With that in mind, let’s come back in the present, where one of the key missing pieces of the Metaverse – virtual reality – looks like it might be on the verge of a breakthrough.
Before we get started, I’d like to define a few terms:
Virtual reality, or VR, is when you’re immersed in a purely virtual world.
Playing Team Fortress 2 in an Oculus Rift would be VR.
Augmented reality, or AR, is when real reality, or RR, is enhanced with virtual images that appear to coexist with the real world.
Playing a game on a virtual chessboard that’s sitting on a real tabletop while wearing a see-through head mounted display would be AR.
Most of what I’ll say about VR today applies to AR as well.
The key commonality between VR and AR is that virtual images appear to exist in the same frame of reference as the real world.
So when you move your head, virtual images have to change correspondingly in order to appear to remain in the right place.
This tight association between the virtual world and the real world is how VR and AR differ from wearable information devices such as Google Glass. It’s far harder to keep the two worlds visually aligned than it is to just display heads-up information.
Of course, we’ve heard that VR was on the verge of a breakthrough before; why should we believe it this time?
There’s no knowing for sure at this point, but it looks like this time really may be different, due to a convergence of technologies, including a lot of stuff that was developed for mobile but is useful for VR too.
There have also been tremendous advances in head-mountable display technology, including projectors and waveguides, as well as in computer vision and in hardware that’s useful for tracking.
And finally, for the first time there’s compelling content in the form of lots of 3D games that can be ported to VR, as well as a thriving indie game community that will jump in and figure out what’s unique and fun about VR.