November 6, 2017

The Dark Side of VR

At a recent conference, I saw how virtual reality made its presence known with a collective shout. In today's post, I will spill the other part of the story: “the dirty, grimy, unspoken part.” Here we go...

I left the conference in Austin with an uneasy feeling. It’s that queasy uneven feeling you get when bandwagon carelessly thumps into powerful innovation. No—virtual reality’s coronation pathway to the palace of ed-market success is not paved with gold bricks—at least not just yet. Here’s a reasoned look at why:
  • Nearly all of the VR sims I viewed struggled with granular, lower-resolution imagery; resolution far less sharp than students demand;
  • Most of the VR sims I viewed demonstrated noticeable latency; and latency issues can lead to the distasteful “virtual reality sickness” phenomenon.
  • I witnessed an over-dependence on spherical photography for content, or at least defined as VR content.
  • Nearly all of the VR sims I viewed were passive observational experiences (viewing), and not particularly interactive.
  • In every single session, the presenter(s) grumbled about the need for more educational content. Clearly, there is not enough educational content available for critical mass adoption in schools and universities. Period.
  • Not a single presenter I interviewed had a proper answer to address the vision issues associated with binocular viewing of stereo virtual reality experiences. One presenter naively suggested that the solution depended solely on improved VR content. 
  • Nearly all VR presenters haled from university-level programs or the corporate world, not K-12.

As a result, I left the halls of the Convention Center, writhing in palpable uncertainty, the kind that occurs when hype collides with potential; when exposure to exciting new technology meets with equal parts shudder and disdain. 

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