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The Future of ‘The History of the Future’

Another month has gone by which means VR Book Club is back! This month we’re reading The History of the Future by Blake J. Harris. I’m excited for this one. My mom got me The History of the Future a couple months ago. I actually just finished it today and wow. Just wow. It was awesome. Harris writes so well. It brought a lot of memories back for me from my time at Doghead Simulations. But that is a tale for another day. In this post, I talk about the talking points in our first meeting starting with…

What do you think about Palmer Luckey?

Mike McCready started off the conversation asking us what qualities Palmer Luckey (creator of Oculus) had that we still need today. I don’t know. I never met Luckey. I never spoke to him online. I didn’t know who he was until I read The History of the Future. I think, without knowing him, that he is a pretty incredible person.

As a teenager, he was inventor but he did more than that. He put the pieces of the puzzle together enough to bring the virtual reality industry back to life. He had a dream not just to create great VR, but to have everyone be in great VR. While his initial scope was small (his fellow developers), he put together a team who also believed in what he was doing. They, likewise, convinced Luckey that what he was working on was for everyone, not just developers.

Palmer Luckey is not without his flaws. I had to remind myself how young he was when he started working on the Rift and how inexperienced he was when he created Oculus with his co-founders. At 20, I was still in college. And when I graduated I had no idea what I wanted to do. I think Luckey is a good role model because he reminds people to believe in themselves and have the confidence to chase what they’re passionate about. You never know it can turn into something real.

Luckey’s story is an example that the American Dream is still alive. He started out as a teenager tinkering in a trailer in his parent’s driveway to selling a company for 3 billion dollars. What I like about Luckey’s story is that he did all this while staying humble. “God bless America. God bless this great country of ours” (Harris 81).

Luckey is not only a good role model for what he accomplished, but for how he lived in his worst days. Dragged through the sludge of the media, dropped by people he thought were his friends, and fired from the company he built. He didn’t let that destroy him. Luckey picked himself up and created a new company. He kept following his passions and doing what he loved: modding and tech. We are more than one thing. We are capable of many acts of greatness. Those acts of not just talking but actually doing them, is what inspires me about Palmer Luckey.

What qualities does Palmer Lucky have that I think we still need today?

Passion, perseverance, and an indomitable spirit.

The Most Dangerous Thing

We live in a world of data. You’ve probably heard of the term “Big Data”. Big Data are large data sets that are analyzed by computers to show “patterns, trends, and associations, especially related to human behavior and interactions“. What we search for, where we look on our screens, how we respond to messages, what we say (and don’t say) is all sent up to company’s various Clouds where our seemingly insignificant bits and bytes are turned into actionable strategies for companies to use.

Virtual reality headsets offer a whole new layer of data that marketers are only now figuring out how to use. VR marketing in its infancy but as more players break into the game the more we need to focus on biometric data privacy. Will our VR headsets track how many breaths we take? Will they report on our heart rate and emotional responses to the apps we use? It’s possible. Of course, that doesn’t make it right.

In an article on Inc., Amy Webb writes that information can be captured “from your voice, eyes, posture–even your bone and capillary structures.” This information, “can be used to recognize not just who you are but also how you’re likely to act.” Biometric tools can tell by how hard you press on a keyboard or how fast you type that it’s you using that device. It’s not just that consumers don’t understand how much of their biometric data is collected based off mobile devices and traditional keyboards, but companies may not have governance around the data they collect. We need to answer the questions of biometric ethics and who has the rights to it.

Moore’s Law may be dead, but that hasn’t slowed down the rapid rate at which technology is evolving. Transistors may no longer be doubling every few years but our data and what companies can do with it is not. I’m hesitant to use a device which saves maps of my play space, sees into my world, and knows how I move. It doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook’s Oculus Quest (the real problem being Facebook) or headsets from China (who implemented a social credit system with help from the support of tech companies), I’m weary to use it.

Facebook says that it doesn’t send maps of your play space to the Cloud. They’re saved locally to your device. But that doesn’t make it completely safe. Your device can be hacked. So even if Facebook really does pivot to a “future is private” business practice, bad guys are still out there.

