Back in the 1990s, when I had way more hair and far less money, popular culture heralded a world where one might throw off the mundane trappings of reality and dip a digit in the digital, so to speak.
As a bored twenty-something, I looked forward to an immediate future in which I would be able to swap my unfulfilling, work-filled existence for a life where I was in more control of my destiny.
And by the time The Matrix arrived on our screens, many people had access to the internet, so it seemed that life was at hand. Surely, with the speed things were progressing, we’d have virtual worlds in no time.
Then the whole thing seemed to go off the boil. At this point I was in my early thirties and had started trying to carve out a reasonable career, one which didn’t involve grease-filled kitchens or beer-stained bars.
I’d put away childish things (at least for the most part), found a wonderful woman to share my life, and we’ve had a beautiful son who has taken up most of my time for the past five years.
Then, just a short while ago and on a whim, I picked up a copy of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. For the uninitiated, it tells the tale of Wade Watts, who spends most of his time in a virtual universe called the OASIS.
I’ll admit nostalgia played a big part in my decision to read the book – it’s packed with pop culture references form the ‘80s and ‘90s – but it also reignited my burning desire for an authentic VR experience.
A simple glance at discussion forums demonstrates a public appetite and developers seem poised to respond. A couple of years ago, Facebook threw billions of dollars at the inventors of Oculus Rift, Google has just launched Daydream, and Sony is set to unveil its Playstation VR offering later this week.
And just last week, Sky launched its new VR app, which promises to plunge viewers into their favorite shows and films, as long as they have compatible gear.
There’s no shortage of affordable VR headsets out there, including the startlingly low-tech Google Cardboard. Whether these are effective is largely a matter of personal opinion, but the fact that there are so many demonstrates strong demand.
I’m excited to see what the future holds for those of us who were denied an immersive experience two decades ago, and who still have a wish to see it delivered.