Future Tech: Where is Virtual Reality Headed?

In today’s episode of Future Tech I talk about virtual reality. In 2014, Facebook acquired the virtual reality company Oculus for $2 Billion. At one point I bought an Oculus Rift VR headset to see what all the hype was about, and I wrote an article about it. More recently, I noticed in the news that VR has become more popular. With people being stuck in quarantine during the pandemic, VR helped them escape to other parts of the world. But what other things can VR help humans do? I talk about them in this episode, so give it a listen!

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Here’s the transcript from this podcast episode, please excuse any typos!

What started off as a tethered headset that you had to connect to your computer, started to evolve and became the standalone headset, which you can either insert your mobile phone, or it was just a headset, without a computer that just operated on its own. That was the oculus rift that I use, which then offered the ability to add a controller and the controller let you move around the world, as well as C around the world so that was a really cool thing that’s that’s the one that I used, but you know, we’ve seen a lot of sci fi movies and shows where Virtual Reality went to a whole new level and that’s kind of what I want to talk about like where is it headed, because a lot of people always say well what’s going to be the next big thing. Well we’ve had Pokemon Go, the game where you have augmented reality and you can see the Pokemon in the real world that’s augmented reality, where you’re augmenting what you see, using your mobile device, virtual realities where you are literally immersed in a virtual environment or real environment.

But what you know, there’s limitations, right there are limitations. I feel as though the next iteration of virtual reality is going to be a combination of augmented reality and virtual reality, and even a step up. We’ve seen, I remember on Shark Tank, I saw an omni directional treadmill where the guy was kind of hooked in with these bungee cords in this circular treadmill device where you had the virtual reality headset on, he was holding a rifle, and he was running on this treadmill while you see the avatar in the game running with the gun and shooting, bad guys. So that’s a really cool kind of next level way to be immersed in a video game for example you could literally be running in the game as the avatar and shooting as the avatar. Not only is it a good exercise, but it’s a good trading thing for soldiers possibly. So I believe that that would be a really cool way to enhance virtual reality. I mean imagine the possibilities you can be a Jedi, with a lightsaber, and they already did stuff like that. For Star Wars I saw I tried it once I was Darth Vader with a lightsaber. I was a Jedi avid lightsaber in a Star Wars environment and I had to map out the room I was in using the headset which was crazy so it mapped it all out, which meant that the environment in the game knew where I couldn’t couldn’t go. And so it kind of kept me in those borders and there was like a line around the room, in virtual reality so I knew where I could could, yes I’m not walking into a wall or walking into a counter, or a door or something like that so that’s kind of getting it’s getting there right it’s getting to that point. And once we see a more affordable, omnidirectional treadmill or something like that where you can literally do an obstacle course in your house or you can climb a mountain or something in your house and you start to realize that now you don’t have to be, you know, you don’t have to go to Paris or you don’t have to go to Rome or whatever, you know, Barcelona or whatever country you want to go to, you can literally walk around a city on this treadmill, maybe even live, if it’s, you know, if it becomes a thing where they have live camera people around and you hire one for the day. And now you can literally walk around your favorite city without having to travel. It’s not the same thing but hey, it’s better than nothing.

And so from there, the next evolution would be, what we saw in the movie Ready Player One, or what was in the book Ready Player One where there was haptic feedback clothing rights now you’re wearing a suit that completely transforms your body into a sensitive part of the virtual reality experience, if somebody hits you, you feel it. If a butterfly lands on your hand, you feel it. If you know you jump into water maybe your body gets a little colder, you know, and of course there are more adult themes that could use virtual reality with a haptic outfit with someone in another country or another city and you can’t see each other, but you can through virtual reality and you can feel each other through your suit but that’s a whole nother topic that I’m not going to get into. But we could talk about how there could be this futuristic virtual reality, interaction, right, let’s say you’re, for example, my brother lives in Europe. He has kids that I can’t really see because I can’t, I’m in America, and maybe through virtual reality and a haptic outfit. All of us could see each other. Hug each other, you know, laugh together and be kind of closer to each other rather than just a FaceTime, you know, or a zoom or a video chat, it’s not the same but if I could be inside of their bedroom or inside of their house or at the park with them in Europe and hug them and play with their dog and you know do the things that I can’t do, possibly even walk around with them if there’s maybe an AI assisted robot or something, which is also part of this whole equation is, you know, having artificial intelligence, be a part of it. Because imagine, I could have an AI robot. Okay, an AI. Being a humanoid or something. And that humanoid is in a closet at my family’s home in Europe, and I turn it on. My face is on the face of the AI so you can see me, but I’m in virtual reality mode, and they’re hugging the robot I’m hugging them. Yes, it all sounds weird but it’s their uncle right they see this face I can talk to them, I’m in virtual reality I can move around on my haptic on my treadmill with the haptic feedback so I feel everything I walk, I can move with them. I mean, the possibilities are endless.

