There were lots of exciting Virtual Reality announcements at CES 2017, including Cerveo revealing the world’s first VR shoes with built-in tactile devices – so you can feel the virtual world – as well as the Manus VR Development Kit, a high-end hand tracking glove that allows you to reach out and literally touch Virtual Reality, and not forgetting the Hypersuit, that allows you to fly!
It all begs the question, could the virtual world become indistinguishable from reality?
Entrepreneur Elon Musk, yes the billionaire of Space-X, Tesla, Solar City, OpenAI and Hyperloop fame, certainly thinks so. Indeed he reckons we might already be living in some Virtual Reality, the type envisaged in 1999 cult science fiction film, The Matrix.
“There is a billion to one chance we are living in base reality,” Musk said last summer at the Code conference in California.
“Forty years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot. That is where we were. Now 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it is getting better every year…
“If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality.”
Of course, not everyone agrees, and with any technology, there is always a certain amount of fear mongering.
We have all heard and read about machines and robots taking our jobs - a quick Google search will throw up all sorts of articles from reputable sources, including Wired, the BBC, the New York Times and The Huffington Post, to mention just a few. It is not a new phenomenon, however. Indeed it has been happening ever since the Industrial Revolution - think the Luddite movement of the 1800s, which saw English textile workers rise up and break stocking and cropping frames that they felt were threatening their way of life. Granted some jobs are likely to be affected more than others by the rise of new machines and new technology, but while some employment areas may disappear or shrink, new ones will arrive, and Virtual Reality will be part of that.
Many of today’s jobs did not exist if you go back 10, 25, 50, 100 or 200 years ago when the Luddite movement was born. Look at the rise of the Internet, home computers, the growth of the car industry, the first airplanes and space exploration – all of which have created many new forms of work both directly, and significantly indirectly too. It will be the same with Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality revenues are predicted to exceed $180 billion by 2025, with VR technology becoming a bigger market than television is today. Only last year there were more Virtual Reality job postings in the first quarter of 2016 than all of 2015, according to SmartRecruiters in San Francisco, and that trend is almost certain to continue in the coming years. There is nothing to fear and while there are always concerns – as is commonly the case with anything new and unknown – there are also many opportunities too.