One of the key elements of the research at our lab at NYU is that people in virtual worlds should spend time together. And not just virtually together — physically together.
We see such experiences as being just one more extension of what people do best: Hanging out with each other. We suspect that the current focus on single person VR experiences is mainly due to temporary limitations of the technology.
Which made it especially odd to take a walk around the VR exhibition space at the SXSW conference today. There were many VR products on display, and in every one of them you could see people in a in a headset all by themselves, not interacting with other people — or even able to perceive other people in the room with them.
I was with someone who is not from the VR community. She found it very eerie to see all of these people lost in a VR world, disconnected from the people around them. And those people were being stared at by other people who had no idea what the person in VR was experiencing.
My friend said to me afterward that it was all very unnerving to behold, and that it seemed to make television look good by comparison.
That inspired me. So here’s my proposed new slogan for single-person VR:
“Virtual reality: We make television look good.”
I’m not sure this slogan will catch on within the industry. Note that none of this is a problem if one sees single-user VR for what it is: an important transition technology, the modern equivalent of the Kinetoscope.