The Internet Allowed Us to Learn Anything, VR Will Let Us Experience Everything

By now, you’ve probably heard about the virtual reality resurgence led by Oculus. Virtual reality is an extremely hot field, with hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and basically every big name technology or media company getting in on the VR gold rush.
And if you’ve met VR true believers, you know the near fanatical interest they have in VR. But why? What is it about these goofy ski goggles that has so thoroughly captured the hearts and minds of technologists across the globe?
It all boils down to one word: presence. Presence is the phenomenon that occurs when your brain is convinced, on a fundamental and subconscious level, that the VR simulation you are experiencing is real. This doesn’t mean that you forget you’re in a simulation. But it does mean that when you ride a VR roller coaster, you feel it.
The Internet made the world smaller. VR is about to make it exhilarating.
Want to watch the Super Bowl from the fifty-yard line? Be on stage at your favorite concert? Or just visit and explore a faraway country? Well, that’s exactly what Mark Zuckerberg wants you to be able to do on the Oculus Rift. Soon you’ll be able to explore every city, watch every sports game, and explore the universe in VR. Content plus presence is an extremely potent combination.
But everything is more fun with a friend. Luckily, you’ll never have to be alone in VR. Just as presence in virtual reality occurs when your brain believes on a fundamental level that the scene you are experiencing is real, social presence can convince your brain to believe that the other people in the VR experience are really there with you.
That means that all of those experiences we’re excited about in VR, we’ll be able to experience with anyone we choose as if we’re all really there. An average Tuesday night in the VR future could include dropping into a professional conference with a coworker of yours, watching a football game with your father on the other side of the country, then hopping into a VR concert with your best friend from high school, all without leaving the house.
Now, nothing is going to replace spending quality time with the people around you, but technology at its best expands the opportunities for human creativity and communication to flourish, and VR is a massive step forward for this.
Pretty soon, we’ll be learning in virtual-reality classrooms, shopping at virtual-reality stores, and even working in virtual-reality offices.
We can only begin to speculate on the long-term consequences of this. How are cities affected when the VR office becomes the standard? How will the entertainment industry respond to live-streamed VR sports and concerts? Can we finally create a digital university that surpasses the quality of our oldest and grandest learning institutions?
Sometimes this all seems hard to fathom. Could we really see these massive changes coming in just a few short years?