Thu, Mar

Seeing beyond the obvious

Virtual reality makes me sick. And I mean that quite literally. I tried it the other day, courtesy of a friend of a friend, and felt a bit groggy. That isn’t uncommon. The human lab rats who have been pioneering this technology in various R&D experiments talk of getting their “VR legs” just as sailors discuss their “sea legs”.

What I was experiencing was merely an updated version of travel sickness. Apparently, after 200 or so years of motorised transportation, one in five us still feel nauseous in a car or a bus.

Despite the sickness, in a world where the US president’s spokesman claims he’s presenting ‘alternative facts’ I could see the potential of virtual reality. Imagine being able to walk down the dullest street in your neighbourhood and, with a simple tweak, make it look as glamorous as a street in Florence.

Now I’m hardly going to spend/waste a lot of money on that, but if it was bundled into a new smartphone - get your VR cameras for an extra £50! - I might be tempted.

To take another, more basic need, I might pay another £100 if VR enabled Mrs Mole (or Ms Mole for that matter) to walk down a street at night and see everything in detail, even the dark bits.

This isn’t a sales pitch but I could also see the scope for digital print that interacted with VR, showing you a relevant video or enabling you to peer deeply into a garment and see which flock of sheep the wool came from. This is the kind of transparency that consumers want more of.

Will it take off? I really don’t know. Let’s be honest, 3D printing has hardly shaken the world. That doesn’t mean it never will, it might be that we just got the timescales wrong. Someone famous once said that humanity has an inherent tendency to overestimate change in the short-term - and underestimate it in the long-term. That may be true about 3D printing and VR.

TS Eliot said: “Mankind cannot bear too much reality”. So the temptation to improve on reality may be too great for any of us to resist.