The future of virtual reality is on mobile

By Deniz Ergürel, Haptic.ai

Everything we knew about businesses and their customers, have been changed by smartphones, social media, and big data technologies in the last 10 years. If you think this will simply stop here, you are terribly mistaken. Thanks to new advances on virtual reality and artificial intelligence, the change we are going to witness in the next 10 years, may be beyond our imagination.

In order to get a glimpse of what the future holds for us, I talked to Robert Scoble, one of the world’s best known technology journalists and an early spotter of important technology patterns and trends.

Robert calls the change we’re witnessing as the “Fourth Transformation,” which is also the name of his new book, co-authored with shel israel a famous writer and speaker on social media and tech issues.

Book cover of “The Fourth Transformation” by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel 

According to Robert, the computer user interfaces we are currently using are going to be revolutionized, soon.

“We are now at the dawn of the Fourth Transformation.” he writes on the introduction of his book. “It will move technology from what we carry to what we wear. The user interface will move from a screen you tap to computer-generated images that you actually touch and feel. Instead of inputting with our fingers, we will type much faster with our eyes on virtual keyboards. In previous transformations, it was all about the interface between technology and people; now it becomes all about the experience — and that changes nearly everything.”

Robert Scoble speaking at the LaunchScale Event at Bespoke. Photo Credit — Michael O’Donnell 

When I ask Robert about which industries are going to be mostly affected by this new transformation his answer is simple, ‘everything.’

“Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are going to change everything. Instead of sitting and passively watching, we will be immersed in the content. These technologies will change education, journalism, entertainment. Companies are already building 3D maps of the world. We are going to be able to walk around historical places, play games in the walls of our houses and people will be able to find jobs because the headsets will already know what we can do best by analyzing our eye movements.”

When virtual meets augmented reality on the Holodeck. Robert Scoble with Shel Israel. Photo Source — Facebook 

Virtual and augmented reality technologies have been around for decades, but they were mostly used behind closed doors by ‘privileged’ individuals who could afford to have them in their selected research labs, universities, military facilities or large corporations. But today, thanks to increased computing power and screen resolution with affordable prices, these technologies are becoming a part of the everyday consumers’ lives.

Robert tells me that it wasn’t that long ago when he experienced the true potential of virtual reality.

“About two years ago at the Web Summit, Oculus team from the Facebook let me try a Rift demo. The first thing they did was to put me on top of a skyscraper. Since then I knew that putting media on my face was different than watching it on a TV on the wall. That’s what made me interested in VR.”

Robert Scoble having fun in VR. Photo Credit — Marylene Delbourg-Delphis 

The technology industry is quite excited about the promise of virtual reality, and puts its money where its mouth is. According to Digi Capital, venture capitalists invested half a billion dollars into VR/AR startups in the third quarter of 2016, with a record $2.3 billion dollars invested in the last 12 months.

But the majority of consumers may not be sharing the same excitement yet. A recent survey finds two-thirds of consumers in US don’t know virtual reality headsets exist. Robert agrees that the adoption will take time.

“It’s really hard to get this unless you go to a store and try it out by yourself. HTC Vive is the coolest VR experience now but it costs almost $2,000 for the whole set and still you need a large space. We haven’t been able to show the mass consumers yet, that this is a product that they are going to be blown away. The major shift in this technology will take a decade to unfold.”

Robert Scoble — Photo Credit SenseVirtual 

Robert claims, it’s going to be Apple who will land virtual and augmented reality technologies into the hands of the everyday consumers. According to the latest rumors he gets from his sources, the technology giant is poised to change the tech industry, just like they did with iPhone.

“Next year (in 2017) Tim Cook is going to announce a clear glass iPhone that pops up into a head display which will allow consumers to move, walk, shoot and play in six-degrees of freedom. And that’s gonna change everything. It’s going to be the first press conference in their new headquarters, I expect to be blown away.”

Earlier in September, Apple was awarded with new patents for a wireless VR headset. The company has also acquired several augmented reality focused companies in the last few years.

“Apple is working on a pair of glasses with Carl Zeiss lenses and the computer will be in your pocket. The next iPhone will be a clear iPhone with a pack at the bottom. I hear there are 4 different prototypes. Seven years ago, Steve Jobs laid out all this plan and told Tim Cook about the future of TV and that’s what this is. If I have these glasses on, that maps every surface I see, then I can have as many screens around me as I want. The future of virtual reality is on mobile.”

Robert Scoble on a Facebook Live chat. Photo Credit— Dan Berte 

This major change in core technologies, can disrupt many industries. Some everyday gadgets we use now, can be put on planned obsolescence. The reformation process will surely disturb many established businesses, but it will also be an opportunity for the new comers.

“If you are starting a company today, you should think about being first on this new Apple product. I advise entrepreneurs, to have something really good on the HTC Vive now, and get market attention at the next SXSW by March. If you do that, you are going to be set up pretty well to get Apple’s attention in their next developers conference by June 2017, right before the new iPhone launch.”