Dirk Knemeyer

Does VR Live Up to the Hype?

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.