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How Virtual Reality Could Save Your Life

How Virtual Reality Could Save Your Life
Young Man Wearing Virtual Reality Headset (Stock Photo Secrets)

By Thursday, 07 July 2016 07:06 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Does technology follow the economy, or lead it? Both. People demand technological solutions, then find new and unexpected ways to use them.

The results can be messy, but over time add up to progress and economic growth.

Consider the now-antiquated video cassette recorder. The idea that your television could show something besides network programming was revolutionary in the late 1970s.

The first VCRs were clunky and expensive. Yet within a few years, prices had dropped, quality improved and most middle-class homes had a VCR. How did that happen?

Among other reasons, it happened because the adult film industry saw in the VCR a new and discreet way to distribute its content.  They sparked demand that helped the VCR makers scale up production and bring down prices.

We see variations of this process all the time. I thought about it last week at the big RTX gaming and video festival in Austin. I went because I wanted to hear Palmer Luckey, founder of virtual reality firm Oculus.

Luckey launched Oculus in 2012 with $2.4 million in seed capital raised on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. Two years later Facebook (FB) paid $2 billion to buy Oculus.

Evidently not ready to retire at 23 years old, Luckey now leads a Facebook subsidiary.

Oculus makes the Rift virtual reality headset that enables immersive video gaming. That’s only a start. VR will have many non-gaming uses once Oculus and others work out the bugs.

At RTX, Luckey noted that VR won’t reach its full potential until he solves some less-exciting challenges. The headgear needs to be smaller and lighter. Bulky power cords restrict the user’s movements. Excess heat can limit playing time.

To solve these, Oculus needs extremely lightweight batteries and ways to vent the thermal energy that VR microchips emit. Only then will the Rift be a truly “wearable” technology.
Oculus and other companies are spending crazy amounts of money on these challenges.

When it solves them, Oculus will also boost other wearable technologies unrelated to video games.

Think about the medical applications: hearing aids, pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, and more. High-capacity, lightweight batteries and thermal control mechanisms will make them those more efficient and bring down their prices.

The health care industry is also working on those problems, of course, but it isn’t nearly as innovative or well-funded as the video game industry.

Will virtual reality save your life? Maybe, but the technology its pioneers are inventing will surely touch someone you know. That’s something to applaud, whether you’re a gamer or not.

Patrick Watson is an Austin-based financial writer. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickW

To read more of his insights, CLICK HERE NOW.

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Does technology follow the economy, or lead it? Both. People demand technological solutions, then find new and unexpected ways to use them. The results can be messy, but over time add up to progress and economic growth.
virtual, reality, save, life
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2016-06-07
Thursday, 07 July 2016 07:06 AM
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