Tom Rachman at the TLS:
Virtual reality – and much breathless exaggeration regarding it – has been part of tech daydreaming for a few decades, without yet becoming something anyone might keep in their living room. During a previous flare of VR hopes in the 1980s and 90s, microprocessors lagged behind programmers’ visions. Today, computing power has nearly caught up, and it is up to coders to conjure dreamscapes desirable enough for us to buy. Once VR goes mainstream, optimists say, new universes will open. We’ll be able to fly. Or become trout. Or walk through others’ bodies. Any kookiness or fantasia could be concocted and shared. Pessimists, however, warn that VR will produce aimless addicts, lost in non-existent worlds to the detriment of the one we have contended with for millennia.
Whether VR proves grand or ghastly, tech corporations are hurrying to profit. Months after Zuckerberg wavered at the pit’s edge, Facebook paid $2 billion for a leading headset maker, Oculus VR. Also that year, Google released a viewer made of cardboard that allowed users to transform their smartphones into rudimentary VR screens. In the years since, the Samsung Gear VR has come out, along with the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the Sony PlayStation VR. None has sold in society-changing numbers, but each product inches ahead.