No! to shoes-on-face
I was at the Siggraph computer graphics conference four years ago when the industry was having a collective orgasm over 3D tvs and movies. It was the largest collection of hard-core believers housed in a single building since the last gathering of New Atheists.
Every booth screamed out with reassurance that 3D could save the world -- well, the world of the computer graphics industry -- because 3D production and viewing would cost more, it would force consumers and movie houses to buy new equipment, and because 3D was the natural way to see things, not like dumb old flattened-reality 2D. A severe case of concentrated echo-chamber hubris.
3D failed in the marketplace, and not just because of the geeky glasses consumers were expected to wear.
"No problem," the industry consoled itself. It would figure something else out that consumers would pine to spend money on.
As well as being the the name of a psychological-supernatural horror movie, Oculus employed sufficiently clever marketing that somehow made an impression robust enough to break it out from the 20-year-long doldrums weighing down virtual reality technology.
And so proponents today are declaring VR as arrived. Everyone from Samsung to Silicon Valley wannabees have a virtual reality headset. I myself have the Google Cardboard device, given away free at last summer's Siggraph.
Because wearing a shoe on my face is exactly what I want to do in my spare time. (Photo credit: Oculus.)
To get a firm grasp on the future of VR, give your friends a chance to wear a headset. Here is what will happen:
- Look of embarrassment
- Much moving of body and head into unnatural positions
- On-coming sense of dizziness and vertigo, with near-stumbles over unseen chairs
- Off comes the headset
Elapsed time: approximately one minute for this potential customer's first and last VR experience.
Let me see if I have this right: to watch a VR movie, we have to stand up for nearly two hours while turning our heads and contorting our upper torsos in what looks like the upright version of that 60s floor game, Twister -- all the time avoiding furniture and others in the room also contorting their bodies. While wearing shoes on our faces. This, we are told, is better'n 3D.
So if you thought the plop of 3D was bad, VR won't even get a toehold in the living rooms of the nation. I mean, we all have 3D-capable tvs and projectors, and none of us flip to 3D mode.
Headaches, reduced resolution, unimpressive 3D effects, geeky glasses... Most damming of all, 3D movies are not better entertainment than 2D ones. These are all the same faults that will fatally stab the bravely renewed world of VR.
If the graphics industry wants a new hit, they have to think "Couch Potato." This is the kind of thinking that got Facebook and iPads their big markets: making new tech easy for lazy people.