Farhad Manjo, the technology writer for the NY Times, has an article today on virtual reality that is going to come off like the stories about the Wright brothers and their new-fangled, never-gonna-work contraption, the aeroplane. We’re seeing a lot of these lately because of the alleged “failure” of the first generation of VR devices to be runaway commercial hits.
You can read the article here; he’s absolutely right about the improved controllers that are coming out soon – they radically alter the experience. And additional technical improvements in the hardware, sure to be available commercially within the next few years, will improve it as well.
But what Manjo is really reacting to – which he seems unable to fully articulate, or perhaps perceive – is the fact that the art form – yes, VR is an ART FORM – is so new that the VR artists have not yet arrived to develop the medium. The examples that we’ve seen – in the labs where Manjo played and even in the VR “experiences” his own newspaper is pioneering – don’t fully engage the user or exploit the medium. Critics are looking for Charlie Chaplain when the "Great Train Robbery" hasn’t been shot yet.
I’m writing this while out West researching a book on the Pony Express, but as I’m writing this, I’m thinking of how the VR experience – which would not only interactive but multi-participant – would be. (No, this isn't a pitch . . . but . . .)
The medium is an exciting but demanding one, one that demands collaboration as well as vision. But when the artists get a good handle on it, the world will not be the same.