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Picture this: you’re currently missing a loved one who’s far away in a country with a different time zone that’s difficult to call, do you consider Augmented reality? 

With each memory of them you replayed in your head, your longing for them increases. 

Since you want the flood of happy feelings that comes with remembering a loved one, you decide to pick up your VR headset. 

In it, you see an image of them and you begin to live through the moments you both shared when they were here.  You touched, hugged, laughed at, and laughed with each other all in the same virtual world that the headset mapped over your room. 

Then slowly, your longing for them starts to disappear. You now share the same space with them. Doing all of the things you used to do when they were physically present with you yet, you’re miles and miles apart.  

This is the type of future some big tech companies bet on in the past. 

We wrote about it in a previous post

And in another one announcing the launch of Apple’s Vision Pro — a next-generation mixed reality headset that’ll begin shipping to customers next year. 

headset vr from Meta
Quest 3 is Meta’s first mainstream mixed-reality headset with high-res color 

However since — Meta — one of the heavyweight FAANG companies has now shown a subtle tilt in the direction of its company with the launch of its Quest 3 headset and Ray-Ban AI sunglasses, I thought would make for a great discussion to help understand why a lot of people including myself believe that for humanity to get to the point of a full-on immersion into a virtual world such as the metaverse, tech companies will have to get VR headsets to enhance our everyday life first. What do I mean? 

Maybe the metaverse isn’t the next big thing after all

Joel Mathis

VR Might Be A Fake Trend

Well, one important fact that often goes under the radar in discussions around tech and how we will soon transition into an era where everyone spends a significant part of their daily life in a virtual world is that a mere look at the usage statistics for VR headset does not support this assertion.  

Statista

For instance, out of 176 million VR users in the US, only about 63 million are sole VR users, and worst still, less than 10% of those 63 million people — or 6-7 million, use VR headsets on a monthly basis.  

To put things in perspective and help you understand why I believe VR might be a fake trend, Pokémon Go as of May 2023 boasts about 80 million monthly players

Furthermore, there are multiple games that have more than the monthly player base of VR as a whole such as League of Legends which has 180 million monthly players.  

As a matter of fact, tech industry correspondents have started to comment that there are very few people who are actually using their VR headsets when compared to the level of investment that continues to go into it. 

What Needs To Happen For VR To Be Successful

Do you now get the drift? Although tons of articles and enthusiasts try to paint the opposite picture, VR isn’t doing good. 

This explains why Facebook — a company that believed so much that we would spend a huge part of our lives in the virtual world that it changed its name to Meta — would bow to the demand for it to focus on mixed reality; or in other words AR.   

VR tech is struggling to cross ‘The Chasm’

The technology has not only failed to break through to the mainstream market, but it is also struggling to retain early adopters who typically do not care as much as the former group about the shortcomings of the ecosystem. 

You might not have guessed but the reason for the current flaws of VR isn’t because of the shortcomings of the technology. In fact, by that metric alone, it can be considered to be doing very okay. 

VR is failing solely due to its individualistic and isolating nature. 

Take a look at this comment on the wall of Pokemon Go’s trailer from years ago. Notice how the person barely commented on the game itself. 

VR’s biggest drawback and the reason companies now focus on mixed reality is likely based on the realization that AR needs to succeed before our full-on immersion into some virtual world. 

This is the natural progression of technology. 

VR headset needs to first find greater usage by sparking a creative and engaging exploration of the outdoors that could lead to meaningful social interactions just like Pokemon Go does before we see mass usage of the technology. 

Would We Ever Experience A True Virtual World? 

Hence, VR and Augmented reality-focused companies like Meta need to stop trying to sell us on the idea that a virtual world is better than the real world and focus on complementing and enhancing it. 

This is why I believe AR and Augmented reality need to succeed before VR does and why I think it’s the future.

Humans may eventually live permanently in a virtual world in the farthest future however, the chances of it happening in the foreseeable future are extremely low.    

For VR to succeed beyond its current state, there must be deliberate attempts at enhancing our lives with the technology at close to zero cost of participation through AR. 

In other words, the technology shouldn’t just get better and more affordable, VR companies need to find creative ways to integrate their headsets into our everyday lives in a way that enhances it. 

Perhaps Meta now knows this too. Its newly launched Quest 3 headset is the first mainstream mixed reality headset with high-res color and it comes with a feature Meta calls ‘persistent spatially anchored digital object’ that lets you anchor a digital frame in your house in a really cool way.

Summary 

To summarize, despite significant investment, VR may not be as successful as initially predicted. Only a small percentage of users regularly use VR headsets, whereas games like Pokémon Go continue to appeal to larger user bases and because of this I believe that VR’s individualistic and isolating nature may be the significant obstacle to its widespread adoption.

In addition, I truly believe that for VR to succeed, augmented reality (AR) may need to first succeed through complementing and enhancing the real world. It needs to find creative ways to enhance everyday life.

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