How Does Virtual Reality Impact the Human Condition?
September 28, 2017
Humans naturally crave connections with each other. Today, augmented reality (AR) and VR can provide enhanced realities that help foster those relationships, especially for those who are isolated. Though, the extent to which AR and VR contribute to deeper connections largely depend on how the technology is used.
Our 2017 Technology and the Human Condition survey found that mobile technologists believe AR and VR have the potential to enhance human connection. Overall, survey respondents felt optimistic; 63 percent believe AR/VR enhances rather than takes away from the human experience, and 57 percent specifically believe AR/VR will help us develop empathy for each other.
AR and VR create new ways to interact with each other. These technologies can remove barriers to communicating and interacting, especially for those who are limited by physical, emotional and psychological challenges. For homebound people who are unable or unwilling to leave the house, VR can foster a sense of belonging, familiarity and personalization. It allows them to connect to one another even when they are limited by physical geography.
Aaron Frank, principal faculty at Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank, tells VentureBeat, “If simply hearing someone’s voice and seeing a few body-tracked mannerisms is enough to convince my brain that I’m hanging out with someone I know, I can only imagine future social VR experiences that build on that sensation to make me believe I’m actually hanging out with friends.”
“AR and VR have the ability to help us see the world from a different perspective, which can give us a better understanding of people different from us.” – Survey respondent
The Future of VR
While AR and VR are often lumped together (including in our survey), their abilities to reach mainstream market success are very different. Most technologists in the industry, including those we surveyed, believe AR will see market success far sooner than VR, but there’s little consensus about when.
Forty-seven percent of respondents believe AR is not currently useful to the general public. AR has the potential to be useful in a few years, but it needs to be more mature and affordable (18 percent think cost is a barrier for mainstream consumption). This technology is certainly valuable to certain industries and professional environments, but 25 percent see AR/VR as gimmicky, new shiny objects meant solely for entertainment/fun.
Our survey respondents agree that the expense of AR and VR is not yet justified given the lack of significant consumer value the technologies offer. Currently, edge cases of AR and VR have proven beneficial, but the industry needs to find a way to make the technology more predictable, accessible and affordable to become ubiquitous with mainstream consumers.
“Like all technologies, to be adopted by the mass, AR must be reliable and affordable. And I don’t see that happening for at least five years.” – Survey respondent