We’re all on the holodeck now, VR headset or not
We’re all on the holodeck now, VR headset or not
We were late for onewith my mother, sister, niece and nephew. We all wanted to talk and play trivia and pictionary, or whatever the app calls it. We huddled together on the sofa and took turns. The kids wanted Trivia where I was terrible. I liked the sketch game better. We played rounds and guessed the terrible drawings. We smiled. My hand was getting tired . We have wasted the time.
I had to hurry up and then join some college friends who started a weekly zoom. I poured myself a whiskey and caught up with the old days with an AirPod in my ear. I preferred the gallery view where we were all in our little boxes and I could see everyone even when they were silent. Maybe it was like we were together.
Then I had to hurry 40 minutes later to prepare for a VR talk show I attended at AltSpaceVR Jesse Damiani invited me to chat in front of an audience of avatars. I had never done a VR talk show before. It was great – and completely different from the zooms and house parties. I have seen neither face nor eyes. But after putting theHeadset on, I could move and look around. I felt free … and glasses. Rows of cartoon characters lined up across the stage on risers.
I stood half overlapping with a cartoon chair and just talked and waved with my disembodied cartoon hands while the cartoon moderator next to me asked me questions. But the host and the audience were very real people. I didn’t look like me, but I spoke in my real voice. And the questions were thoughtful. After that, people (virtually) came up to me and asked me further questions. We took a virtual selfie. I really felt somewhere, even though I hadn’t gone anywhere at all.
Three different experiences on the same evening. Now everything is virtual. And I barely have my VR headsets on all the time. It is difficult to find some time for a virtual place outside of my real family. But VR is not pointless. Our life is virtual now. I have never seen “virtual” before more event descriptions than in the last month and a half.
And of course here are the VR hot takes. I see that every VR is rethinking now. Is VR back? Is VR in an iPhone moment? Is VR the future? The new future? Is this the point at which it happens? Is it more than 3D TV? Is it really the metaverse? Was? Has the have we accepted all of these things even more now?
I’m tired of taking it hot. I don’t want to give you one now. I’m still writing one, of course. Yes, VR is here. It was here. It is still here. Do you use it I am sometimes. But I’m not interested in using more VR. Even if I don’t have a VR headset, we’re all virtual. The headset is just one thing on your face. A thing that is still evolving, , harrowing distance. But take a closer look. It is already there and growing everywhere.
At the moment, the children are gathering on iPads to make Roblox appointments with their friends. I listen to music and angrily type on an iPad that stores all my thoughts somewhere in the cloud. We had our team zoom in earlier and saw each other together in a grid. Later, as always, I will lose myself on mine , Collecting fossils, repaying my mortgage to get another room, flying to islands where I can see friends and the spaces they created. My wife is also playing on another island across from me.
At 5 p.m. Every day my child plays Fortnite with his friends, where he screams excitedly because he really feels like running in endless landscapes and collecting everything he collects to achieve success for the next unlockable. You have a great time.
I read a labyrinth of a book to pass the dark hours. House of leaves, which I have put off for years. Spaces that unfold in spaces. A story about a house that grows bigger inside and pages that contain curvier side aisles. I get lost. I lose myself in all these rooms. I still remember my VR sessions, my time in my book and these games.
What is a virtual world? What is cyberspace? What is a metaverse? I remember a course on media history that I attended decades ago in which we discussed how telephone calls were, in a way, the first sense of cyberspace. Communication in the void. I speak to my mother and project myself somewhere else. Old chat rooms where you can collect and introduce your conversations. I wrote a piece about it a long time ago when the internet seemed like a utopia. Where is our head when we have a zoom, what room are we in? Does that seem stupidly philosophical?
I think I say that no matter how impressive a VR headset can be – and it is– It is really more of a bigger extension of the feelings that I already have. I can track my hands and lean forward and look around everywhere. But for me it’s like headphones for my eyes. I put earphones in and my music surrounds me. The same applies to VR.
I have been using VR for years and have reached a point where I can coexist a little in VR. I look under the goggles to check smartwatch messages. I play Beat Saber without headphones so that I can talk to my children at the same time. The world is a fluid mess of virtual things and we are in the middle.
After more than two months in a house where I get stuck every day and explore the same walls, I sometimes find in these virtual rooms that the house gets bigger from the inside. I dig in new worlds, in all. We are all. This is nothing new. But our global onecertainly forces the hand. Can we be far away and still feel connected? Can we feel that with the certainty that we have done before, we can really see, do and achieve? Do we need the desk? Do we need face time with real people? What do we need?
I remember being scared of living in the cloud and feeling like I needed files on my local computer. Or you don’t want digital music or films, but discs instead. My virtual drift was gradual and I got lost in it. I think we all have. To what extent a VR headset is a whole new step compared to a fancier headphone for your eyes, I see things now.
Instead of being the answer to VR, I see the tools we are now relying on as the things that are only further improved in VR. Like a set of monitors for your laptop. Or speakers for your music. Or a great controller. Or any other peripheral.
I held back and said VR is the answer because my whole damn life is virtual now. And after that, it’s just nuances and tools. Of course. But until it’s synced with the cell phone ecosystems, cloud apps, workflows, people, and games we like to play, it will always feel one step apart.
Of course these days are coming. Every clue is that VR becomes more like headphones in the sense that it gets smaller and connects to phones. An extension, an extension. A better pair of eyes and hands. Not the only tool. But maybe a damn good one.
Of course we are surrounded by damn good tools. But to get through space and connect to another place or see someone better or be better … well, sometimes I want to put on my headphones.
There is a lot to do with VR headsets that are suddenly difficult to find and software tools that are suddenly not sufficiently integrated, are not easy to connect and are difficult to identify for certain requirements.
I don’t need a VR headset to escape to other worlds. I need it to do my tools. In this sense, my family has to struggle with it everywhere. Google classroom for distance education of children. Roll20 to replace the board game meetups my child played with friends every week.and Fortnite and Zoom and Houseparty and FaceTime and Roblox and, yes, VR for everything else.
Don’t worry if you haven’t tried VR yet. In a sense, you already have. You don’t need a headset to feel like you’re on a holodeck. The parts are already built on cell phones, game consoles, iPads and good headphones. A pair of $ 400 goggles is just the next step