When my stepfather Clarence Fisher passed away in 1998 I recall marveling at all he had seen over his 80 years, from a time when he may have been more likely to travel by horse than by car, to the early development of the web. He saw the advancement of the automobile, the airplane, television, space craft, and digital imagery to name just a few; all technologies that would allow man to satisfy his curiosity about things and places that he might not otherwise see or experience.
Last week the world changed in a way that my dad couldn’t have ever imagined. A door was opened that will very soon allow you and I to experience virtually anything, and any place.
For most of us, virtual reality is a strange idea, something for the future, a future that we've been hearing about for a long, long time. Last week the future
arrived as Samsung, in cooperation with Oculus released Gear VR, the first virtual reality headset intended for the consumer market. There have been several developer prototypes released over the past few years, but now, for less than $150 users of select Samsung phones can strap on some gear that will transport their minds to another place.
The possibilities are endless, really. Your Gear VR headset can simulate a home theatre experience that few could ever imagine, or it could take you across the world to explore the ancient city of Machu Picchu all without leaving your home. I expect that before long virtual reality will allow you and a friend who resides on the other side of the globe to share a virtual space and experience, as if you’re actually together. Imagine, my son in London, England and me in Saskatoon, getting together to watch a Sunday Rider game in a virtual reality space that emulates my living room, or his dorm room, or our favourite pub for that matter.
Should virtual reality replace the actual real life experience of visiting Machu Picchu, or enjoying a Rider game (I know! It’s been difficult to enjoy a Rider game lately) in the presence of a friend or family member? Of course not, but it can really expand the numbers of people who have the opportunity to enjoy these experiences when they might not otherwise be practical. Soon, anyone with access to a smart phone will be able to enjoy experiences that they had only dreamed of.
Virtual reality can go a long way to simplify life in other ways. You could take a virtual walk through at your favourite clothing boutique and look at the fall fashion line-up from home. You could look around that new downtown dinner spot before you make your booking. You could shop for a new house.
House hunters will tour homes from the comfort of their own living room before heading out to see the one or two that they like best. The physical process of looking at prospective homes will be reduced from days to hours. Home sellers, I’m sure, will be equally appreciative of fewer disruptions at home.
The real estate business got its first serious look towards a virtual future when Matterport released a “3D-Scanner” in July of 2014. The renderings that it produces are mind blowing allowing buyers to explore interior spaces like never before. Of course, I bought one of these scanners and we shared that innovation with the Saskatoon market in the news story below.
I experienced a virtual reality tour made from a Matterport rendering through an Oculus Rift developer head set that a friend shared with me months ago. It was a bit crude, but remarkably effective. The Gear VR moves the experience from crude to spectacular and it won’t be long before our listings are also available to explore in a virtual reality environment, so stay tuned.
While I reflect with wonder on the breadth of my dad’s life experiences, and where we’ve come since then, I can’t help but think that we haven’t seen anything yet.
If only technology could find a way to reconnect me with my dad.