2016 will be the year of connection. One might ask, “well, hasn’t that already been a mainstay of our society?” A question which I would respond to with an emphatic yes. Yet, this feels like a year that will be a bit different. There’s one technology that drives this seemingly redundant proclamation of mine, and that is virtual reality, also known as ‘VR.’
I still remember those rainy days of my youth where I imagined what virtual reality technology would look like. The only conceptions of VR that I could draw inspiration from were sci-fi film renditions of a dystopia where everyone chose to live in their fantasy worlds over their limited and boring reality. Back then, I didn’t really grasp the ethical hold-up of virtual reality, it was mainly just excitement at the prospect of experiencing the heart-pounding and visceral world of a special forces operator, or being immersed in alien and otherworldly landscapes that I would never get to see with my own eyes.
Then, almost as suddenly as virtual reality had become an imagined possibility, it faded out of my life, becoming an irrelevant and somewhat unpromising pipe-dream. That is, until the past year or so, specifically a few months ago. That is when I stumbled upon a Reddit AMA (‘Ask Me Anything,’ basically a forum for Reddit users to ask celebrities/famous thinkers/CEO’s questions) with the president of Oculus, Palmer Luckey. Oculus is one of the companies at the forefront of VR technology, and will begin to ship their headset (the Oculus Rift) at the cost of around $600 this Spring.
Also competing in VR is Samsung, HTC and Playstation, among others. These headsets are no joke, they are exactly what I imagined when I was younger. While the ethical debate now raging in my mind is problematic, that isn't what really has my attention. What captivates me about VR is the wide-ranging applications that are being rampantly developed.
While gaming is an extremely potent storytelling medium, it isn’t the sole benefactor of the pursuit of commercial VR as one might intuitively think. Film and television are increasingly transitioning from mediums interested in VR into mediums invested in VR.
The one thing that ties all these mediums together? Storytelling. The crazed interest in VR is indicative of the widespread desire to achieve historic closeness between storyteller and listener. In fact, calling the storyteller the listener/reader/watcher does not do justice to VR, as they are comprised of all three of those monikers. The VR user is an experiencer. This invention is far more groundbreaking than simply being a fun toy for those with the money to splurge. This is the creation of an entirely new method of storytelling that connects people to stories like never before.
The possibilities are endless, and as we’ve seen with technology in cameras and cell phones, it will only advance and evolve faster and faster in the coming years. I, for one, am on the edge of my seat waiting to see where VR goes, especially considering the potential risks and ethical questions involved. However, I am sure of one thing—the huge advancements and interest in VR show how important connection will be within storytelling this year. As the mediums we use become more immersive and technologically advanced than ever before, and as businesses become more invested in developing and transmitting their identity, this most likely will be a definitive year for digital narration.
What are your thoughts about VR? What do you think would be the most exciting application of the technology? Feel free to share them with us!