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In the age of alternate reality we need some actual reality

Events over the other side of the pond have got Billy MacInnes thinking about just where virtual reality goes next

Virtual reality (VR) has been hyped as the next big thing (and the one after that) for a while now. It hasn’t quite broken through to the mainstream yet, but it’s on its way.

Most of us have a reasonable idea of what VR is, the use of software “to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that replicate a real environment (or create an imaginary setting), and simulate a user's physical presence in this environment” (thanks Wikipedia).

It can be pretty realistic. People using VR equipment, often goggles, can look around the artificial world, move around in it and interact.

Virtual reality is not a new concept. It has been around in science fiction since the 1930s.

There’s a lot of money to be made from VR. IDC recently predicted worldwide revenues for the augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) market will grow from $5.2 billion in 2016 to more than $162 billion in 2020.

But I wonder if IDC may have to revisit its projections for the US market (and possibly parts of Europe). I ask this because the US has now entered an era where fake news is threatening to swamp real news, a time where the administration counters facts with “alternative facts” and it has stated: “Sometimes we can disagree with the facts.”

Inconvenient facts have already been erased from government web sites and  a number of departments have been told they cannot talk to reporters, publish any press press releases or communicate with the public about work funded by taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the president is busy reversing reality with claims that his inauguration was the biggest ever, that his standing ovation at his recent visit to the CIA was “the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl” and that there were 3-5 million illegal votes cast against him in the election (handily overturning the majority that really voted against him).

I almost feel that we should applaud Trump for his ambitious project to make virtual reality a (well, there’s no other word for it) reality for a whole country in a very short space of time and at very little cost, (there’s no need for expensive software or hardware such as goggles). What a businessman!

But if he succeeds, I wonder if VR manufacturers aiming to sell their equipment into the US market might want to think about changing their strategy in favour of creating AR software and headsets. And no, I don’t mean augmented reality, I mean actual reality. It would certainly help a lot of people, such as the man who gleefully tweeted the Republicans had taken the first step to scrap Obamacare but he was unaffected because he was covered by the Affordable Care Act.

The only question is whether people in the US would be willing to pay for AR or whether they would prefer to go on living in Trump’s virtual reality for free instead.

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