. I’m sorry. There might come a day when technology that’s down this kind of a path gets to a point where you could, it’s literally not a teleportation device, but you could market it that way because of the great high fidelity level that it brings two or more people together “in a virtual space,” but it’s nowhere near that now, nowhere near it at all. It’s interesting and I think there’s a place for it. There’s a product category for it, but it’s nowhere near where the hype and the marketing are whatsoever.

I think they’re far-flung fantasies right now. You talk about surgery for example. We want a surgeon with this big, ungainly, heavy, odd thing on their head and physically manipulating someone’s body? That’s crazy. That’s just, it doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, we can dream and say, “Oh, there’s all these interesting things,” but does it really make sense to do those things with this big awkward thing strapped to us? I don’t think so. We can have giant monitors that push the same visual content to us. We an have other input devices for the audio and for the other things and still have our full range of motion and still have our full sense of being.

I think the really exciting things will come farther in the future, but the generation that we’re at now, it’s going to live like a gaming console where it’s something you have at home, it’s something you have in a specific place. It’s going to be kind of geeky. I read one of the articles that you forwarded to me about this, they were talking about protocol for using this. Someone was saying, “Yeah, if you’re the one without the headset, don’t be surprised if you get punched.” It’s your fault, basically. What the hell is that? This device is such that if somebody’s using it, everybody’s got to clear way the hell away or they’re going to get punched or kicked? That’s dumb. We’re coming at a time where we’re living in increasingly smaller domiciles, increasingly smaller spaces. We’re going to put this things on and have us gesticulating around and meeting protocols where we need five feet in every direction. It’s really dumb.

The idea that we’re going to walk around on the street with them? That’s completely idiotic. Google Glass was one of the things that sort of sunk that notion, was having that on your head, and that was really not intrusive at all. These things are horrible. I read one guy was saying the big concern is you have to worry about it being stolen because you’re lumbering around not paying attention to what’s around you with this big expensive thing on your head. Somebody rips it off and runs away. It’s just dumb. At the level that they’re trying to market it and tout it as something like a gaming device. As something an experiential device that people use in a limited, private context, okay. I can see that. Probably not for me, but I grock it and the technology’s going to just get better and better, so the potential of it I don’t think is as grand as they make it seem, but I think it’s the start of something that’s at least interesting and worthy of experimenting with.

On the State of AR & VR, January 29, 2015

Over time, they will crack the form factor problem. They will crack the headache and strain on our eyes and brain problem. The challenge is, right now, these companies are bringing these products out and telling them like they’re here. Like they’re, “Oh my God, this is so big and important.” It’s so far away in reality.

If these were things that were brand new or original ideas that could at least be sold as a thought experiment as opposed to a prototype and a product, I would respect that because we need to see what … It might not be ready yet for what is coming down the road but the fact is, that the technology that they’re showing here is stuff that we saw in Minority Report 15 years ago, a Hollywood movie that the technology for which was dreamed up and derivated from some of the top scientists and technologists who were tasked with looking in the future and seeing what computing would look like.

This is all done before. There’s nothing with Oculus Rift or Microsoft or any of these right now today that are showing us something that we haven’t seen before in a technology conceptual manner. There’s really no bang on that side. Then it has to be about being a real product and it simply isn’t. It’s years, potentially many, away from being a product and even when it is, it’s more likely to be a niche tool for certain use cases than this thing that’s strapped on your head or however it’s done when they finally get there all day for long period of time in a lot of different contexts. One thing is just, I don’t know. It’s masturbatory at best.