Edison Chen is a graduate from Academy Xi’s Virtual Reality Design Course. He’s a creative with a destiny for art, design, and technology. He recently took out first place at the Sydney VR Hackathon and has previously exhibited pieces at Vivid Sydney and Beams Festival.

I’ve been to A LOT of Virtual Reality events and Meetups and the same sentiment is often brought up. We’re all in a sort of ambivalent anticipation, as if waiting for the guest of honour to arrive at a surprise party. We’re certain they’ll show up, but unsure how long we’ll end up waiting, or how they’ll even get there.

When will VR become mainstream? What app or hardware is going to be the ‘killer’ one? And which industry will pave the way forward?

VR adaptation forecasts are quite optimistic and the cynical side of me can’t help but wonder if we need to put down the Kool-Aid for a second. Virtual Reality will be revolutionary but it’s up to us to decide whether we want to be involved in creating the future, or gleefully hoping for its arrival.

Listening to the many voices and perspectives out in the VR industry, there are silos of experts exerting their excitement for VR gaming, VR health, VR enterprise and VR marketing. So here’s my opinion, as a designer and an individual. It echoes a quote from Mark Pesce, early VR pioneer and a leading authority in the VR space; ‘VR is the next telephone’.

I interpret this to mean we’re sitting at the edge of a digital revolution. I’m sure we’re all aware of the extent technology has shifted the way we live our lives, but ultimately I’m interested in how these changes can be accounted for in the understanding of culture.

As a creative, I’m wholly interested in culture and experiences and how we manifest connections through ever-changing customs. When the telephone became a smartphone our spaces of communication and work shifted. When Apple released their early products, the adaptation of smartphones spread further due to their ergonomics and healthy user experience considerations.

Virtual Reality doesn’t need a killer app, or even more immersion. It needs to have an impact on our culture.

Every time I watch or demo VR experiences, the response is usually ‘This is so cool!’. ‘Cool’ usually denotes an admiration for something, but what we should really aspire to achieve with VR, is to make people not just want it, but need it.

In order to create pivotal products that transform our culture, you need designers and creatives to work alongside the technologists and business people. Virtual Reality is unique because it takes someone into an immersive digital experience. Technologists need designers because we’re best equipped for curating and creating exceptional experiences. 

For VR to be adaptive, the user’s experience is the most crucial thing going forward. You’ll need testing, tactics and alternate thinking on nausea elimination. You’ll need us to decide which control mechanisms are the most appropriate for the concept and context of your experience. You’ll need a creative eye and aesthetic instincts for the manifestation of the virtual worlds you’re proposing. You’ll need our ability to elicit emotions and stories and engagement through our choices of colour, scale, positioning and sound.

As creatives begin to understand the space, they’ll become more prevalent in the creation of Virtual Reality. We’ll adapt and use all input mechanisms that exist in Virtual Reality.  We’ll understand how to use the provided controllers and sensory inputs and transform them into products for human and cultural consumption.

I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, but designers undoubtedly play an essential role in shaping our culture. This role we play can tend to go unappreciated; our value sometimes goes unnoticed. But I believe that we have the power to bridge the gap between Virtual Reality present and much anticipated future.

So make sure to include us magical beings because emotions, connections, engagement and the art of wonder are what we’re best at. And it’s what immersive experiences require to thrive.

Become a Virtual Reality Designer; gain the skills to create exceptional experiences and move VR from the fringes to the mainstream. Excel in this burgeoning industry as a VR creator. Find out more about our Virtual Reality Design Courses.

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