All Aboard the Bullet Train Roller Coaster

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Watching the Oculus Connect event at VREAL

Back in the late nineties, I found myself riding the dotcom roller coaster when I started a customer service job at Amazon, back when all they sold was books. It was my first corporate job out of college and I proceeded to jump from Amazon to Drugstore.com, to Microsoft, to an online education startup, back to Amazon, then to Expedia, with a contract for Netflix along the way. I remember the excitement of that era, when CEOs would say things like, “If we can corner just one percent of the national market for Q-Tips, we’ll be a billion dollar company in a year!”

The reality industries right now remind me so much of the early dotcom era. Except this time it’s not just a roller coaster we’re riding. It’s a bullet train version of a roller coaster.

October, 2016, will go down as a key turning point in society’s adoption of virtual and augmented reality. The other day I joined Eva Hoerth and others at VREAL to watch Mark Zuckerberg and his team (notably not a certain Palmer Luckey) unveil Facebook‘s social VR platform and various related applications. Previous to that, I watched Google release its fuzzy-wuzzy Daydream View device. (Eva was spot-on, by the way, that they missed a golden opportunity to reveal it with “Google-y eyes” accessories.)

Soon Sony will reveal its Playstation VR device, and based on reports I’ve heard from folks who’ve received advance versions of it, it’ll be stunning.

What’s differentiates the VR bullet train roller coaster from the dotcom roller coaster is that this time, it’s not just one company that’s dominating the space. Google and Facebook seem, to me, to be competing to become the AOLs of VR, offering enclosed systems that provide an all-you-ever-need platform for VR.

But the rise of VR/AR isn’t like the rise of e-commerce, it’s like the rise of the Internet itself. I predict that platforms developed within walled-off organizations will have a harder time of it, while independent ecosystems composed of many interdependent companies and innovators will flourish.

That’s exactly what we have in Seattle.

This week Cascadia’s VR/AR community has its coming-out party with Immerse on Tuesday. I’ll be there and will report on it on this here mom-and-pop blog of mine.

Can’t wait til Tuesday? Want something to do tonight? Kim Voynar and Nathaniel Luke Pinzon of WonderTek Labs have curated The Veldt virtual reality experience as part of the Tacoma Film Festival. If you haven’t seen the work of these two VR visionaries, you need to get your butt to Tacoma tonight. It runs from eight til midnight.

Then, over the weekend, SIXR is participating in Seattle Fashion Week, covering the scene in 360 at events including a runway show. I’ve noticed that the good people of SIXR have become conspicuously more fashionable in recent weeks.

I know I’m missing other must-attend events this week. Everyone in Seattle’s VR/AR community I talk to expresses the same out-of-breath, can’t-take-it-all-in feeling. Be sure to fasten your seat belt. The bullet train is leaving the station.