No Google Glass, no Apple Watch: Virtual reality is the next big thing

When iPhones and iPads came out, most people were skeptical that these devices could change the world as we know it. Now most people can't imagine their lives without them. Immersive virtual reality—not the gimmicky Google Glass or Apple Watch—will be the next big thing.

People love escapism. We love to travel. We love to have adventures. We love to explore. We just want to get out of the grinding reality of the day to day. But real travel is too expensive and it can only happen a few a days a year. It's not a possibility for the 99%. That's why we get into books, games, movies and TV series. We try to escape through them.

But that's not enough. What about if there was a way to plug into a different reality, to fool our senses into thinking that we are in an alternate world?

Through decades, writers and filmmakers have imagined this, from Star Trek's holodeck to Brainstorm to the Matrix's plug-into-a-synthetic-world. Escaping to alternative realities and fantasy worlds with the ease and convenience of turning on a switch is an awesome possibility. One that requires almost no investment and no risk—after all, our desire for adventure and exploration is only inferior to our sense of self-preservation.

The beginning

This Oculus Rift thing is the start of it. For the first time, a company has been able to create a low cost virtual reality thingamajig that actually makes people believe they are in a different world. Any kind of people, from grandmas to teens, can feel the sensation of being in a different place.


It's still not Star Trek's holographic deck, of course. And it's not the full sensorial experience of the Matrix. We are still decades away from that (but only decades!)

But the hardware and the software have converged to make the first step possible, which is why creators of worlds like the legendary gaming genius John Carmack has jumped right into it, pretty much leaving his own company behind. Because this Oculus Rift thing has the potential of quickly becoming the next big thing, not for just a few geeks, but for the entire "first world" population.

A population eager to get away to the remote landscapes that we will never visit, to drive the cars that we will never own, to date the stars that we will never meet, to fast-forward to the future that we will never see, or explore the fantasy worlds that will never exist, with just one click.

John Carmack Has New 'Full-Time' VR Job, But Is Not Quite Gone From id

Legendary game programmer and Doom co-creator John Carmack is getting a new "full-time" job. He's going to be working as the head of technology at Oculus VR, the company behind the upstart Rift virtual reality goggles.

Is this the end of an era?

Possibly, though the situation is a bit confusing.

The word from the people behind Oculus is this:

John Carmack joins Oculus VR full time as Chief Technology Officer and will work out of Oculus’ brand new Dallas office. Formerly at id Software, John is now full time at Oculus VR working on the Oculus Rift.

The word from Bethesda, publisher of id Software to Kotaku is this:

John has long been interested in the work at Oculus VR and wishes to spend time on that project. The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected.

We're trying to reconcile the two, as it's unclear just what Carmack's role at id will be going forward. When asked straight-up if Carmack was gone form id, a Bethesda rep replied, "No, he is not."


UPDATE: Bethesda/id clarifies: "John will spend time working out of Oculus as part of his role with them, but he will also continue to work at id."

UPDATE 2: Carmack himself clarifies his priorities:


The new Oculus gig is a good fit, as Carmack has been vocal about his interest and support of the Rift. In fact, Carmack is the one who debuted the Rift to the press in one-on-one meetings at E3 2012.

On the official Oculus Kickstarter page, Carmack talked about his new role as Oculus Chief Technology Officer:

“I have fond memories of the development work that led to a lot of great things in modern gaming – the intensity of the first person experience, LAN and internet play, game mods, and so on. Duct taping a strap and hot gluing sensors onto [Rift inventor Palmer Luckey's] early prototype Rift and writing the code to drive it ranks right up there. Now is a special time. I believe that VR will have a huge impact in the coming years, but everyone working today is a pioneer. The paradigms that everyone will take for granted in the future are being figured out today; probably by people reading this message. It’s certainly not there yet. There is a lot more work to do, and there are problems we don’t even know about that will need to be solved, but I am eager to work on them. It’s going to be awesome!”


id software was co-founded by John Carmack in 1991. Under Carmack's technical leadership, it developed numerous games in the Doom and Quake series. Its most recent major title was 2011's Rage.

Carmack also is heavily involved in his own rocket company, Armadillo Aerospace. He delivered his annual keynote address at the id-centric fan convention QuakeCon last week.

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.