The Oculus Quest has four cameras, a microphones, and multiple sensors which allow for 6 degrees of freedom of movement. It’s “capable of scanning all items in your VR space, including floors, ceilings, walls, rugs, art, windows, and curtains.” The Quest, “looks for edges and corners and other distinct features, then builds a 3D map of the playspace and combines that data with data from the gyroscope and accelerometer to give the headset’s position once every millisecond.” This makes for awesome, wireless game play. It also makes lots of awesome data.

Advertising in Virtual Reality

Advertising in virtual reality is an easier concept to grasp than biometric data. Advertisements in immersive technology (XR) is covered in both Augmented Human and Marketing New Realities. Many in the industry hope that indirect advertising will be used in VR. Something as subtle as books on a bookshelf. One of our original advertising thoughts in rumii was billboards outside the window for brands. It’s a nice thought. Maybe we’ll be in luck. Maybe we’ll make it through the Metaverse without ads in our face because companies will find much more value and ROI from our biometric data than tracking clicks on a virtual ad.

Besides, tracking clicks is so 2019. Advertisements of the future will be experiences. Think of the Disney theme park. You ride the Pirates of the Caribbean, you see the movie, you dress as the characters. That’s more realistic to VR. Not ad popups like in Ready Player One.

Image via Den of Geek

Luckily, the Marketers I know who are interested in immersive technology have a passion for virtual and augmented reality. They care about it succeeding as a technology for people. They believe in the good it can do. I think it’s these folks, asking the hard questions and leading the way with passion and a sense of responsibility, who will set the standards to keep AR and VR a joy for us to be in.

Make a Career in Virtual Reality

This is an exciting time where anyone can make a career in immersive technology! Yes, a degree in computer science or animation can’t hurt. However, if you have the passion, the willingness to learn, and gumption to apply what you already know, you can work in VR!

The best skill set to have in the VR industry is the willingness to connect to other people. Luckly, we are a very friendly industry. We love talking about immersive technology. Sure, you’ll come across the occasional AR vs. VR debate or this headset over that one but at the end of the day we all want to see immersive tech succeed.

If you ever feel distraught remember, people built cars before there were roads and gas stations. They had to bring enough gas with them to go where they wanted. We’re doing the same thing. People complain there isn’t enough content for Quest but what are they doing to support it? Do something, even if it’s a little bit. We’re building the road as we drive on it.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak with Helen Papagiannis (author of Augmented Human). She had good advice on how to be engaged in the XR community.

5 Tips to Get Started in the Virtual Reality Industry

  • Volunteer at conferences. Conferences are expensive. Between hotels, car rentals, and entrance fees, they’re pretty hard to attend unless your company pays for it. However, conferences need help to operate. Apply to volunteer. You’ll have to work and might not to get to hear all the panels but Papagiannis says you might get a chance to meet the speakers one on one through the work.
  • Submit to be a speaker. I never thought I would be an international speaker. I answered a “Call for Speakers” on a whim which led me to talk at IIeX Europe in Amsterdam. I had to pay for my flight and hotel but I got back way more. Access to the conference, speaker perks, and first hand introductions to other presenters. Remember when submitting, the worst you can hear back is, “no thanks”.
  • Watch videos and attend webinars. Many conferences post videos of panels and keynotes afterwards or they may stream them live. Watch, comment, and reflect on the videos. Reach out to a speaker online who’s talk you liked. Which leads us to…
  • Reach out to XR industry people. Papagiannis and I agree, the XR industry is very friendly. Just the other day, my friend (who worked on Doom VR), Tweeted about a student who reached out to him on how to get into virtual reality. My friend was more than willing to talk and praised the student for reaching out.
  • Comment on what people are working on and ask them questions. That way, when there comes a time when you have an ask, you already have a relationship established with folks in the industry.

What do you think about Palmer Luckey and Oculus? Do you trust your headset? How did you get your start in virtual reality? Let me know in the comments below!


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Featured Photo by Marc Mueller on Unsplash

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