Advancing in VR, AR and more

Posted: Kathleen Maher 02.28.18

Saw that, done that, probably will do it again. Sometimes stuff like 3D movies, VR, holograms, have taken a while to light up my world. Lord knows, during my first go ‘round with the digital new age and VR, I was pretty sure we were on the edge of an utterly new reality. It was right when I moved to San Francisco and there were salon parties in secret lofts and warehouses, raves, cons, etc. I regularly saw Eric Gullichsen, Bruce Gibson, Linda Jacobson, Mark Pesce, and Tony Parisi at parties and tech gatherings. There was some guy who roamed the scene wearing a wrist computer and a monocular something on his head, he looked Borgian way before there were Borgs (something worrisome, there I think). There were robot wars in dark city parking lots and excavations where giant sky-scrapers would later rise up and take over the skyline.

But it all went away, just like the several comings of 3D movies. Now it’s hard to imagine people coming to San Francisco to explore new ideas and launch startups. It’s actually cheaper to go to New York. All the experimentation seems to have come off the streets, and down out of the lofts, and gone back behind very expensive closed doors. You know why? Because lots of this stuff is making money or at least on the cusp of making money.

Paths that cross, cross again

The important thing is that all that good work of the past never goes away. This year at CES we were thrilled by the arrival of wireless VR headsets powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. We see this as a major advancement for VR because it gets it out of the computer and into the mobile world. And, just like mobile, it’s not about the cord. The mobile phone didn’t change the world because you could walk around and talk on the phone, it changed the world because it was a personal computer one always carried. Likewise, mobile VR is actually an advance on Cardboard VR, because you can pick it up anyway, and dive right in. Now it’s interactive.

As an analogy, there are people who never “got” the Internet until they got a phone. The same will happen for VR, now that the pesky computer is head-borne. The other half of the equation, is that there are VR applications for everyone. I continue to stand by the assertion that games are not the killer app for VR – at least not the kind of games that have turned the computer graphics industry into a multi-billion-dollar industry because VR is no advantage in such a game. I’m willing to be wrong on this but so far, I haven’t been.

However, I’m enthralled by the ability draw and create in 3D and I think this can go further. The game engine companies are working on in-VR creative environments, the movie studios are increasingly using 3D environments to direct movies and TV shows, and I think just-folks would enjoy recreating their living room in VR and AR changing the color of the couch, adding a nice Picasso to the wall, or transforming the whole room into a snow cave in which to watch television. Yep, put your feet right up on that block of ice there where the coffee table would be. Cheap thrills, sure, but watch out when the glasses come off, and they will.

In this issue we also have a story about Light Field Lab, which has gotten funding to enable its development of a Hologram projector. This company is taking a really long road, but they’ll be taking the VR and AR industry with them to create 3D walk around holography on the streets and in the living room.

In other news
This is a nice fat collection of stories that goes way beyond VR and AR. We’ve also got a definitive count of graphics cards going to crypto-currency mining. Some write ups from SolidWorks World and we check in on Onshape, the CAD company that dares shoot for the clouds and stays there.