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CVR Guest Series: How Virtual Reality Will Change Your Life in 2050

Posted on 18 August 2016

Welcome to the CVR Guest Series! For the next few weeks, we'll be sharing a few guest blog posts from some of our CVR 2016 speakers.

 Remember Mack Flavelle, the founder of Hammer and Tusk who held an excellent speaker session at CVR 2016? Today, he's back as a guest blogger, and will be sharing his thoughts on what life will look like in 2050! 

No one knows what life will look like in 2050.

Predicting the future is hard. Technological progresses that once took centuries to change now do so in decades and years, across all aspects of technology and life. Predicting the future of virtual reality with everything else in life held constant would be hard enough, but life will be dramatically different even without VR.

What you?re about to read is probably wrong. But it´s also probably a more informed wrong than you´ll get from anyone else. So let´s dive in!

Here are some of the assumptions I´ll be running with. You´re welcome to agree or disagree with these assumptions, but you´ll need to accept these (for now!) to make sense of my predictions.

Augmented (or mixed) reality will be everywhere. Low-cost and ubiquitous. In some way, AR and VR will merge. This could take many different shapes; for our purposes the journey isn´t as interesting as the destination. Presence is real. When you see a virtual world, or a virtual image in the real world, they are indistinguishable from their concrete counterparts.

So, let's meet Sally. 

Sally is a married mother in her early 40s, which means she would be in kindergarten today.

For Sally, everything is easier. Sally works remotely, collaborating with her colleagues in virtual space. They exist in a shared reality that´s indistinguishable from a modern office (but without the shared bathrooms).

At every important occasion, Sally has used volumetric lightfield capture techniques to record the event. This technology (which is already in its infancy today) allows Sally to create a picture-perfect version of a 3D environment. Not only can she take a picture of Grandpa eating cake; she can actually walk behind Grandpa and see the colour of the wall behind his head, even if it wasn´t visible in the original photograph, thanks to the way light reflects around him. This allows her to walk through memories, preserving them forever.

Sally´s life at home will be different from ours, too. Thanks to VR, households will no longer need living rooms because families won´t need to gather in a central location in order to consume media and have conversations together. Sally can sit in her favourite chair upstairs, while her husband lies on the bed and her daughter kicks a soccer ball in the backyard; all while watching season 200 of Game of Thrones.

Now, you may be concerned that all of these developments will turn us into the pod-people of Wall-E´s imagined future. That won´t be the case - thanks to the ease and fun of virtual reality sports. Sally will be able to throw a frisbee in VR and have her friend across the world catch it - with haptic gloves or even full suits, every move will be tracked, not just her head. Ever seen a training montage where a ninja hops across poles over burning lava? You´ll be able to do that in VR. Heck, you can already practice your archery or ride a tricycle.

All of that exercise is sure to build up an appetite. Sally will toss some nutritional cakes (picture a white, round wafer) onto a plate, slip on her VR goggles, and take a bite. Thanks to the scent piped out of the goggles and the texture she gets from the wafer, she´ll believe she´s eating the cookies she can see in VR. And even if she´s on her cheat day and eating real cookies, she can represent the cookie larger in VR than real life, creating an artificially inflated sense of glutinous satisfaction.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, Sally is helping to save the planet. That conference her parents might have gotten on a plane to attend? Sally is going virtually. In 2016, 40 million people attend conferences in the US, with a carbon footprint between 320lbs and 2,000lbs, depending on how far they´re travelling. In 2050? Most people attend from the comfort of home. To be clear, this doesn´t mean people attend less conferences and share less information, it means they attend and share more!

Some day, Sally will pass away. But the next month, if her daughter needs to ask a question about their medical history, she´ll be able to go ask Sally. Many cultures honour their ancestors, but in the future, they´ll be able to talk to them, too. A lifetime of lightfield volume capturing will have created such a clear picture of who Sally is and how she acts, that (combined with a little simple artificial intelligence) Sally will exist as a holographic projection of herself. Like the writers of Superman once imagined, our loved ones will never truly leave us, but will guide us from after death, lending their intelligence and insight to the next generation.

Written by: Mack Flavelle (Founder, Hammer and Tusk) 

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