Every 100 years a new creative medium comes along. And it changes everything.
The 19th century was the age of the great novel: Tolstoy and Dickens ruled the charts. Cinema was born in the early 20th century and almost immediately captured the world’s imagination. Rock’n Roll and Pop defined several generations after the Second World War.
I’m convinced that Virtual Reality (VR) will be similar in force: it will define our time.
Google Cardboard VR glasses
What will VR be?
One of the first films ever made was “L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat” by the Lumière brothers. The film was a only one minute long and featured a train pulling into a station. The audience was unaccustomed to the amazingly realistic illusions created by moving pictures. Some in the audience were intrigued and amused, some ran away from the theatre, thoroughly shocked.
Still from L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat
We’re at a similar stage in Virtual Reality. Those who have had a chance to try VR understand how groundbreaking the technology is. Virtual presence is a very powerful experience.
But the first experience is not likely to tell us very much about the future of the medium. It would have been difficult to believe that a film of a train pulling into a station would so quickly morph into an enormous and vibrant industry. But it did.
We got Chaplin, Kurosawa, Fellini, the awards and legends. Films became larger than life. And the revolution of moving pictures hasn’t stopped ever since. It continues with Youtube, Netflix and smartphones.
A Taster of Virtual Reality
Just imagine what you will be able to do in VR. Imagine being able to walk in ancient Athens together with your history teacher. Or you could be taking a biology class where you get to live as member of a family of dolphins.
Photo by Jeremy Ricketts / Unsplash
You could use VR to explore a space colony on Mars. In fact, 20th Century Fox has been working on a VR addition to Ridley Scott’s film The Martian, where you can do just that.
The Martian VR Experience to be released this year by 20Century Fox
Several next-generation VR-headsets have been launched this year. The Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE are already out and Playstation VR will be launched for the Christmas market. The launches have focused on a core audience of gamers but quite a few ambitious non-game titles have also been published.
In a few years’ time, games will be overshadowed by other VR applications. Experiencing distant places (telepresence), educational experiences and social experiences will emerge. There will be an exciting market in VR art. Virtual sex will obviously thrive. VR has no limits.
Photo by Tim Swaan / Unsplash
Soon a new generation of artists and creators will create stories, experiences, art and beauty that could not have been imagined before the advent of VR. Who will be the Charlie Chaplin or Greta Garbo of VR?
We’re about to witness a time of feverish experimentation. As in any creative industry, there’s going to be an endless cycle of investment, creative misses and the occasional big hit. Hundreds of thousands of creatives will be employed in an burgeoning creative industry.
It’s going to be a very exciting time. Think about Hollywood in the twenties or perhaps London in the “swinging sixties”. Your grandkids are going to ask you: Where were you and what did you do when VR was born?