Seeing five years into the future


In September 2014 our lab at NYU started putting multiple people together in the same room in shared VR. Everybody could see each other in their actual position in the room, and interact with each other as computer graphic avatars of themselves.

This was possible only because the GearVR had just come out. As soon as I first looked through a GearVR in September 2014, I went right out and purchased a fancy OptiTrack motion capture system for our lab. We glued VR tracking markers onto all of the GearVR headsets, and we wrote our own custom software to make it all work together.

Soon we were all walking around together in alternate reality versions of physical space, and we began to create one physically shared virtual world after another. Periodically we would invite in the public to experience this new kind of reality. For us, it was an important step in our journey to explore Future Reality.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t so easy to share those Future Reality experiences with the whole world.

The problem was that it was just too expensive. The OptiTrack is designed for high end production, so you need to outfit your space with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The cost was way beyond the reach of most budgets.

Now the folks in our lab are playing with the forthcoming Oculus Quest, which will probably go on scale around the end of this month. We can do everything we did back then, but these headsets cost only $400 each, the graphics are much better, and they are being manufactured in the millions for purchase by consumers.

Fortunately, we have learned a lot in the last five years. I am looking forward to sharing all the things we’ve learned with a vastly larger group of people.

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