It sure feels like we’re reading the early pages of the virtual reality story, as we see experimental projects like Google Cardboard prove they’ve got what it takes to last, and big commercial products like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift prepare to make their retail debut. But if this is just the intro, how long will it be until we get to the real meat of the story? It could be years, if not the better part of a decade before we get there, at least according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as he shares his thoughts on the growth of the VR movement.
Zuckerberg compares VR hardware to the rise of smartphones, and how it took years and years from us to get from PDAs and basic BlackBerry models to the feature-rich, enormously powerful handsets we have today. If could be five years before we see similar maturity arrive with VR, or even twenty, but Zuckerberg thinks something like ten years is the safest bet.
This isn’t just about hardware, either: the evolution of VR is going to happen on multiple fronts, and we’re going to see the arrival of new and improved VR headsets, camera rigs that create 3D first-person footage, and a maturing segment of content creators, both in terms of recorded and rendered media. These should all help feed each other, but it’s going to take time for all of them to bring us to a place where VR is as ubiquitous and useful as smartphones are today.
Zuckerberg’s betting on VR’s success as he sees it as the next logical step in our growing need to express ourselves in increasingly immersive ways; just as text gave way to photo and video-driven social feeds, VR could fuel the next big way we share segments of our lives. It may be a few years before we’re all live-streaming events to our VR-connected followers, but we’ll get there.