Robert Scoble on the future of VR, why Jack needs a new board, and how Orwell’s 1984 is now

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What is the future for virtual reality? It looks exciting, that’s for certain – with new developments in games consoles and how it’ll affect other industries such as health and science.

So we invited Robert Scoble – blogger, tech evangelist, and former Microsoft crusader – to answer viewer questions on life, liberty, and the pursuit of VR. 

On the mainstream power of virtual reality

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How long do you think VR/AR/MR will be mainstream? What for you think about Claytronics?

I say “when will it be in the iPhone ?” That’s by the end of 2017. Is that mainstream?

If you define it was “when will a poor kid in Mumbai have it?” Add three years onto that. So 2020. If I’m wrong, six. So 2023.

On platform wars and frontrunners of VR and AR

Do you think the Platform Wars between different VR ecosystems will ultimately create a barrier for mass-market adoption, or will there be over-arching systems of content distribution that will help bridge those different eco-systems?

Everyone uses Unity.

If Apple ships a competitive system, it will need to import Unity.

When tasked with determining if Apple would be the next big thing, Scoble responded with a resounding ‘yes!’

Apple. Yes. A HUGE announcement (or series of announcements) regarding the future of TV is coming in 2017. That I deeply believe after seeing everything that went into writing this post.

And when it came to natural born (VR) leaders?

Microsoft is betting its entire company on HoloLens . Magic Leap got $1.3 billion without having a customer or a product (from Google, Alibaba and others). Facebook has already spent billions. So has Snap. I hear rumors about Amazon getting into the mixed reality space. Sony already has Playstation . Samsung already has Gear VR. HTC already is the technology leader with its Vive.

But I expect Apple to sell more VR/AR-ready phones in a weekend than the rest of the industry has shipped combined. So it’s the defect leader even though we haven’t seen its product yet.

Put it in the cloud!

How important are cloud services? According to Scoble, necessary for companies like Microsoft.

Satya’s staff told me they are betting on HoloLens and cloud together. The entry to the middle east’s biggest consumer electronics show was all HoloLens.

Cloud is important but if Microsoft loses this time (HoloLens is a new user interface) it will have significant problems keeping its cloud business afloat. Every time this industry brings new user interfaces big companies go away.

Failure is not an option

In the 1990’s, VR failed because the physical hardware, frankly, sucked. Headsets were heavy, and display and rendering tech just wasn’t up to snuff. Does Scoble think there’s a chance of failing this time around?

At this point I can’t see VR failing. My kids already wake up and bug me to put it on. So it’s already way past the other types of failures you can point to. Also, this industry is spending billions of dollars (many billions) to bring us mixed reality which will include VR. So, failure isn’t an option.

If it fails at this point it’s because something went dramatically wrong and I just don’t see that happening.

The future looks bright

And you know, it’s Scoble. So he’s tried his hand at some really cool products.

I still like Google’s Tiltbrush. Not because it scares you (it doesn’t). Not because it makes you feel empathy like other narrative experiences (it doesn’t). Not because it makes you feel vertigo (it doesn’t) but because it gets you to see that a new kind of 3D design tool is here. Plus it gets you into VR in a way that probably won’t cause injury. My kids love it too.

Other than that, my other favorite is Brenthaven Experiment. Who doesn’t like shooting zombies?

He also has some very promising VR startups in his sights.

I like Loook. It’s a startup in Seattle making holograms for Hololens and other Mixed Reality devices. Others will be in the social VR space like AltspaceVR or High Fidelity.

And there are VR and AR applications he’s really looking forward to.

Medical is huge on VR. It’s already been found to be better at pain relief — for burn victims — than opiates. Journalism, art, adult, narrative, education are all going to be huge, too.

But when it comes to Google Glass?

I will get the last laugh. Everyone will be wearing a pair of glasses within two years.

Just now more shower pics, please….

2017 is 1984

When asked which famous dystopias could become a reality, Scoble explained we were living in a George Orwell novel. 

 My nine and seven-year-old sons never have known a world without Facebook and all the key moments in their lives — all the way back to birth — is captured in Facebook’s databases. So, think about that. We are building a new God. An all-knowing God. It will get smart in about 15 years when Quantum Computing arrives. Immortality? Yes, but it might not be quite what you are expecting. Digital immortality yet. Physical? No.

Don’t ask him for his Twitter handle

He doesn’t have one and doesn’t bat an eye. Though he is a Facebook fan.

I have bet my whole life on Facebook. There’s a reason for that. Whenever I walk through an airport all I see is people on Facebook. My stats also show the same, but you gotta play Facebook’s game. I have. It’s far superior to Twitter.

But if he could tell Jack one thing…

Get a new board. The board is clueless about social media. Name a single person on that board that actually uses the product in a deep way. All problems spring from that.

Oh and:

Rebuild Twitter for the HoloLens age.


For a front row seat on VR and Mixed Reality, check out the full AMA with Robert Scoble. And for more AMAs with the world’s most influential thought leaders in business, design and technology, check out our upcoming and past sessions

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