Five years ago, I considered myself a proud tech geek dad when I saw my kids playing Minecraft, or using their Android tablets to do homework research. As a father of four amazing daughters, I felt even more pride in knowing that my girls would grow up with all of the necessary skills to become valuable assets in an ever changing work force. 2017 has provided me with an even more amazing reason to be excited for my kids’ future, the growing integration of VR into their daily lives.
When I received my first Oculus development kit, everyone in my house took turns trying out the Rift Coaster, Titans of Space, and the always popular Teddy Bears vs Land Sharks. It was fun to watch my girls experience a new form of tech and explain to them how it worked. I knew then that the Rift was going to be the catalyst for my own future endeavors, but I hadn’t really considered how it would affect my children’s life.
About a year after the Oculus DK1 made its way to my PC, I was coerced into attending ‘Career Day’ at my daughter’s elementary school. I brought every piece of VR equipment I had, including several Google Cardboards to pass around for the kids to try out. I was prepared to explain the basic concepts and was going to try really hard to express the importance of this new technology. When the first batch of 20 kids came in to the classroom I was occupying, the first thing I did was ask a simple question.
‘How many of you have heard of Virtual Reality?’
Almost every child raised their hand.
This threw me. I was not prepared for a group of elementary students to know anything about VR. When I asked how they had heard about it, they all said the same thing:
‘YouTubers are talking about it and playing games with it on their channel.’
Ah yes, the prophets of the new generation, YouTube personalities. This latest generation doesn’t watch Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers, they watch Markiplier and PewDiePie. While my parents always yelled at me for watching too much television, my children are being told to put their tablets away during dinner or end up tethered to a wall socket because their battery is dying. This generation embraces technology and streaming media as their sole source of news, entertainment, and communication.
A VR Native is someone who will not remember a world without virtual reality. These kids were either very young, or not even born, when VR made it’s way into our lives. Any child born after 2010 will probably qualify as a VR Native.
Nowadays, I come home from work and find my 6 year old strapped into the PSVR and happily distributing coffee and donuts within Job Simulator. An hour later, my 12 year old is flying high in Windlands, while my two teenage daughters are trying to decide which 360 video on YouTube makes you the sickest. I sometimes just stand there and stare in awe at the situation.
I have come to a conclusion:
VR will not fail because our children won’t allow it. The VR Natives will keep it alive.
I already know that some of you reading this will say that my kids are fortunate because they have all of this VR stuff readily available. While that is true, they are also constantly inviting their friends over to try it out, and then those kids become obsessed as well. It’ll spread throughout the schools like a bad case of lice. (Not the most pleasant thought, but it conveys my point accurately.)
Whenever I read an article about the failing VR industry, or how some analyst clown says its just another fad, I think about my kids. I think about how the latest generation has already decided that VR is going to be part of their lives. I think about how exciting the world will be when these kids enter the work force and force innovation.
My legacy is to give my children the tools they need to conquer the world. A constant craving for bleeding edge technology, like VR, is the best tool of all.