I mean, imagine if you are a skilled surgeon, and you can’t get to a hospital in Mumbai, fast enough to save someone because a heart surgery, or whatever it is you could jump into this AI humanoid, and turn on the Virtual Reality turn on the haptic feedback and you can literally control this AI and save somebody’s life, all across the world. I mean, that’s the future of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and, you know, these, these haptic feedback and it’s endless. I mean, we’ve seen Iron Man, right we Tony Stark had Jarvis, his artificial intelligence assistant, who was helping him in his Iron Man suit but also helping him in the lab. I mean we can see stuff like that. I mean Star Trek had the computer always mapping out coordinates and helping them figure out, you know, parsing data to help them make decisions. There are so many, you know, AI assistants that we’ve seen in movies that we could also have in real life, and we could interact in a deeper way through these suits and these interactions and virtual reality headsets. I mean one of the things I found out through research being that I’m a filmmaker and I’m a huge sci fi fan. When I learned this is years ago but I learned that avatar, the James Cameron blockbuster was not only wasn’t made in 3d, but he had to invent VR technology to create the movie, and the whole movie was made in like an airplane hangar, Like a warehouse, then it was all green screen, you know, or blue screen, and he created this virtual reality technology, where he has the director and the, the cinematographers and the actors. Everybody was wearing the motion capture suits the mocap suits right they were wearing the suit to a little balls all over their bodies on the screens, they could see the avatar worlds, the virtual environments, the computer generated imagery, the CGI, they could see all of it in real time.

While they were shooting the scene, the actors in these suits could see themselves in their avatar. Special effects because they were doing it live. I mean the implications of this and keep in mind Avatar is now an older movie. It was years ago that that movie came out, And now Avatar two and three are coming out. The fact that James Cameron had the foresight to create this virtual virtual reality environment to create a movie to me is completely mind blown. Being able to see a scene in a movie in a virtual environment. As you’re filming. I mean, I can’t, there’s nothing I can say about, it’s just, it’s just, it’s incredible, incredible. So imagine if you could do something similar for your job. Okay, let’s say you know you work at a company, but your commute is like a two hour commute there and back so it’s an hour there an hour back and it’s a long commute and your job, says you know what, we’re gonna let you work virtually forget you know, remote work is one thing working from home is one thing but what about working virtually where you are literally in an office, and people can see you with their virtual headsets, maybe it’s just glasses maybe by the time we get to this point, it’s just like one glass over your eye or a set of glasses over your eye. And you can see your, your, your employees in the office, they can see you. You can shake hands and feel it hectic . Maybe just to have the glove, maybe you don’t need the whole suit, maybe just gloves. Shake hands. You can stand next to their desk and point at their screen so they can see what you’re working on, and you can collaborate. Imagine if you can work anywhere in the world through virtual reality, and you don’t have to actually be there. That is the true power of VR, that’s working from home. That’s remote work, but without being stuck behind a webcam and a screen, you’re actually in the office in the room, you know, and that would be pretty cool. That would be pretty cool, especially when you have a lot of people working in different countries. And you want to have a team meeting and you want everyone present, you can actually have their bodies in their room, so that would that’s just an idea I think that would be insane.

And, of course, like I mentioned, this would be great for medical personnel who can’t be all around the world at once, and any expert right if you can’t have experts in the room to see something. Imagine if you have a household probably got a plumbing leak or, you know, electrical problem or whatever you have a problem in the house you need an expert to come fix it, rather than just showing them on video which is hard to do because they can’t really diagnose issues especially with computer problems, And like, you know, major, major appliances. If the person could be in the room in virtual reality and walk around the room and really look, you know, in the different areas of the problem. Usually, and you could have your glasses on so you can see them and they can see you, but they’re not really there, just to kind of diagnose the issue because I, for example, I had a problem where I had my, my, my furnace and my air conditioner broke right before the summer and it was hot, it was like 90 degrees. The repairman was the first team to diagnose the issue. Then he was here for like an hour, he had to figure out what was wrong. He didn’t have all the tools he needed so he had to come back a second time. The second time he came, he diagnosed the issue, but he didn’t have the part that he needed to fix the issue. So he had to come back a third time, And the third time he finally fixed the issue. But now, all of those times he came, I feel as though it was possible to maybe diagnose the issue, virtually by maybe having me do the testing for him, like here, turn this on or unplug this or, you know, pull off that cover for me, let me see what’s inside that kind of stuff, you know, and if it doesn’t work then they come out, but at least you know for certain problems like if it’s a plumbing leak and you can see the leak and they can see okay yeah we see what the problem is you know that will come out and fix it, they can purchase the parts they need to come out and fix it. And I know I’m rambling about this home improvement thing but I mean, it could save a lot of time and a lot of workers, you know contractors who are at home and they don’t want to drive out just to check something out, they could quickly check from home, and that way they could do a lot more calls, because a lot of times, contractors are busy on calls when you call them and they’re too busy to come in, they have to come a couple days later. Well, this way they can just knock out a bunch of calls in a row, seeing a doctor, they can check out if you’re having a knee problem or a back issue or maybe you have a sore on your body somewhere or like a bruise. The doctor can physically see it with these glasses and they’re right in front of you and they can inspect you and, you know, if they’re using haptic feedback suits, they can hit you to make sure your reflexes are going well and I mean, the possibilities are endless. It’s just insane and I’m looking forward to seeing where VR is headed. I’ve already tried what were what’s available today. I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future. And I’m curious to hear what you think about where VR AI haptic suits and, you know, omnidirectional treadmills and where are we going next, and let me know in the comments, I want to know and then I’ll respond to everybody as usual.



Jason Sherman