Thoughts regarding webvr

I recently came across the work that mozilla have been doing on virtual reality for the web, or webvr.  This is interesting for the reason that the promise of moving beyond dynamic webpages and instead towards a fully immersive experience with cyberspace offers a tremendous opportunity for improving user experience, as well as extending the capabilities of the web to provide information services, not to mention improving user productivity.

In particular, the changes that will likely start to be seen over the next few years or so – led by organisations like facebook and maybe game developers, are quite reminiscent of William Gibson’s description of the web in Neuromancer.  It would truly be interesting if retail of the future was conducted not by the current browse and click of amazon or ebay’s current websites, but in immersive VR environments staffed either by real people, or more likely by programs running off deep learning algorithms, or other more sophisticated techniques and with more powerful back-end tooling / databases / processing architecture running the minds of VR shop assistants.  Not to mention the ways that people might use the technology not only for retail, but for community, or whimsical purposes, or means of artistic expression.

Alternatively, it is possible that this sort of change might complement the adoption of ways of viewing data presented by the hololens project, or other augmented reality initiatives.

The key problem with the work that has been done to date, however, is that the ways of interacting with the worlds therein divorce oneself dangerously from the real world around one.  At least in front of a computer one can hold a conversation, or turn and look somebody in the eye.  Perhaps it might therefore be useful, therefore, to envisage a future where instead of wearing a VR headset one has a pair of glasses with a lightweight VR computer, bionic eyes, or even a direct or indirect neural interface that would recede based on particular preferences set by an individual, or via the judgement of a proto-intelligent robot ‘cortana’ like secretary.

As a minor admonition, I think it is important that one is not suffocated by developments like this, and probably not be overly hasty about embracing nascent / young technologies.  But assuming that this is going to be the future, I think it is important to understand it, and understand the possibilities presented by it, while thinking about how to still maintain a healthy connection to one’s humanity.  So coupling the coming changes with augmented reality, the older technologies as well, and trying to shrink and detach things from getting in the way of real authentic conversations and communications, as well as real and authentic community, I think these are things that would be important to bear in mind, and I will certainly bear in my mind, were I to consider adoption of anything like this in the future – or experiment with developing toy examples with any of the associated tools or SDKs.


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