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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.

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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.

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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.

See All GDC 2013 News

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • WormSlayer

    My brain hurts! Still I’m excited that guys like him are excited :D

  • Patrick Hogenboom

    Thanks a bundle for transcribing the whole thing :)

  • shole

    If you want to view the two videos in the presentation and don’t have ms powerpoint, you can rename the .pptx file to .zip and the files are in there as .wmv under \ppt\media\

    • Michael Abrash


      Thank you very much for posting this!


  • Andrés

    Thanks so much for transcribing this!

  • Andreas Aronsson

    I thought I would not get to read/hear the actual talk in some time :D Very interesting, somewhat alarming, but at the end uplifting and inspiring! Thanks for this! Also, you could if you wanted to rename the .pptx to .zip and extract the videos (media folder) and upload them unlisted to Youtube and embed them on this page :) Just a thought!

  • Andreas Aronsson

    Ah, in the time it took me to read this (left the article half-read over night) shole already pointed this out :x oops.

  • Esse

    “That means that if you fixate on something while you turn your head, your eyes remain fixed with respect to the real world, but move very quickly relative to the display”

    Hum, no. If your eyes are fixed (in the head referential), they are fixed in the display referential. Because the display & the head are fixed one to the other.

    This is over complicating the subject. Only matters the head movement. Not the eyes movements.

    • Ben

      I think that, in this context, “fixate on something” means a visual fixation on an object in the external world rather than having the eyes be “fixed” relative to the head. If the head is turning while you fixate an external object, the eyes must counter-rotate in order to maintain a stable fixation (eg: via the VOR). Since the VR display is attached to your head frame, this means that your eyes are rotating relative to the display, and that’s the source of the large relative motion that causes issues.

      • Michael Abrash


        You’re correct – that’s what I meant. If you look at a key on the keyboard and keep doing that while you turn your head, you can easily get your eyes moving at several hundred degrees per second relative to the display.


  • Esse

    “The human perceptual system has evolved to be very effective at detecting such anomalies, because anomalies might be thinking about eating you, or might be tasty.”

    It is not some specific “anomalies detection system”, rather that the human brain has in-depth “routines” to analyse the space & movement, and when you broke the rules the routines fail.

    Like when you are sick in a car.

    So I guess the reaction will not be fear or drooling, more puking.

  • Ben Humberston

    Thanks for the transcript for those of us who couldn’t be there!

  • Mattso

    Yeah, just echoing the sentiments above that having it all transcribed meant I actually got to digest it really quickly. Many thanks!

    Very informative stuff – and here was me thinking it was gonna be easy. :)