Editor's Blog

05/12/2016
Virtual insanity

“When virtual reality takes off, it’s going to be as big a change as the internet. It’s going to change everything.”

Sorry, what was that? I’ve spent the last week speaking to agencies, gathering comments for a piece on virtual reality and the events industry for the next issue of M&IT. And the conversations I’ve been having have been quite startling.

Everyone I’ve spoken to is in agreement that the first wave of virtual reality will be in the form of augmented reality; essentially a device that lets you see the real world with information laid over the top.

This isn’t happening at some point far off in the future; this is happening now. As ever, it’s the defence industry that is leading the way. I’m assured that the military is already making contact lenses for snipers with inbuilt digital crosshairs, which sounds both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Augmented reality is going to turn up first in the form of headsets, and then as it becomes more advanced, we’re going to be able to get contact lenses of our own. The end game, I am told, is a world where people will have operations to replace their eyes with cameras, just like Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. No, me neither.

What else will happen? Well, there’s a good chance that augmented reality will work hand in hand with the Internet of Things. So you’ll be able to control everything in your home from your augmented reality headset, enabling you to do things like turn on the heating on your drive home so your house is nice and warm when you get in.

However, in the course of my research I have been told that the Internet of Things isn’t as secure as people would like, so there are concerns that it could be open to hackers. Like, a hacker on the other side of the world could hack into your oven and turn it on while you’re out and potentially burn your house down.

As one interviewee said to me, “in the virtual world, the only limit is your imagination. And that’s the scariest thing about it.”

He went on to describe a world in which people live in the virtual world and stay in their houses all day, sending robots out to run errands for them. Air travel has become unaffordable to all but the richest in society thanks to hefty climate change taxes imposed by the government, so everyone conducts their business by virtual reality.

Clearly, this isn’t going to happen overnight. But AR and VR are coming, whether we want them to or not. To find out how it’s going to affect the events industry, pick up the January issue of M&IT, where I’ll be attempting to pick apart the science fiction from the science fact.



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