Closer than you think, more revolutionary than you imagine

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If you don’t like the real world, you will soon have a choice — a choice with broad implications for our society and technology industry. Facebook, Google, Samsung and many leading venture investors and technology companies are betting that within five years we will be able to strap on some goggles and immerse ourselves in a virtual world of our making.

Virtual reality — and its close cousin augmented reality — are expected to either substitute, or overlay our current ability to experience only what is immediately around us. It promises to allow us to go to the Taj Mahal without leaving our living room, to see the bio and name of the person standing before us in the blink of an eye and be “inside” completely artificial worlds for our entertainment. These technologies promise to blend the “thereness” of experience — where we are the middle of a four-dimensional map we call reality — into the ability to be in the center of new worlds that exist only in software. We would be able to move around those worlds completely independently of our location in reality.

Some have scoffed at the money being spent on developing these technologies. They point out the nerdiness of augmented reality glasses (I see you Google Glass) or the vertigo-inducing first generation Samsung VR headsets. They suggest the technology is not up to the task, or that it is still missing the “killer app” that will …

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