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The Future of VR and How Blockchain Will Legitimize the Virtual World
Aug 3 2019

Recently, I have been experimenting with the newly released Oculus Quest. I am now more convinced than ever that VR will play an important role in our day-to-day life in the future and that it will fundamentally affect the way we spend our leisure and social time. Additionally, I strongly believe that blockchain technology will further legitimize the virtual world, and give it more and more value and power over the real world.

I believe that VR is going to disrupt a multi-trillion-dollar economy – the economy of “getting outside your mind”. I first heard about this concept from the Book “Stealing Fire”, in which the author argues that every year, people spend trillions of dollars on activities to “refresh” their minds so that they can go back on being creative and productive. The range of activities is very broad, including watching movies, going to Disneyland, bowling with friends, creating art, traveling, consuming alcohol & drugs, and hundreds of other forms of entertainment. I believe that VR will affect and disrupt many industries linked to this type of economy because the immersive experience from the virtual world gives you a similar feeling of “taking a break” from your day-to-day reality, but gives you a lot more choices and at a much cheaper price than real-world activities. 

For example, in National Geographic Explorer, you find yourself immersed in Antartica, rowing on the sea, seeing fish, penguins, and whales swim by you, and climbing mountains – really immersing you into the adventure. While only a small number of people visit Antartica in real life every year, this is an experience that can be accessed by almost everyone from their living room with just a VR headset, regardless of their age, physical conditions or economic background. I believe that this could fundamentally change the way we travel – instead of traveling a few times a year, we could travel every day or weekend virtually, at a fraction of the normal cost and more importantly, at our own convenience. 

Another example would be Bigscreen Beta, which takes you to a virtual theater, and allows you to watch a movie within the VR headset with other people online or friends on a big screen (it’s incredible how you can get the sense the big screen within the headset). You can even watch 3D movies within the virtual theater. Some of the current downsides are the lack of acoustic depth and high-quality images that you would normally get in a real theater.

New technologies usually enable new concepts to be possible. For example, the Internet introduced the concept of unlimited selection (ex: Netflix or Spotify), or the Blockchain enabled the concept of digital scarcity (ex: Bitcoin or CryptoKitties). I believe that VR is enabling the possibility for unlimited selection for people to escape from their minds at their own will and convenience, allowing them to be transported into an unlimited selection of virtual worlds and activities, and disrupting the trillion-dollar economy of “getting outside your mind”.

The other potential I see in VR is to help bring people closer in the digital world. While many researchers nowadays are worried about the impact of the internet and social media on younger generations, who have higher depression rates, feelings of sadness and loneliness, VR can potentially help provide a sense of connection at a more personal level. What I realized while playing RecRoom, an online multiplayer social platform with various mini-games is that when you play frisbee-golf, paintball or fight monsters/aliens with your friends inside the virtual world, there actually is this feeling that you are sharing the experience with your friend in person as you can see and interact with them in the same virtual environment. While the traditional online gaming with your friends also provides the feeling of shared-experience, I believe that VR adds another dimension to the feeling that we are truly inside the room with the other person through face-to-face interactions and body movements, and perhaps, this could help further increase our sense of connections with others, reducing the gap between virtuality and reality.

Another thought that I had after experimenting with VR, is that blockchain and cryptocurrency would be very important as the virtual world starts gaining more power over the real world. Blockchain & cryptocurrency will legitimize virtual assets, currencies in a trustless manner, such as buying/selling/trading skins (NFTs), owning virtual land (Decentraland) or in-game currency in social games such as RecRoom (Tokens). The virtual assets as we now know are mostly issued and controlled by centralized entities, thus difficult to fully trust as there are no mechanisms to allow for full transparency and keep them accountable on adding/deleting assets. However, putting digital assets onto the blockchain will allow for the virtual assets to become as real as real-world assets, as it will introduce a universally accepted mechanism for trust, as well as introducing the possibility for digital uniqueness and scarcity. I believe that this is ultimately how value can be legitimized, created, and exchanged inside the virtual world. The internet allowed for the digital world to thrive, and blockchain is the missing technology that will legitimize the virtual world, which will increasingly gain more value and power over reality as it becomes more mature, and this is where I see the scenario of “Ready Player One” becoming a more and more real possible future, with the virtual world becoming more important than the real world.

VR’s Position on Gartner’s Hype Cycle

Overall, I see the Oculus Quest as a great turning point for the industry – making VR more affordable, and accessible to the consumer market.  Although the graphics are still very pixelated, I am very impressed by how accurate the movements and controls are within the game, considering that it’s just a headset and controllers alone without the requirements of having additional sensors or a computer. Based on the current version, you can already get a sense of the direction that this industry is going and why its development could become even more impactful than mobile phones and computers. Oculus Quest seems to be the iPhone that came out in 2007 and mass adoption could start to happen in the next 2-3 years (similar to iPhone 4) – I believe the VR industry is starting to reaching a turning point in which we’re getting past the disillusionment phase and beginning the slope of enlightenment as the infrastructure to become more ripe for adoption and will keep on being refined to have higher quality, performances, lighter weight, more affordable price, with more enhanced features, etc. in the future. I have a strong feeling that the virtual/digital world will further gain power over our attention and time in the real world for the better and worse (like any new technology), and I am very excited to see what will come out next in this industry!

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