The future of virtual reality
It’s a truism that you need to keep learning, growing and challenging yourself. Information technology (IT) provides more opportunity for this compared to other fields — it seems every time you turn around there’s a new service, API product, business model and more.
Sometimes the changes are incremental, and other times they force you out of your comfort zone. I have been forced out of my comfort zone many times over the years — Linux, Windows Vista (that wasn’t just me, right?), and in more recent times the shift to the cloud, to pick a few. All these changes and developments required me to learn and adapt — to find out the best way of working with these new tools, or new paradigms?
So what's my latest challenge? I can honestly say it is one I did not expect — virtual reality (VR), brought upon me by my teenage children. I confess I have been a VR sceptic for as long as it’s been a term, so it was with great surprise that I found myself dancing and laughing during a virtual reality dance training session. Dancing is not one of my strengths, so I was probably lucky that I had a pair of goggles and could not see myself. Over the last week, I’ve seen my partner, my mother and others giggling whilst gesticulating wildly in the lounge room.
When was the last time you noticed a new technology make a 70-year-old giggle with pleasure? Windows Vista certainly did not. I have watched my children introduce themselves to the virtual community, and I was blown away at how they welcomed a newbie, showed them how to move around and operate in a virtual zero-G space environment. It bears a similarity to the early days on bulletin/chat boards, but virtual reality is immersive in a whole new way. It’s not just about friendly and helpful interactions but seeing everyone exploring and enjoying the highly immersive VR world. Experiencing and learning new things.
VR may not solve all of society’s problems, but it can help different industries, such as health care, education and HR amongst others, and also bring many positive benefits to the society in general.
Opinions are often manipulated and reinforced in online echo chambers. This was evident during and after the US election. Technology has a lot to answer here. Could VR help reduce polarisation?
There is a growing body of science that shows that trying to bludgeon a person with an argument simply makes them double down and become more entrenched in their opinion. However, engaging with people and finding some commonality can allow people to explore and discuss multiple perspectives, respectfully and constructively. They may not change their mind — but could gain insight into a different perspective and get involved in a discussion in less harmful ways.
An immersive virtual platform that can make non tech-savvy people explore, engage, learn and laugh warrants a lot more attention and could just help transform and save the world.
*Chris Herrmann is President of the Information Technology Professionals Association.
Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) is a not-for-profit organisation focused on continual professional development for its 18,700 members. To learn more about becoming an ITPA member, and the range of training opportunities, mentoring programs, events and online forums available, go to www.itpa.org.au.
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