There have been two times in my life when an experience with technology has rocked me so much it has changed the direction of my work.
The first time was in 1994 when I was working at Carnegie Mellon University and I published my very first web page. Just by sitting at my desk, writing a few lines of HTML, and uploading it to a server, something I had to say could immediately be seen by people all over the world. I hadn’t needed to go through any intermediary: no publishing house, no newspaper, no television or radio station, no film studio. Just me and a web server, and my content was out there.
It wasn’t long before people at other universities around the world started to contact me with questions and comments, and I started building global connections.
We all do this every day now by posting on social media, so it’s hard to remember what an astounding, world-changing concept that was. It blew my mind. I decided that’s what I wanted to learn about. That’s what I wanted to work with and where I wanted to put my energy. That’s the day I became a web developer and kicked off a career in information technology.
The second time my world has been changed by an experience with technology was a few weeks ago, when I tried out a virtual reality demo in the exhibition at a conference where I was a keynote speaker.
Petras from Academy Xi was running the demo, and he asked me if I’d like to try the Star Wars game or the immersive storytelling experience. Of course I chose the storytelling. He helped me put on the HTC Vive headset and showed me how to use the controllers. And suddenly the exhibition was gone and I was walking around in an enchanted forest.
I knew then the same way I knew in 1994 that this was going to change what I do.
So now I’ve begun an odyssey to learn everything I can about VR and designing VR experiences. And I invite you to come along as I share what I’m learning through these posts.
Consider this for starters.
The global virtual and augmented reality market is forecast to grow from $5 billion in 2016 to over $160 billion in 2020 according to the IDC.
It’s not just for gamers. VR and AR applications are already being used in healthcare and medicine, education and training, research, art, architecture, urban design, and more.
It’s hard to explain how compelling a really good virtual reality experience is if you’ve never tried it, so I encourage you to find a demo and give it a go. Since that day at the conference, I’ve tried quite a few others--games, stories, ads, tools--using a variety of hardware. A lot of them are not that great. But with rapid technology advances and greater understanding of design in a virtual world, they’ll be getting a whole lot better, and that’s something I want to be part of.