Don’t look now but VR might just be useful after all

Image credit: aijiro /

We acknowledge that we tend towards cynicism. We blame industry hype (and our advancing years). Last year the hype around several technologies (AR, VR, 5G, you name it) reached new levels of absurdity. We even asked around to gauge industry experts’ opinions on the most overhyped technology of 2017. As one of our interviewees said, we were “spoiled for choice”.

There have been some recent surveys done, in places such as the UK, where the consensus is that consumers would rather have, say, 4G that worked, on demand and everywhere, than hang out for 5G, while calls and sessions were dropping like rocks around them.

Yet even as we gear up for shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (preview here) and MWC in Barcelona, something interesting is beginning to happen. Before, when we would read of a toothbrush that would tell you how to brush your teeth or a flower pot that would tell you when to water, we would go “Really?” a lot.

Now there is a difference. We are beginning to read things and go, “Say, that is useful.”

One such came via Gizmodo, which reported last week that the US Army and Department of Homeland Security is using virtual reality to train teachers, fire crews and other personnel in how best to handle school shootings. It may be a niche market, but the agency has invested over $5 million in this, and it may well save lives, which is a decent ROI.

So, before we take that deep breath and leap into the hype and fantasy of the La La Land of CES and the madness of MWC, it is time to go looking for those devices, gadgets and platforms that make sense, and common sense at that. It is also likely that the common sense breakthroughs will come from arenas which are not consumer driven and are therefore not about brands looking cool and future looking (and who needs a connected flower pot anyway).

Think healthcare and safety as examples.

After all, VR as a consumer gimmick may make us go “Really?” a lot, but VR that saves peoples’ lives is very likely to make us go “Say, that is useful.”

Really useful.

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