The New York Times' John Tierney has an interesting article on virtual reality as a future technology for holding 3D meetings, predicting that in five years, "Without leaving your living room or office, you’ll sit at three-dimensional virtual meetings and classes, looking around the table or the lecture hall at your colleagues’ avatars." Of course, the people making those predictions are, well, two virtual reality academics, Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, so that forecast may be a bit biased. (Not to discount their fine groundbreaking work, especially by Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.) I actually agree there's a good chance we'll see some version of that future, though it'll almost certainly take longer than 5 years. Consider the technologies they cite for making such a bold forecast:
The Kinect tracking device, sold for $150, shows that it’s now practical for you to control your avatar simply by moving around the living room — no more need for special suits or elaborate sensors in a lab. Nor do you have to wear special glasses to see in 3-D, thanks to the “autostereo” display on the new $250 Nintendo 3DS, which beams a three-dimensional image to the naked eye.
These are great innovations, no doubt, but sales for Nintendo 3DS are already slowing down. I myself cited Avatar Kinect as a future game changer, certainly for virtual worlds/MMOs, but I think it will be a long time before that technology becomes mass market enough to justify real world business use. There are only 10 million Kinect units on the market, which is a lot, but we still need many more that number to not only own a Kinect, but thoroughly embrace Avatar Kinect usage with enough enthusiasm to sustain real world applications. Jury's still way out on that one. And in 5 years, better or more pervasive technology may very well exist to make VR seem superfluous. (My money's on augmented reality.)
So a good read, but color me skeptical. But I'll admit a bias here: It's difficult for me to see this virtual reality future, when the prototype graphics used to demonstrate it look like they were made in the 90's.
Hat tip: Bettina Tizzy.