MetaVRse CEO, Alan Smithson was recently featured in the new book, “What is Virtual Reality?: Everything you wanted to know featuring interviews with the leaders of the VR industry” By Yoni Binstock. Here’s the excerpt:
What excites you the most about virtual reality?
The thing that excites me most about virtual reality is the fact that it’s a new communication media. It’s a new way for humans to communicate with each other and the social implications of being able to communicate with people in a much more immersive way will be incredible. Just in the past few decades, we saw the introduction of communication mediums like text messaging and Skyping which changed how we communicated and I believe brought people together. But placing people together in the same place will be amazing. The other thing that excites me, and why I started MetaVRse, is the way that VR will revolutionize education.
What do you recommend for people who want to get in the VR field?
The first thing I always recommend is to listen to the Voices of VR podcast. There are a ton of episodes to listen to, but if you listen to the early episodes or the top ten, you’ll get a really good understanding of where the industries are going and who the players are. I would also say to start building something or writing about the technology. Because the technology and industry move so fast, everyone, including myself, will have to constantly be learning.
What are your predictions for the VR industry and technology in the next 5, 10, and 25 years?
In the next 5 years, my prediction is that consumer VR markets will be growing, but not take off as fast as we all hope. It’s absolutely amazing how many units the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the PSVR have sold, but it’s nowhere near the adoptions we need to get mass adoption. I would predict that we’re going to have businesses use this technology a lot more than individuals, especially with training, data visualization, and marketing. I also think when Steven Spielberg releases the Ready Player One movie, that will create a huge tidal wave of VR adoption. Lastly, I see houses and living rooms being designed to maximize VR experiences so that users will have great tracking and freedom of movement.
In 10 years, I think what’s going to happen is all the AR glasses will get smaller, lighter, faster, cheaper, and just generally better. I think the adoption is going to be a lot better especially in business because the business applications for AR are enormous. I can imagine any business using AR to increase the productivity of their workforce. Microsoft’s Hololens is an incredible technical achievement and I think that the technology will only get better. And so what we’ll see is the convergence of AR and VR where you’ll have one device being used for all types of mixed reality based on where you are and what application you’re using.
In 25 years, my best guess is that we will probably have our brains and computers connected so that experiences will be so immersive that it will be hard to separate it from reality. Today everybody’s working on how to make haptic suits and gloves, but if a machine has direct control of your brains, that we can make these 100% realistic experiences without the need for any external hardware.
In what ways do you think that virtual reality will be a positive force in our society and in what ways will it be a negative force?
I think the biggest way that virtual reality is going to be a positive force is by completely overhauling the education system. My purpose in life is to educate the next generation of young entrepreneurs to go on and create value in an environmentally, economically, socially sustainable way, and one of the reasons I got into VR is because VR is going to be the next way to teach people. It’s not enough to look at lectures or participate in an online course, but being able to experience and do something in a virtual space will finally make learning fun for everyone. The other day I learned how to fix a fridge using a VR application and it was so incredible. Before I would have had to call an electrician or spend hours reviewing the manual, but with this VR app, I was able to learn extremely quickly how my fridge worked and what to do to fix it.
I also see VR as an empathy machine, putting people in situations where they feel empathy for others, and I think that’s a really really big thing and that we’ve only scratched the surface on what we can do with this amazing technology.
Virtual reality can definitely be used for evil. Some of my friends made the Brookhaven Experiment where you are shooting zombies, and originally they made a simulator where you are shooting humans and they said it was so disturbing that they actually vowed never to make another shooter game where you shot humans. Like any technology, it can be used for good or for evil.
What needs to happen fairly quickly is we need to come together as an entire industry and we need to develop the ethical standards around VR. It is such a powerful media and if it is harnessed by the wrong people, you’re going to really mess with people and it’s going to go wrong real fast. I imagine that if someone violated the standards, they might be banned from ever using Unity or another game engine.
If there’s anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the future of VR, what would you like to say?
In the beginning, we had the printing press and the printing press brought people together and brought a new communication medium. Then we had the radio, the television, the internet, the smartphone, and now we have virtual reality which is going to change everything we do in the world. My suggestion to everybody is to get on it as early as possible and to build as fast as possible. By being one of the first in this industry, you’ll be able to be part of the story of how this technology and industry mature over the next several decades.